By KBB.com Editors
Although cost issues kept the slick Microbus concept it showed at the 2001 Geneva Auto Show from ever seeing production, VW finally made its move to join the minivan market last year with the introduction of the Routan. Available in S, SE and SEL trim levels, this seven-passenger, front-drive family hauler was derived from the latest version of Chrysler's best-selling people mover, which itself was completely redesigned for 2008. While the Routan shares most of its key mechanical and electrical architecture with the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan, it boasts unique styling treatments, inside and out. Despite continuing volume pressure on this market segment, Volkswagen hopes the Routan's distinctive VW appearance cues, appealing features, Euro-tuned suspension and attractive pricing will help it win over American families.
Buyers who love the formidable benefits a minivan offers when it comes to true utility and ease of operation but want something with a more sophisticated look and driving character will find plenty to admire in the new 2010 Volkswagen Routan.
If your minivan taste runs to a softer-riding package and you want kid-oriented Swivel 'n Go seating or hideaway Stow 'n Go second-row seats, stick to the 2010 Volkswagen Routan's Chrysler cousins. If having a state-of-the art, big-screen navigation system is important, consider a Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest or Toyota Sienna.
The Routan line is simplified into four well-appointed trims that include S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Stand alone options are eliminated, packaged instead into each trim level. The SE and SEL can be ordered with navigation but require the rear seat entertainment system as well. All trims receive more standard equipment, including three-zone manual climate control on the S trim; Bluetooth, heated seats and power adjustable pedals on the SE; and a power sunroof, remote start, power third-row seat and a tow prep package on the SEL.
Driving Impressions One of VW's primary goals with the Routan program was to impart a distinctly European feel to its ride and handling. Stiffer springs, tauter shock-absorber settings and revised valve proportioning...in the power steering system do exactly that, creating a package that's firmer than the average minivan while remaining comfortable as a long-range cruiser. Body roll is nicely curtailed in corners and the steering feels positive without being twitchy. It's not quite enthusiast-grade, but it is a welcome compromise that's ably assisted by the standard Electronic Stabilization Program with traction control and vented-front and solid-rear anti-lock disc brakes. With a curb weight around 4,500 pounds, the Routan is a good deal more energetic with the 4.0-liter 253-horsepower engine in the SEL than with the smaller 197-horsepower 3.8 V-6 in the S and SE. The dash-mounted shift lever takes a bit of getting used to, but its positioning does allow easy Sport-mode gear changes.
Impressively Contoured Seats
While somewhat firmer than their Chrysler counterparts, Volkswagen upgraded both the first- and second-row individual seats in the Routan, adding more aggressive and supportive bolstering to complement the vehicle's sportier suspension tuning.
Carefree Maintenance Program
The Routan comes with VW's all-encompassing Carefree Maintenance program that complements the normal three-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty with zero-cost coverage for all basic routine servicing performed during that same time period.
VW established a signature look for the Routan's spacious cabin, retaining the Chrysler gauges, primary electrical components, supplemental switchgear, heating and ventilation elements and the various cupholders, bins and under-floor storage areas, but recasting everything else – from the dash to the door panels to the carpet – in a more upscale manner. That enhanced character plays best in the leather-lined SEL, but even the cloth-covered S and V-Tex faux leather SE trims boast a bounty of soft-touch surfaces and neat center consoles, plus more supportive first-row seats and better-bolstered, adult-scaled foldable and removable second-row Captain's Chairs (or a two-place bench in the S). Row three is best for kids, but it does flip over for "tailgating" duties and can be folded flat into the floor.Exterior
Volkswagen's decision to endow the Routan with a unique exterior pays handsome dividends. In order to create its own sense of corporate visual character, VW kept only the side door panels, glass and windshield from the Chrysler minivan donor platform. Up front, the Routan's prominent grille, air intakes and aero headlamps impart an arguably more sophisticated flavor with recognizable VW flair. The rear-end treatment, while less distinctive, brings smoother, rounder overall contouring and features a Routan-specific hatch design. At the S trim level, the Routan has 225/65R16 all-season tires on steel wheels, while the SE and SEL have standard 17-inch alloy rims with 225/65 tires.
Beyond V6 engines, a six-speed automatic transmission and seats for seven, all Routans feature an impressive array of standard equipment, including power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless remote entry, three-zone air conditioning and cruise control. Front seats on the S trim level are manually operated, the SE has a power driver's seat and both front seats are power-operated with the SEL Premium. The upper trim levels also have dual-power sliding doors, second-row Captain's Chairs, steering-wheel audio and cruise control buttons and a six-disc CD/DVD player with an enhanced AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system. The air conditioning is manually control on the S and SE, and automatic on the leather-trimmed SEL, which also gets a power sunroof, remote start and power folding third-row seats. All models include stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes and front and side-curtain airbags, and all scheduled maintenance is free during the vehicle's basic warranty period.
