By on October 1, 2008

A large percentage of TTAC readers arrive here via a Google search of a specific vehicle. They know nothing of– nor care much about– our “take no prisoners” editorials or Inside Baseball auto industry analysis. So, in their honor, let’s start with THE key fact: the VW Routan is a rebadged Chrysler minivan. Rebadged as in mildly reworked. So why buy a VW Routan instead of a Chrysler product? For the same reason you’d buy a Chrysler minivan over a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna: no reason at all, really. But there’s more to it than that. At least in theory…

Externally, the Routan’s metalworkers have done what they could to differentiate their “German engineered” product from its American/Canadian cousins (i.e. nothing much). If the Dodge Caravan is a lunchbox, and The Town and Country a Chrysler 300 sedan inflated by 500 percent, the Routan is an inflated lunchbox with a VW nose. That said, the Routan’s schnoz demonstrates the importance of a vehicle’s “face;” VW’s plunging trapezoid re-brands the box, transforming it into a significantly more coherent vehicle. Whether or not the resulting VW-ness appeals depends on how many hours/dollars you’ve spent at a VW dealership.

The aesthetic improvements continue inside… somewhat. VW recast the Chyrsler product’s cheap ass dash in a faux painted metal. For those who remember the original Microbus, it’s a constant reminder of the innovative, iconoclastic vehicle that the Routan is not. There’s no disguising the Routan’s modern roots: a non-Germanic vehicle made for people comfortable living inside a box. If you can’t see the problem, blinded as you are by the steering wheel’s big-ass logo, you can feel it. The switchgear and cabinetry respond with Chrysler-esque imprecision.

Also lacking: Chrysler’s oh-so clever Stow-n-Go seating. Jumbo cargo schleppers will have to remove the Routan’s mid seats and leave them somewhere. On the flip side (get it?), the Routan’s second row seats are considerably more comfortable than Chrysler’s origami ones. If you’re going to be carting more humans than old armoires, the Routan is the way to go.

Our test van had a power tailgate, which is helpful. You can lift things out, hit the gate with your elbow and walk away. The power-folding rear seat is jewelry: a nice touch that serves no practical function. Minivanistas will know that reconfiguring seats means crawling around in the back moving CD collections, abandoned sippy cups, Tonka trucks and such before you can start the folding. After that, who cares if seat accordionage is just a button away?

They’ve Veedubbed the Dodge, but it’s still a Dodge. For example, the spare tire. You must lower it to ground from a knob on the floor near the driver’s seat. Had VW bolted the wheel to the front grill, I would have given this thing five stars just for old time’s sake. Hell, I may have bought one. As nice as the Routan is– with its cubbies and LED map lights and 13 cup holders (six passengers can two-fist it, with the driver leaving one hand on the wheel) and back-up video camera– it’s got as much character as Brooke Shields in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

The Routan offers the same engines as its supposed Chrysler platform mates (duh): a 3.8-liter V6 making 197 hp or a 4.0-liter V6 turning-out 251 ponies. Bigger is better. The larger-engined SEL is not slow; zero to sixty in 8.9 seconds is an acceptable sprint time for a 4621 lbs. family hauler. More importantly, there’s plenty of torque on tap, allowing smooth, predictable acceleration at all speeds. AND the bigger motor gets slightly better gas mileage.

VW claimed they spent millions on the Routan’s suspension to give it that “VW feel.” Marketing execs now join TV weather people and my high school guidance counselor as people whose information must be “recalibrated” with reality. The whole world is not a parking lot. There’s simply too much waft, wallow and float, even for a minivan. I’ve driven heavyweight Dodge Chargers and sprightly VW GTIs. Both donor companies can do better.

I didn’t take the Routan on the Autobahn. Maybe there’s a difference between this four-wheeled crate and Dodge’s version at 100-plus miles per hour. The set up did seem a tad more taut than the Caravan’s… if I concentrated. What I came to believe, after a couple of mixed miles, is that whatever VW spent got diluted. Tweaking a suspension, while keeping everything else, yields nothing very much.

Taken as a whole, the Routan is the most desirable of the three minivans sharing this platform– provided you don’t need the trick seats. If Honda, Kia and Toyota weren’t in this space, the Routan would rule. But they are, so it doesn’t.

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111 Comments on “2009 Volkswagen Routan Review...”


  • avatar

    How much more does one have to spend for the VW badge?

    How many more minivans would VW have sold if they’d produced their New Microbus? (I would have had trouble holding onto my wallet if that thing had been available.)

    FWIW, my late parents had a ’97 Dodge Caravan. It was (to my surprise) a very nice vehicle except for the very large amount of understeer–actually scary in emergency maneuver. I even thought the styling was quite good. This thing doesn’t do zip for me in the looks dept. Looks like a box with a VW face pasted on.

    Nice review

    • 0 avatar
      St. John

      Routan is The BEST minivan in the U S. High quality features and superb handling. The 4 liter V6 is quick and responsive with 25 mpg on the hwy. Our family enjoys the Routan comfort and room for trip &  long hauls, After 1.5 years we still enjoy  zero cost VW service and have only had to buy gas. FYI: After market features are abundant and cost effective.

  • avatar
    Jason

    This article can’t get past the first paragraph without a major error.

    “So why buy a VW Routan instead of a Chrysler product? For the same reason you’d buy a Chrysler minivan over a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna: no reason at all, really.”

    Once rebates / inflated trade-in / dealer desperation are considered, the Chrysler is much cheaper then the other two.

    That’s a reason, right?

  • avatar

    Yeah, we get it. You don’t like Chrysler or Dodge so how could you possibly like the VW re-badger. I would check that last line for accuracy. Also, how many miles did you actually log behind the wheel?

    As a father of three, my choices for conveyance must contemplate comfort (how’s that for alliteration?) I have found the Grand Caravan more than up to the task of hauling kids, strollers, and assorted gear. The entertainment system keeps everyone happy, including Mom.

    I use my Caravan to move my people. As a genre Minivans aren’t sexy, should they try to be?

  • avatar
    tigeraid

    A giant answer to a question no one asked. Minivans suck, but rebadged minivans with a premium placed on their name only suck even more.

    Next year, watch out for the BMW 425i–a Ford Freestar with a white and blue propeller slapped on the hood–only $89,995!

  • avatar
    zenith

    I strongly disagree with the reviewer about the desirability of stow-n-go. The fact that this one lacks it is definite plus in that cargo rides on a floor of metal–not cheesy masonite and flimsy hinges.

    Also, the middle seat stays home and clean, not exposed to whatever dirt the cargo might shed and the crummy false floor let through.

  • avatar
    RayH

    $38,230 as tested? That’s two loaded Sedona/Entourages (after discounts)! Slap on another couple grand, tweak up the interior and call it an Audi. I do think the front looks nice. Nice review.

  • avatar
    Michael.Martineck

    To clarify:
    The Routan’s base price is lower than it’s cousins. Rebates come, rebates go, the market determines the price, but there is no premium.

    I think the stow-n-go is a wash. Without it, the seats are better. With it, you don’t have to worry about the seats. If you want to buy a sandbox at a garage sale and you need the space, you don’t have to come back for your second row seats.

    For the record, I love mini vans. Had one for years. I even like this one, just not as much as some others.

  • avatar

    For those interested in the comparison, I’ll get pricing for the Chrysler, Dodge, and VW minivans into the database by Monday.

    Aren’t the compartments for the Stow n’ Go seats still under the floor in the Routan? They are with the Swivel n’ Go Seats, which are comfortable and also do not stow.

    Reliability for the Chrysler and Dodge has been among the worst for a 2008 so far in TrueDelta’s surveys. One common problem that was probably resolved before the Routan’s SOP: the rear bumper step pad had a tendency to warp upward, preventing the tailgate from opening.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar

    Jason:

    Once rebates / inflated trade-in / dealer desperation are considered, the Chrysler is much cheaper then the other two.

    That’s a reason, right?

    Wrong. Factor in depreciation (not to mention the inevitability of Chrysler going belly-up) and Karesh’s reports on potential days off-road, and you’d be penny-wise and pound foolish to buy one.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I’d like to see this depreciation data on the 2009 Volkswagen Routan. Are you assuming it’ll depreciate the same as a Golf or Passat?

    Initial pricing may not be a great reason to purchase one, but it’s certain a reason when we’ve been told there isn’t one.

    No reason at all, means no reason at all.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Jason: there’s also that 1500 Upromise college savings credit that you can put into your kid’s 529 fund.

  • avatar
    hunmik

    Is there anyone here who drove both the VW Routan and also the VW Sharan? How do they compare? I guess Caravan vs Sharan would be relevant too.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    At the ’08 car show in NY, VW had ONE of these on display. A pretty nice looking product.

    (I saw the VW first) — then I saw the Chrysler versions — and realized how little VW differentiated their model. While I liked the exterior look, the interior appeared to have almost nothing different. Compare pictures of the VW/Chrysler steering wheels — the dash — little is changed. My hope would be that the seating materials are better in the VW, which would count for something to me.

    In this neck of the woods, the nearest VW dealer closed, and the next closest has a poor reputation for service. (and I might add, both the nearest Chryler and Dodge dealers closed, too.)

    I’m done with minivans now that my kids are older. Given the utilitarian nature of these things, though, I think I’d choose Chrysler between the 2 based on price — given some of deals I’ve seen. The cost savings will be high, and probably more than adequate to pay for repairs out of pocket, if Chrysler is gone.

    But as I observe what my neighbors are driving, when its a minivan 90% of the time its either the Honda or Toyota, not domestic. That may incline the less aware to choose VW?

    Pete

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    For the same reason you’d buy a Chrysler minivan over a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna: no reason at all, really.

    Twelve thousand dollars.

    As in: “the difference (in Canadian) that you’d pay for Sienna CE/Oddy DX versus a Caravan CVP”; also “less money than a Mazda5 or Kia Rondo.”

    It’s crude, but it’s the cheapest way (especially if bought used) to haul a lot of people in relative comfort while still under warranty.

    So why buy a VW Routan instead of a Chrysler product?

    No idea. You can opt out of Sto’n’Go on the Chrysler vans, too, and you get comfortable second-row seats. The trim doesn’t look much better than the T&C and there’s only so much you can do with a minivan in terms of suspension tweaking; the Oddy already pushes the envelope in that respect.

    Personally, I have no idea why anyone would buy the T&C, let alone the Routan, over the Caravan. If you need cheap–and this is damning with faint praise–it’s decent value for the money. If you need cheap but want something that’s actually pretty good, Kia has a nice package in the Sedona.

    If you want a good van for what VW is asking for the Routan, well, you know who to call.

  • avatar
    Jason

    @Richard Chen

    It’s all adding up to be a hilariously horrible decision by VW to create this…thing.

    Just in case anyone was getting the idea I was somehow defending it…I’m just pointing out how one early part of the article is patently untrue.

  • avatar
    NN

    I wasn’t aware they were selling this thing in Europe…i thought it was just a North American-only rebadge job. What happened to the Ford Galaxy/Volkswagen Sharan van? Isn’t that thing way better suited to European tastes? Will the Routan be offered with a diesel in Europe?

  • avatar
    krazykarguy

    As sad as this is, it (the Routan) will probably be the most reliable 2008 VW on the market.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I surprised this review doesn’t include a “lipstick on a pig” reference. Seems fitting to me. Wish I was a fly on the wall over at VW when they were dreaming up this thing. All the VW loyalists I know wouldn’t touch a dressed up Caravan with a 10 foot pole. Who are they going after here? Passat owners with a 3rd kid? I just don’t get it.

  • avatar
    hunmik

    @NN

    I don’t think the Routan is going to be sold in Europe. I do wonder if bringing the Sharan over from Europe would have been a better decision for VW.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    this is the flagship of the failboat armada.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Wrong. Factor in depreciation (not to mention the inevitability of Chrysler going belly-up) and Karesh’s reports on potential days off-road, and you’d be penny-wise and pound foolish to buy one.

    I’d like to say that, if you get a sound, used late-model Caravan with not too many miles, you’re probably looking at a good deal. Someone else had already eaten the depreciation and will have found (and addressed) the more egregious quality issues.

    Yes, there’s the whole “warranty, what warranty?” issue, but it’s cheap enough, and parts plentiful enough, that it might be worth it. Maybe.

  • avatar
    Hank

    I agree with Zenith on the stow and go seating, and would add that in order to fold the seats down, they had to make them of thin material not comfortable on a long haul (like to the corner store). Best to skip stow and go and get a hitch & utility trailer (or rent a Uhaul trailer for practically nothing) than pay for an option that will be a pain in the butt (literally for your poor kids in back) for the next few years of ownership.

  • avatar
    Samir

    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.
    38,000 for a Caravan.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    …it’s got as much character as Brooke Shields in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

    Talk about an obscure reference. You get the Dennis Miller award!

    That was my younger brother’s favorite movie for a long time. He got up before school every morning for about six months in time to watch the whole thing. I’ve probably seen that movie 50-60 times.

    Back on subject-

    I can’t think of any good reason to buy this over a Sienna or an Odyssey or even the Hyundai/Kia twins.

  • avatar
    Orian

    Jerzt,

    We don’t hate Chrysler/Dodge. They have a large number of problems that are brought up and discussed here instead of dusted under the rug. There are a small handful of cars made by Chrysler we do like – Challenger, Viper, etc. Hell, I still like the 300 and Charger even though Chrysler has let them rot for way too long without a true update.

    That said when my wife and I went to look for a mini-van we chose a Kia Sedona over the Caravan. It was cheaper, had a better warranty, and I had known a few people with Caravans that had too many issues with them so we took the chance on the Kia. So far it’s been a good van. Not excellent, but probably our best bet for buying a decently equipped van for under 20k (US). We liked the ride and interior better in the Kia too.

  • avatar
    ppellico

    BTY…25 MPG HWY is tremendous!
    And don’t try to compare this with Hyundai or Kia!
    PULEEEZE!

  • avatar
    ppellico

    Michael Martineck…
    and Robert F.

    OK.
    We get it.
    You don’t like the (Chrysler) minivans.

    The nasty and can’t be explained comment in this review “a non-Germanic vehicle made for people comfortable living inside a box.” really sums up this person and others his like…you hate mini-vans.
    OK, so you made a strange exception about buying it IF it had the old VDub front spare.
    How nice and open minded.

    But for the rest of us out here in fly-over country, families do exist.
    Kids exist.
    WE spend nights after work and every weekend going to over 200 practices and games.
    We do need to haul things around, be it kids or couches.

    And minivans have been life/family savers for years.
    So JUST get over it.

    The one thing that always saves us from the TV pundits or the upity coastal movie critic and auto reviewers is this…we get the final vote with our wallets.
    And although Barbara and her Hollywood fakes told us we would lose the last 2 elections, George won.
    And Michael, although they look like boxes and not sports cars, the Chrylser minivans are still the top selling.
    Yes, even better than Toyota or Honda.

    Hurray for common people!

    BTY…25 mpg hwy is tremendous.
    The VW looks better, with a more un-box like look.
    And don’t try to compare this with Kia or Hyundai.
    I have driven both and there is no comparison.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    ppellico,
    That’s a bit harsh, not to mention incorrect. First of all, Robert hauls 4 girls around — in an Odyssey, so it’s not as if he doesn’t know what a family is or understand the utility of a minivan.

    Secondly, Martin wrote an honest, solid review. You may disagree with it, but it doesn’t mean he’s a big Streisand fan — his politics and music tastes really are not relevant.

    The quote “a non-Germanic vehicle made for people comfortable living inside a box” seems like a highly accurate statement. I think it completely appropriate to call VW on the “German engineered” BS in their Routan ads. And just look at these minivans — they are the boxiest vehilces on the market, now that the xB went Matrixy.

    As far as Chrysler being the best seller, well, maybe. I suppose if you lump all 3 vehicles together and include fleet sales, then perhaps so. But Honda has been gaining share steadily, and is likely the retail king.

    And if you think I’m anti-Chrysler or too snooty for a minivan, please know that I recently bought a ’99 Dodge Gand Caravan. Why didn’t I buy a Honda or Toyota? Well, I had about 4,000 reasons…

  • avatar
    ash78

    So VW designs moderns diesels in a partnership with DCX, but then Daimler sells Chrysler and VW doesn’t offer any diesels in this van, which would have been at least ONE first-to-market selling point.

    Got it.

  • avatar
    thalter

    One more reason to choose the Chrysler T&C over the VW Rotton: The T&C comes with Chrysler’s lifetime warranty (good for the life of the company), while the VW comes with VW’s standard 4/50K warranty.

    Actually, now that I think about it, the VW warranty may be better after all.

  • avatar
    ash78

    thalter

    However, the Chrysler warranty, IIRC, is non-transferable and requires annual trips to the dealer to keep it current.

    And doesn’t VW include maintenance now?

    It’s up to the individual to decide which are the worse dealerships to visit! :D

  • avatar
    CanuckGreg

    Interestingly, only the bigger engine is offered in Canada. Pricing starts at $28K for the base model, with the every-option-included/I’m a big pimp version running $49,975(!). With taxes, PDI, etc, that’s a $58K Caravan….

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Michael Moore even drives a Chrysler minivan. (At least he used to. I don’t know what he’s driving now. He doesn’t return my calls.)

  • avatar

    “The set up did seem a tad more taught than the Caravan’s…”

    Should be taut…

  • avatar
    JJ

    I didn’t take the Routan on the Autobahn.

    Nor will any Germans or Europeans in general for that matter, because thankfully, Veedub decided it’s not wise to offer it over here.

    Now I wonder why they would make such a decision to not offer such a fine vehicle on their home market…

  • avatar

    kazoomaloo:

    “The set up did seem a tad more taught than the Caravan’s…”

    Should be taut…

    Missed that one. I guess you taught me. Learned me? Text amended.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    This just sucks ass. VW has smaller, more efficient minivans in Europe, but they’re probably scared to import them because of the strong Euro.

    Someone that is smart will pay $20K for the 6 passenger Mazda 5 with strong fuel efficiency and enough seats and storage for 90% of potential Routan buyers. Also, stick shift is available for people whose families have not completely killed their spirit.

    Someone that is smart and a bit crazy will buy a Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon with a smallblock, 8 seats, SUV level towing ability, genuine faux wood paneling, and better fuel economy than this. Just make sure you Ziebart that bitch if you live in the snowbelt, they are never going to make them like that again so we have to make them last.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    Oops, redundant post.

  • avatar
    netrun

    … and a genius buys a ’95 E320 wagon with the fuel injected inline 3.2L six cylinder that gets better gas mileage than all of these pigs, outhandles any of them with ease, and costs less than half of the Mazda5!

    Did I mention it’d be awesome looking with tinted windows and kick-butt AMG rims?

    Yeah .. it does!

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Funny A Van.. It is been along time that I have not seen a VW Van.

    What was the name of that VW Van that was so popular with Hippies?

    Actually it looks like the old model of the Honda Odyssey probably the first batch.

    Where is the pic of the rear seats?

  • avatar
    dadude53

    @Beat

    The Microbus,dude, the Microbus.

    @Michael
    Nice Review I fully concur.And yeah, with the spare tire up front and a flat six in the rear-I´ll buy the thing.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    I would never buy a mini-van, but I have to say I think the new Chrysler vans are the best looking on the market with some nice innovations.

    I don’t think that Chrysler products are as bad as the car media makes them out to be. I have two recently new Jeeps and they were well built and problem free. But I realize it’s easy to sit around and criticize, however few have a clue what their working on or what their plans are? All that we can do is to speculate.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    I didn’t take the Routan on the Autobahn. Maybe there’s a difference between this four-wheeled crate and Dodge’s version at 100-plus miles per hour.

    Doesn’t matter, because it will never see an Autobahn. A german car mag did a review of it recently for fun. The verdict was: It’s big, it’s cheap, everything else sucks, it guzzles gas.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I just bought my wife a mint ’06 Town & Country with 27K miles for $14,000 cash. That massive depreciation was to my benefit. It’s a nice big tank of a van, and will serve us well for many years. Honda vans have alot of problems that everyone seems to gloss over. I was not impressed with the Odyssey. And if you’re judging a van by it’s 0-60 or handling, then you are not the target buyer. This thing is for hauling kids. I think this VW version is kinda silly and overpriced, but Chrysler does build a pretty good minivan. The Mazda 5 was too small, and I refuse to drive a Toyota.

  • avatar

    Chrysler reliability sucks and VW reliability sucks…so let’s put them together! Oooh-ooh, can’t wait!

    John

  • avatar
    marc_m

    The Brooke Shields adds sucked. This review is awesome, and hits on all the short comings of the Routan. Well, there will be people who will buy it. I believe that it will depreciate like a rock, and as for me, not even this could convince me to buy one: http://www.johncarlbrown.com/Brooke_Shields_1024x768_004.jpg

  • avatar
    BobJava

    Unrelated to the review, all I can think of is VW Rotund when I see the name (the vehicle itself doesn’t help either).

  • avatar
    Rix

    In German, I believe this would be “Der Frankenvan” Or perhaps “Der schrecklichequalitätenvan.” (the awful-quality-van, you can compound words in German).

  • avatar
    Snikster

    People who drive minivans have given up on life. No hope of ever having fun while behind the wheel, resigned to a living hell of carting kids and their detritus around town. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    $38K for a rebadged Caravan.

    Given the choice between a Routan and a Caravan, I’ll get an Entourage and bank the difference.

  • avatar
    boosterseat

    A vehicle is only as good as its engine.

    The Nissan Quest is the real winner here. The Nissan V6 is a fantastic engine, there’s tons of space, an innovative interior with a low dash, decent handling, a bit of style and its price competitive.

    The Odyssey has an iffy tranny and a cheap looking dash, especially without nav. The Chrysler is purchased primarily on rebates, with the VW soon to follow.

    My Quest has been perfect for 1 year, with 3 kids and often freinds tagging along. Order the SL with leather and its a proper deal.

  • avatar
    pariah

    Thirteen cupholders? Pretty soon they’re gonna hafta start considering a “stow-n-go” potty behind the third row.

  • avatar
    marc_m

    We all know it: this thing sucks. The only positive thing is that the reliability might be better than other VW vehicles that have true German Engineering under the hood…

  • avatar
    marc_m

    One more reason to choose the Chrysler T&C over the VW Rotton: The T&C comes with Chrysler’s lifetime warranty (good for the life of the company), while the VW comes with VW’s standard 4/50K warranty.

    Actually, you need to read the fine print for that Lifetime Crysler Warranty. Further more, many of those who had the (dis)pleasure of owning a Dodge/Crysler have a sour aftertaste in their mouth after having to deal with various dealers for warranty repair.

    Now Brooke Shields for life, that’s a whole different story… If she where only 20+ years younger…

    On second thought, she’s hideous.

  • avatar
    vento97


    A giant answer to a question no one asked. Minivans suck, but rebadged minivans with a premium placed on their name only suck even more.

    Hear, Hear!!! Couldn’t have said it better myself…:)

    Whoever came up with the idea for this travesty of a vehicle needs to be seriously b****-slapped – or caned!!!

  • avatar
    marc_m

    Whoever came up with the idea for this travesty of a vehicle needs to be seriously b****-slapped – or caned!!!

    Same goes for whoever had the idea to do the Brooke Shields ads… (check out the vw.com web site, she’s there, on first page).

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Do VW dealers do all the scheduled maintenance? It seems like they wouldn’t be well set up to service this vehicle.

    Will this every get any VW engines/transmissions? Perhaps the 2.0L turbodiesel with the 6-speed stick or DSG?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Someone at VW must be sleeping with someone at Chrysler. Or they’re stoned. Or both. This partnership is shockingly stupid. Lincoln Blackwood stupid.

  • avatar
    CommanderFish

    Stow n’ Go is the best thing since sliced bread in minivans. It allows one person to convert the van from people hauler to cargo schlepper in a matter of minutes. And there’s no going home to pick up seats.

    My family has an ’06 T&C, and when my band has to do a show it’s a godsend. Throw all of the seats down, load up the entire band’s gear (I’ve fit my drum set and a full sound system in the back of it before, plus a guitar and amp) and head out. When the show is over and everybody takes their instruments home, then you have enough space left to put up a seat for the bum bass player who doesn’t have a car and needs a ride.

    Sure, you can take seats out of other minivans, but for most people (especially the average mom that owns the minivan) taking out the bench seat in back especially is a two person job. With Stow n’ Go, you can do it all by yourself in a fraction of the time. Taking down the back bench is actually the easiest part. Then you still have seating for 4 and oodles of cargo space.

    As far as the middle row bucket seats go, yes I would rather have the normal minivan seats, but I really don’t mind them at all. I’ve never been uncomfortable in them, but maybe that’s because I’m a smaller guy too (5’11, 140 lbs). YMMV, in the end.

    And now for something really ironic… My local CDJ dealership just bought the Volkswagen franchise from another dealer that went out of business. So much for eliminating overlapping models.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    In 2-3 years this could be a deprecation bargain, a la Chevy Prizm.

    My cousin who has two rug rats got a good deal on a pre-depreciated Chrysler minivan. For domestic chores with kids around they rock.

  • avatar

    Chrysler quality and VW dealer service. Talk about a match made in hell.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    For example, the spare tire. You must lower it to ground from a knob on the floor near the driver’s seat. Had VW bolted the wheel to the front grill, I would have given this thing five stars just for old time’s sake. Hell, I may have bought one.

    HAHAHA, that is a funny thing you say. i always love the old Combi with the wheel up front. when i move to Brazil , i’m buying one of those.
    as for the Routan, it does look much better than the rest, but that begs the question, why can’t Dodge/Chrysler draw better? the new models are really hideous, inside and out. barely good for airport shuttle service.

  • avatar

    Ach, mein leiben!

    My old Kombi is rotating in its grave.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    highrpm

    In the minivan world, there is no better bargain out there right now than a 2-3 year old Chrysler minivan. I’m talking $8,000 for an ’05 Chrysler minivan around here in Detroit (base model of course but that’s ok). Looking at this epic depreciation, why would I buy a new Chrysler or Chrysler-with-VW-sticker for $38,000???

    As a buyer of lightly used minivans, I am happy that these things exist since more volume with weak demand means even worse depreciation. Still, every time I see one for sale, I have to wonder why someone would buy another new minivan now after taking such a huge hit on resale in such a short time?

    As for the VW, no sale here. If they had built the Microbus then it would have been on my list of future 3-year-old cars to look at. As it stands now, I’m waiting for the boxy ’08 Chrysler minivans to hit their full depreciation stride – I’d love to pick one up for $8,000 next fall…

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    no_slushbox :
    October 1st, 2008 at 11:51 am

    This just sucks ass. VW has smaller, more efficient minivans in Europe, but they’re probably scared to import them because of the strong Euro.

    Someone that is smart will pay $20K for the 6 passenger Mazda 5 with strong fuel efficiency and enough seats and storage for 90% of potential Routan buyers. Also, stick shift is available for people whose families have not completely killed their spirit.

    I’m sure the Euro exchange rate has something to do with it, but also look at the Mazda 5′s tiny sales. Mircovans have never really sold well here.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I still like the Nissan Quest.

    I think the Nissan Quest is under estimated by Honda and Toyota buyers.

    The Nissan Quest looks so much better than other vans. It has 2 tv monitor, sky view roof, drives like a car and cheaper than the Sienna and Odyssey especially compared to VW

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    blue adidas :
    October 1st, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Someone at VW must be sleeping with someone at Chrysler. Or they’re stoned. Or both. This partnership is shockingly stupid. Lincoln Blackwood stupid.

    No, it makes sense, from a business stand-point.

    VW wanted a (American-sized) minivan to be able to sell. They knew it wouldn’t sell well enough to justify design a new model from scratch, but it was a hole in their American line-up they wanted filled. Chrysler had extra minivan production capacity, so they were willing to do the deal for what was probably a pretty good price for VW.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    I didn’t think of this before, but if we are going to talk about a Dodge minivan rebadged as a German brand then we might as well talk about a German van rebadged as a Dodge.

    This stupid thing costs about $38K. The passenger version of the Dodge Mercedes Sprinter can be had well equipped for $39,370 ($2,925 extra for the turbo diesel). For that kind of money it has a 5 speed auto, 12 seats, and power everything with AC. All a person needs to do is go on eBay for the Mercedes logos.

    I think buying a $40K Mercedes Sprinter as a family van is pretty crazy, but it’s less crazy than buying this thing.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    adamlink I hear you. You have a point.
    Funny that you said:
    “It is NOT sloppy in the corners, sorry, that’s just not true. It’s certainly not a sports car, but I’ve driven a Routan through a slalom course and it’s far better than your average mini-van.”

    If you saw Top Gear they tested the ‘Ford Transit”
    the best mini van ever built. Guess Where?

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    That’s what I wanted to know adamlink – is it a strict rebadge or did VW take the basic vehicle and make something very different from it?

    How much is VW and how much is Chrysler? Just the shell?

    Thanks…

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I was curious of the same thing, a few weeks ago. I went to both of their manufacture’s respective websites (Dodge and VW) and checked out the galleries. Looked closely at the interiors and several parts are the same. Seat materials and some parts of the dash are different. All the small bits were Chrysler.

    On the exterior, the front and D (most rearward) pillars as well as the rearend are different.

    The drivetrain is pure Chrysler.

    marc_m: Good shot of Brooke… she’s pointing right at you!

  • avatar
    davey49

    Minivans are the best vehicles ever.
    BEAT- Odyssey is the best minivan ever
    European vehicles are all too small

  • avatar
    doktorno

    First the Sharalaxy, now the Caroutan!

  • avatar
    fli317

    It is sad what has happened to VW. They rebadged a third place van. Congratulations!

    Do something that revives the class. Honda and Toyota are so good that they have the character of a kitchen blender. For those that have 3 kids, but are still drivers, do something innovative. Put a stick shift in it. Put a diesel motor in it. Put a boxer motor in it. As the review said, put the spare tire in front. Put microwindows in the ceiling. Bring back the microbus and make it cool again. VW would catch anyone needing a minivan and collect those wanting these silly crossovers. Don’t just rebadge a third place van. Seek to be the best again.

    Honda and Toyota are so good that they are uninteresting. They are also very afraid to do anything different. And to the previous gentleman earlier, yes some do want something sexy that can haul their 3 kids in safety and comfort.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    My brother’s Wife drives the 2006 Chrysler Town and Country Touring with stow and go, dvd and 6 cd player.

    But with a V6 engine she rarely uses it.

    It is still running smooth on 45,000 miles
    WITH NO problems.
    http://www.2006chryslertowncountry.com/

  • avatar
    kken71

    Minivanistas will know that reconfiguring seats means crawling around in the back moving CD collections, abandoned sippy cups, Tonka trucks and such before you can start the folding.

    You’re freaking me out. It appears that you’ve been crawling around in my minivan?

  • avatar
    wsn


    ppellico said:
    we get the final vote with our wallets…

    And Michael, although they look like boxes and not sports cars, the Chrylser minivans are still the top selling.
    Yes, even better than Toyota or Honda.

    That is not true. Honda Odyssey is the top selling minivan in the United States in 2007.

    By your logic, the Caravan is inferior to the Odyssey, because fewer units of the Caravans are sold. Furthermore, the Caravan is actually total garbage, since this is the home ground and almost nobody buys the Caravan in Japan.

  • avatar

    There were only few routans vehicles that I have seen here in our location, but probably that car is somewhat popular with some other locations.

    “Routan is the most desirable of the three minivans sharing this platform– provided you don’t need the trick seats. If Honda, Kia and Toyota weren’t in this space, the Routan would rule. But they are, so it doesn’t.”

  • avatar
    rodster205

    The current Odyssey is incredible. I cannot understand how anyone who has actually seen and driven a new Odyssey can honestly say that the Chrysler is better, except for possibly bargain pricing. My sister bought a loaded new Odyssey Touring, with leather and Nav & DVD. Sticker price: $34K. Actually paid $32K. And that was over a year ago, you can probably do better now.

    I have had the priviledge of driving her Odyssey for over an hour, loaded with 4 adults and 3 kids. Handled great and plenty of power, with gas mileage in the mid 20′s thanks to cylinder deactivation. I floored it at a stoplight and got howls of protest from the women in back, I was somewhat startled myself but stayed in it and was amazed how fast it was.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I just checked on carsdirect.com, and the Odyssey is quoted at an even greater discount off MSRP than a Town & Country. I seems that Honda isn’t letting Chrsyler get any pricing advantage.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    ppellico:

    The one thing that always saves us from the TV pundits or the upity coastal movie critic and auto reviewers is this…we get the final vote with our wallets.
    And although Barbara and her Hollywood fakes told us we would lose the last 2 elections, George won.…

    For a minute there, I thought you were on to something…

  • avatar

    Call me Captain DeadThread. Got my first looks and a ride in a Routan today. My wife’s 04 Passat is in for its 60K service, and the local dealer had one in the showroom to check out, and they retired the old VR6 EuroVan in favor of a Routan for the courtesy shuttle.

    Alas, the SE in the showroom did not have a sticker on it – I am curious what they were asking for this 3.8L with cloth interior but with Nav and Child Placation System.

    On my shuttle trip, the driver told me he had the Routan for three weeks and he was not impressed. In his broken English, he said, “Its a Chrysler,” and “When you think of VW, you think of German.” While riding along, I can say it was quiet with nary a squeak, and the ride was not floaty, about the best assessment I can give it. My driver noted the 3.8L models are underpowered.

    Like all the rest of you, I can’t see it. I would my rather find a CPO Odyssey Touring and dePAX it.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    pariah :

    Thirteen cupholders? Pretty soon they’re gonna hafta start considering a “stow-n-go” potty behind the third row.

    This comment almost made me spit up my beverage. Luckily I didn’t short out my keyboard. Thanks for the laugh!

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Whoever came up with the idea for this travesty of a vehicle needs to be seriously b****-slapped – or caned!!!

    marc_m:

    Same goes for whoever had the idea to do the Brooke Shields ads… (check out the vw.com web site, she’s there, on first page).

    Nope, I just looked; she’s not there. Her ads are kind of creepy. Leave the pregnant ladies alone, Brooke, you give us all the willies!

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Instead of squandering development money on the short-lived Phaeton, imagine how things might have turned out if VW had instead developed the Microbus concept for production.

    The Routan can be summed up in four words: What might have been.

  • avatar
    threeer

    @ snickster,

    Pretty harsh comment regarding those who own minvans? Given up on life? Hardly! Most people I know who own one tend to have one of the best qualities of life I know. Active kids, parents who participate in their activities…no pretenses regarding what they’re being seen in. When my son was much younger, we had a minivan (yeah, so it was a used Pontiac Montana…but the thing could tow my pop-up camper, had dual sliding doors and was the perfect vehicle for the upteen-million Scout camps I went to). It sure as hell wasn’t sexy, but all of our gear fit into it, and when we travelled, we had no issues with taking our dogs with us, along with our stuff, plus still leaving enough room for the actual humans! The one-box design is still one of the most efficient there is when it comes to moving people and gear…period.

    Now, as far as the Routan goes, I’m sorely disappointed in Volkswagen for cozing up to Chrysler. They could have done much better on their own. I’ve been in several new Chrysler vans, and the interior quality stinks! Is a VW much better? Probably not significantly. If I was looking for a minivan again, it wouldn’t be new (depreciation, and I’m not a fan of financing cars…call me old-fashioned when it comes to buying stuff. Cash is king. Maybe the economic downturn we’re in will refocus us ALL on resetting financial priorities and spending habits.)…and it wouldn’t be for a Chrysler product (or now, VW, as it were!).

  • avatar
    smartin684

    I just went looking for Minivans today, with the Routan being on the list. The pricing was right, with 0% financing available for up to 70 months. This is incredible financing. After looking at all the other minivans, none compared to the price/value. We would have gone with the VW, HOWEVER, the utter lack of adjustability on the middle seats squashed the deal. I dont think any review has mentioned that the middle seats do NOT slide forward or backwards AT ALL. WTF? Who designs a minivan where the seats dont even move forward or backward. This makes entry into the rear seats dificult at best. I think this is a MAJOR flaw with this minivan. The seats felt great to sit in, but with my knees were right up on the back of the driver seatl. Does VW think people will just overlook this major flaw?

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Gotta love that German engineering. Pushrod 197 HP V6′s and all.

  • avatar
    johnrees

    I would be concerned about VW customer service. View my VW experience at: http://www.reesphotos.com/VW/

  • avatar
    ErRoc

    After doing some research, smiliar models of the Caravan vs. the Routan… the Routan’s price tag is $4,195 higher at invoice. Not to mention does not have many of the features that the Caravan has including; 10 speaker surround (6 on the Routan), AC power outlet, Remote Start, Roof Rack, iPod integration, Rain Sensing Wipers, Sat Radio, Fog Lights, Stow N’ Go, Power First Row Seats.

    On top of that, the True Delta invoice difference is even higher! $6,020 to be exact.

    Why someone would pay up to $6k more and lose all the following is beyond my comprehension. God forbid we support our own economy.

    Face it… people will buy this vehicle because it’s a VeeDub, regardless of what I just stated, and that’s the main problem will the North American car market… but that’s a totally different can of worms that I won’t open here.

  • avatar
    jtackers

    Sorry, I’m going to ramble a little here. I’ve just found this site and it seems an interesting place to get some feedback on half-baked ideas that have been rattling around in my head.

    I’m contemplating a minivan, but I’m in no great hurry. I haven’t visited any dealers yet, so my info is based mostly on reviews and looking around on the road. I should say up front that I am a VW/Audi person. I was leaning toward an Odyssey, and frustrated that the Tourans and Sharans that I recently saw in Europe were not available here. So I was excited when the Routan was released. I am now a little less so from the reviews, especially on discovering that the Routan is a Caravan rather than a Touran or Sharan; but I think many of the negative posts miss some larger points.

    I don’t understand why people are so biased against minivans, they’re so much better than SUV’s. The image of the SUV is the rugged, adventerous, travelling sort – but they’ve got less usable space than vans. They’re all suspension, and most people don’t come close to needing that much. You just spend a lot on gas to move it around. Even crossovers are jsut enlarged sedans without a whole lot of usable space.

    So vans are great. The posts here are helpful, and I agree that VW is missing a great opportunity with the Routan. Now that SUVs are finally dying, there is the opportunity to introduce a minivan that would escape the emasculation bias. With their history and ability to push-market, VW is in the best position to do this, even without the microbus concept. I think that the better suspension is a start, but they would have been better served by introducing the Touran and Sharan to the US market (they’re not related to the Routan – Wikipedia has good info on the histories). A manual transmission option would also help, as would the wider selection of engines available in the European models.

    I surf and I sail, and have dogs and now a kid and periodically load all of that up to drive long distances. When I was single, poor and looking for a van I bought an ’88 Vanagon – mostly because it was a manual transmission. I still drive it every day, and aside from a lack of power, no 5th gear, and the repair issues that come with a 20+ year old car I think it was the best platform ever (I do most repairs myself, and I enjoy it, so that’s not so much of an issue – except to my wife). Mine is a passenger van, and it gets a still respectable 20 mpg on the highway. The fact that it is a big box is one of it’s most appealing features – I can fit loads of crap in it. The only thing I can see that really compares is the Dodge Sprinter – but that’s way expensive and I don’t think it would be nearly as good on the mileage.

    So a minivan is a step down in terms of size, but I think that if if VW were to get away from the idea that a minivan is an idealized suburban mom car and offer a car with the interior of a minivan that has better handling and suspension, a manual option for those of us who like to be more involved in our driving, and some of the other design features of their popular cars (quattro, diesel, etc), I think that they could really recapture many of those that were led astray by SUV’s, moms included. Then they could justify a slightly higher price, too.

    I’m resigned that there’ll never be another Vanagon, even the microbus would be too small, but surely they can offer a minivan that is as fun to drive. They have something at least close to it in Europe, so I don’t understand why the R&D would be prohibitive. All the pieces are around, they just need to be put together.

    Sorry for the long post, but I am curious what others think about these things.

  • avatar
    perpetuity

    Agreed. I saw one on the road this morning whilst driving my Mini S to the grocery store… and thought, what a POS!

    I lament watching another European automaker execute poor decisions. Haven’t we already watched Ford turn Jaguar into Buick look a likes? God knows what the Indians will do. Oh well, the brand has been dead to me for a long time.

    The Microbus, had they not thought about introducing it at a starting price of 35k (moronic!), would have killed the segment, no, would have reinvented the segment of cross over. The concept was not a minivan, suv, or utility van but somewhere in the middle.

    They should introduce the Microbus starting in the low 20s up to the high 30s and watch the ticker move.

    I can rant on about how the Minivan is a sign of the times, delusional comfort, delusional normalcy, fatness, grandiose entitlement syndrome, overweight-ness, simulacra of civilization, and generally a bad sign for society, but, I’ll just say instead:

    My apologies to you minivan aficionados … the form is actually sort of useful but like Click and Clack say, the Minivan represent the wussification of the American male and that is no more aptly said if they are behind the wheel of a VW Routan like the guy I saw today. The Routan is a total ass-hat purchase (if you are doing the segment, go for the savings dudes, Chrysler is good enough).

    Give us the Microbus. Dare to lead.

  • avatar
    frankencars

    I have to chime in here. I currently own a ’99 Odyssey and I also have owned an old rusty $500 Caravan (ran pretty good for a turd on wheels!), as well as a beloved Vanagon years ago. I am currently shopping for a new mini-van. I completely agree with one the above posts comparing SUVs and mini-vans. Minivans are such a better use of space! Most SUVs are just really heavy jacked up station wagons with huge thirsty engines.

    Today I test drove a Routan and was very impressed. It has a very tight suspension and just seems like a very well put together vehicle. The fit and finish is great! Who cares if it is built on a Daimler chassis – the car industry has become incredibly incestuous. I think this is just an economic reality.

    Let me say that the Odyssey has me really fed up! The electric sliding doors are hell – they constantly break. The van has some terrible rattles and several plastic pieces have fallen off. The tranny went at 75K, I’ve replaced the brakes and suspension twice. The driver’s seat is broken (kind of askew)…anyway, no more Hondas for me.

    So – the Routan I am looking at is the base model (no power sliders!). It has A/C, CD/mp3 with aux jack, 6 speakers, power locks and windows. The sticker is about 23k but I think I can get it for around 20k. I have driven a loaded town and county and found it very floaty…also I think having a Sat Radio/Navigation/etc. on the dash is really dangerous – anyone see that episode of Six Feet Under? The base model Routan is simple and elegant and a decent value. I’m also considering the Kia minivan but haven’t driven one yet.

    And hey – I don’t consider myself a wuss – I just need to fit a 5 piece band with all of our instruments and something good for family roadtrips. Minivans are so utilitarian. I think it is far dorkier to feel that the car you drive is how you express your style – THAT is lame!

    BTW – The used Eurovans with V6s (coolest cars ever) are just too expensive and have no warranty. Sprinters are too big for everyday. So there you have it – I LIKES THE ROUTAN!

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Some newer comments in this article. Cool.

    Anyway, the minivan is the wussification of the male? Really? I think that a lot of us need to get over ourrseles and buy a vehicle we need instead of something that projects the “right” image. The minivan is actually a great compromise of fuel economy and hauling ability. Thanks to the mom image, used minivans are dirt cheap to buy.

    I think that the wusses/metrosexuals of the world are flocking to the Audis, Bimmers, Minis, and Smarts. Their moisturized, manicured hands will never touch a minivan steering wheel.

    Having said that, I prefer the Chrysler styling to the Routan.

  • avatar
    ErRoc

    Props, highrpm.

    And most people do think as we do. Caravan is here to stay (as long as ChryCo does), and will (at least for the next while) be the best bang for your buck, that’s why they sell so well.

    perpetiuity: ‘wussification of the american male’?

    Find me something that can fit as much, get me that many MPGs, do it comfortably, can fit in a single parking spot, and be safe for a family, for the same cost.

    You can’t, not by a long shot. In fact, minivan sales represent the american male who knows what the best bang for their buck is and meets all their needs and can laugh while others struggle in many of those areas with their cute-utes.

    I agree that if I don’t NEED those things, I wouldn’t get a minivan, but for many suburban families with kids who play sports and go camping there is no better alternative, not even close.

    CUV & SUVs have their own strong points, as do all segments… and I’m not shunning any of them. But the minivan segment deserves the acknowledgement of why it is as good as it is.

    See my previous post in this review for my Routan vs. Caravan thoughts.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    $38,230 as tested? That’s two loaded Sedona/Entourages (after discounts)!

    Having test driven every Minivan possible TWICE until my wife decided the issue, I have to tell you that what we did not fight over was which minivan was best for the money. We bought the 2008 Caravan with every option minus the Land Nav system and still came in under $33K. The Kia Sedona is like every Kia/Hyundai I’ve ever test driven; a cheap POS that if you don’t care much about driving and the horrendous resale value, is a great deal. And good luck finding a fully loaded Toyota or Honda minivan for the same money (granted it was January 2008). The Dodge has been steady and stateful with three screaming kids and a dog and has racked more than 20K miles on it.

  • avatar
    MS

    Just paid in cash about $28,500 for a 2009 Routon SEL with rear entertainment center and their sunroof/towing package (paying in cash). Has all leather seats, power doors and lift gate, three zone AC automatic control, two DVD screeens, rear view camera, sirium free for one year, remote folding chairs for third row.

    Car drives great, looks great…nice dashboard…..

    so is this a good deal or what?

  • avatar
    MS

    oops.. not sirium , menat Sirius(sp?) satellite subscription free for one year…..

    Price includes everything but taxes…

  • avatar
    bleach

    Sounds like you got the RSE and TP3 packages and since you paid in cash you didn’t take the 0% APR. That price is pretty much what you can expect. In general, Routans have been going for $10K less than sticker which is where you are at. Take the 0% APR and the price goes up.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Weird.

    Why the heck is this the “top article on TTAC” (according to the right-hand column)?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    @ no_slushbox:

    Can I get you to talk with my wife?
    That Buick Roadie SW is EXACTLY what we need to haul a squad of grandkids around in style. Unfortunately she’s not buying it.
    Sweet ones for 5 grand and here in Indiana the plates are almost free (over 10 yrs old)

  • avatar
    momof3

    Ok, so I registered just so I can comment on this. I am considering the Routan and Here’s why. I am sick and tired of reading that any minivan other than the Odyssey and Sienna are poor choices. We bought an Odyssey in 2002 because it was supposed to be the best and hold its value. We were expecting it to get us through our minivan years – 10 years or more. I have been disappointed with it over the years and now I’m finding myself in the market for another minivan. the ride is extremely loud and always has been. My children have to yell in order for me to hear them. The interior is rattly and unimpressive. Very blah. The brakes have had issues, such as the rotors warping multiple times. I also suspect that the windshield is very thin because of the wind noise and the fact that it cracks VERY easily. Recently we found out that our transmission WILL fail at any moment, a problem with these vans, we found out. therefore, our van that was supposed to hold it’s value and last for 10 or more years is WORTHLESS after 7 years! Very aggravating!

    My friend JUST bought a Sienna, and her door handle FELL OFF! Brand new, top-of-the-line vehicle should not lose a door handle. She hasn’t been overly impressed with it anyway. SO, I am gun-shy when it comes to these vehicles and would love another option.

    I tried to open my mind to the new Odyssey while out test driving vehicles. I took a look and was totally bored with it. The interior has barely changed in 7 years! It looks just like my 2002! If I’m going to put down $30k, I would like to have something that feels new and different! Is that so much to ask. Also, the Honda dealers do not care to work with people. They are doing fine and they know it so they are not cutting the deals other dealerships are doling out.

    So anyway, I’m posting this rant on the Routan review instead of the Oddy review for some reason…I guess because I am tired of trying to find an alternative to my car only to read over and over again that my car is the best out there and anything else would be a foolish purchase!

  • avatar
    MS

    bleach,

    thanks for the response.

  • avatar
    Wizzo

    Ok I think I read most of the “reviews/comments”
    Here is my take. I drove the VW for the first time today. Much better ride/drive than the Dodge SXT or T&C Limited. There are some things that VW missed.

    I have owned several Dodge Grand Caravans and each has had multiple transmissions. That alone might be worth a lifetime warranty from Chrysler, but my lifetime or theirs? I haul suitcases, cargo, people, etc. Overall they fit the requirement.

    What I wanted this time was a sunroof, bigger engine, better transmission and better seats. I’m tall and have long legs.

    The VW seats are great (in the front) middle row behind the driver is unusable with me driving. I need good seating for four. If the center seats moved back about 6-8 inches it would solve this.

    The SEL version I drove did not have the Nav system, back up alarms or fancy stereo.

    VW has reduced the rear vision at each corner and blacked out some of the rear window. Loss of visibility means this one needs the back up camera and alarms.

    There were no HID headlamps on this. The T&C has them. Major loss.

    Interior dimensions. VW shrunk the inside. you can no longer get anything that is 4×8 inside. max width is about 47 inches and length about 93?

    Would prefer a little more european feel and interior quality, but Mercedes pushed a lot to Chrysler and some of it remains here.

    I think this is a pretty good improvement on the Chrysler products, but the loss of interior room and cramped seating for four full sized people really limits this one. Roof seems lower in the back, but that may be the sunroof impact.

    Either one of these would be a good value at 23K

    VW had a 6K incentive which improved things,

    BUT, it still doesn’t have a 100,000K power train warranty, No history on the tranny or engine (4.0 six speed) for the most part, although I think this is the engine MB sent Chrysler for the Pacifica/MB Crossover.

    For those of you who wander from Minivan to other vehicles for comparison, a minivan is what it is: a people and cargo hauler. A box is a box and this styling is much better than the last Chrysler version.

    Last comments. I don’t like the shift on the dash, would like keyless ignition, and don’t think stow ‘n go seats were designed for adults.

    Thanks for listening.

  • avatar
    Big_Mike

    I have two sedans (Japanese and US made) but recently I realized that is time for us to get a new minivan or third row SUV. Last weekend we went to check out both Mazda 5 and VW Routan.

    First we went for Mazda 5. Turned out that ‘M5′ is sold out nationwide due to its good gas millage which qualifies it for maximum cash rebate provided by the “clunkers” Fed program.

    Then we went to see Routan to our local VW dealership. We test drove the Routan and my wife just love it. Same hour we end up buying the ‘S’ Routan model.

    I don’t understand why so many people need so much gadgets included in the final price of their new cars. I believe that any gizmo (like integrated dashboard navigation, leather seats, DVD player, power sliding side doors, etc) is just unnecessary gimmick trick set for you to pay more and inflating the real value of any given car.

    People can always buy or add DVD, GPS, heating seat pads/covers, roof racks etc for much less than 15K. Which is equal to the difference between base model and the most pimped trim level. However there are features which are really hard to add (e.g. more leg room, cargo area or car height). These aforementioned ‘extra’ features are commonly hiding potential problems. I don’t like power driven doors or seats just because they have much more ‘week points’ which might be somewhat expensive to fix.

    The Routan (even with the 197 HP engine) is still fun to drive because of the good suspension system and the overall SUV kind of feeling on the road. I see multiple Honda, Toyota and other brands mini-vans (even mid-sized SUVs) where the driver seat is positioned much lower/closer to the ground and look just smaller.

    I bought 09 Routan S van for under 23.5K with zero down and 0% APR for 72 months or less than 400$/month. Also I got a good insurance rate which saved me some insurance money and since it is a new car it qualifies for Federal tax credit (~1500$ sale tax will be returned to us next tax return period). Also the Routan comes with 3 year free maintenance which additionally save us couple hundreds for regular oil change,tire rotations, air filter etc. The dealership people offered me also free car washes for same period of time.

    Overall we are very satisfied by the ratio price/value/room size provided by 2009 VW Routan.
    I think this vehicle is the best deal/hot buy on the US minivan market now.

  • avatar
    Centrust

    I’m reiterating some of the comments by Frankencars and Momof3.

    I am the owner of a 2002 Honda Odyssey minivan I bought new in 2002. I previously leased a 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyageur before purchasing the Oddysey. I read all of the so called “Car Experts” various reviews. 7 out of 7 of the major car review sites named the Oddysey the best van. So, following conventional logic and wisdom I purchased the 2002 Oddysey.

    What a rolling POS this has been. The electric doors don’t work. The electronics have been a continuous problems (one radio gone out; one heating adjustment that wouldn’t adjust; rear lamps that go out; door ajar lights on when the door isn’t ajar). Oh yes then there is the constant harping about Chrysler product transmissions being unreliable. Well try on the Honda transmission going out at 36,000 miles. The car is noisy, squeaky and the interior feels like a rock.

    I think that the Japanese press must own all of the auto publications. I frankly do not see the superiority of the Japanese minivans. For me, I am going back to the Chrysler product whether it is under the Dodge, Chrysler or VW badge. It can’t be any worse than the last 7 years of the rolling repair bill called the Odyssey.

    Oh yes, the 3.5 litre engine in the Oddysey is good. Unfortunely everything else around it is a sad joke.

  • avatar
    Centrust

    Just purchased a 2009 VW Routan SEL.   Wow!  Was the guy that wrote this review riding in the same car I am driving?   The ride is outstandingly smooth.  The transmission is seamless.   The engine is quiet, fast and fuel efficient.  We love the interior.  We drove it to Chicago and back and the ride was terrific.  Probably will never see me in a Honda or Toyota with this ride.  YOu can talk all day about the refinement of the Japanese minivans.  I will stick with the Chrysler heart in my VW.   A great combination.

  • avatar
    Centrust

    I purchased a 2010 Routan minivan.  I absolutely love it.  The suspension is incredibly tight and the Chrysler 4.0 liter engine is a home run.   Fast acceleration for a minivan and very good gas mileage.  We have driven from Omaha to Chicago twice and took a long trip to the GrandTetons this summer.  It was a champ in the mountains as well as on the long stretches of interstate.

    Frankly, I think the American auto press is so incredibly biased against the American based manufacturers that they couldn’t given an unbiased opinion if their lives relied on it.  I owned a 2002 Honda Oddysey and I counted the days to get rid of it.  What a pile of junk.  My previous 1999 Plymouth Grand Voyageur and my Routan were both superior to Honda minivan.   My Honda had terrible electronics, the transmission went out at 36,000 miles, the head noise was terrible and the ride wasn’t near as smooth as my Routan.  Honestly, I don’t understand the harsh criticism about the Chrysler products.

    I have 15,000 on my minivan and it has run like a champ and the VW service has been outstanding.

    Incidentally, I am not a “Buy American” purist as I have owned Toyota vehicles and Honda vehicles over the years as well as Ford and Chrysler.  Frankly the differences in quality are grossly exaggerated by the auto press.

  • avatar
    Buggar

    Ok, now that it has been a few years since the model came out. We can look back and see how wrong the speculators were about the VW Routan.

    My wife is a “Die Hard” VW fan. Me? Honda, Nissan, Toyota. Although I do not own a Toyota. Anyway, she had a few Jettas, they held their value and wanted a Routan since we had two more children added to the family.

    Bought The SEL (Against my advice to buy the Oddyssey)
    VW Price= $39,000
    Routan Price= $37,000

    Both were completely the same.

    Oddyssey ended up 9.8 critic rating, 9.6 reliability (its a Honda). Friends wife got one and has had zero problems.

    Value today?

    Routan = $18,925 ($15,525 trade in)
    Oddyseey = $23,025 ($19,725 trade in)

    Performance? Oddessy blows our van away. Handles better, rides better, looks better (opinion). My friend busts on us about it daily.

    Problems…Routan blows lights almost monthly,eats through tires in 12k. Have had about 4 allignments. Dealer says nothing is wrong. Googled it and they have a chronic issue with it. Backing up it surges horribly like the tranny is slipping. Did this from new to. Annoying but they says it normal. GOOD GOD REALLY? Normal for what….Chrysler? Brakes are under powered. Replaced warped rotors under warranty three times….3 times out of warranty. Annoying…they say its my wifes driving. Told her to brake softly. Shes trying hard to go easy on it but damn if they dont keep warping. Maybe, JUST MAYBE they are under powered for the weight of the vehicle or crappy materials. The worst issue is the vehicle WONT START. Acts as if the battery is dead. Replace battery, a few days later same thing. Does it once or twice a week. Googled it also and sure enough…lots are having the same problem. under warranty they said it was because of my wife leaving the DVD on for the children when vehicle is off. Ok, so now she doenst…guess what…KEEPS DOING IT. It sometimes wont start for a while leaving her stranded at the store or work. 4 jumps and a few tows later was told to put it on Neutral and try. BINGO starts everytime now. Thant VW for not fixing the problem under warranty.

    Friends Honda? Basturd hasnt had one issue. Time to drive the Routan into the lake.


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