The new model lineup leaves the options list limited to a few dealer installed items. If you order the SE you can have the rear seat entertainment system with or without navigation, but not the other way around; on SEL trims the rear seat entertainment system must be bundled with navigation. The navigation package includes a 30 GB JoyBox music hard drive, USB port and backup remote camera.
All 2010 Volkswagen Routans are fitted with one of two different Chrysler V6 engines. Both run on regular unleaded gasoline and are backed by a six-speed automatic transmission with manual Sportshift mode. The 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 in the Routan S and SE makes 197 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque while the more sophisticated single-overhead-cam 4.0-liter in the SEL cranks out a robust 251 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque. Surprisingly, the bigger six also earns better EPA fuel economy ratings, with 17 mpg city and 25 mph highway marks compared to the 3.8-liter's 16-mpg city/23-mpg highway numbers. Not so surprisingly, that extra muscle also helps trim the SEL's factory-estimated zero-to-60-mph acceleration time from 10.2 to 8.9 seconds.
197 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
230 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
251 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
259 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
By croutonowner (NY) on Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Lots of great features for passengers"
Cons: "Bad brakes, uses oil, bad service at dealership"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"We were very pleased with the 2010 Routan when we first got it as it was $10,000 off the sticker price brand new from the dealership. That should have been our first warning! The car holds a lot and has lots of great features, but that is where the "pros" end. The car is very comfortable for everyone except the driver. We have taken it on many long road trips and I always feel like I have to fight with it. It drives more like a truck than a car. I loved my Sienna and this is definitely on the opposite side of the comfort spectrum. I guess some people may like this, but I feel it lends to driver fatigue. It is the only car I have ever driven where my foot actually falls asleep while driving! The car is very heavy, but does not do well in the snow of Western New York. I have gotten stuck a few times and needed to be pushed just to get up a small incline or hill. Not good for a family of skiers! Hoping that a better set of tires will help with that this year. Also, the transmission does seem to drop while accelerating. We have had the brakes fixed 3 times within 40K miles averaging about once a year since we have owned it. When the brakes go, they burn up smoking and getting incredibly hot! It is now beginning to use oil as well. I have had to add at least 2 quarts just to get to the next oil change. I was told this was "normal" usage. Never before have I had to use this much oil! It seems it was easier for VW to just stop making this vehicle than fix it!"
By jj (WI) on Friday, September 27, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,500overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Everything -pricy,bad sevice,bad brakes,bad doors"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I bought my van new $37000 in '09 I have had MANY problems to many to list. The main 2 are first the rear brake the caliper frame was faulty causing rotor and pad to be shot that was '11 and even though they knew frame was faulty was not replaced now '13 it wore out my brake and rotor again and now there saying it was from the caliper bracket so they wont do anything about it. (its the same part)but HAHA my warranty is over I think thats what they were waiting for so they could get more money. Second my side door on passenger side wasn't working properly and there was a recall but they only did that side and now my other side is acting up and they say well the recall is outdated so they probably wont cover it. DO NOT BUY A VW OF ANY MODEL YOU WILL WISH YOU DIDNT."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Ohara (CO) on Friday, August 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great use of space. Quiet on good roads."
Cons: "A mix of Chrysler and VW? Not the best grounds...."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I always consider the reliability if a vehicle by how much time it spends at a dealership in a twelve month period. More importantly, how good a service department is at resolving issues. Firstly, brakes on this vehicle were truly not engineered well. Just view the extensive complaints about warped rotors? I normally put these comments down to bad driving habits, but not in this case. My vehicle has never been driven with more than three people in, never loaded and still I've replaced three sets of front rotors within 30k miles. Half a dozen repair attempts at fixing the side rattling doors, never resolved. Chrsyler modded their vans while VW never did the same. Noisy transmission, that bumps and drops between gears, something that a VW tech considers normal. Numerous failed window motors, buttons and regulators. Poor city MPG. Rust appearing on upper internal areas of door. Vehicle has spent 10 weeks at dealer within the last 60... I'd truly be surprised, if this vehicle makes it to a 100k, without a major issue! Such a shame, considering my previous Odessey clocked up 180k before any real concerns."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Tvelesky (TX) on Saturday, August 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "can fit tons of stuff in it"
Cons: "middle seats not on tracks and cost"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We bought our Routan used and we still love it. It accommodates all 4 of children and is wonderful during 14 hour road trips. If I had to pick one flaw that we work around is that the middle seats aren't adjustable (on tracks) as far as for leg room. Other than that it gets great gas mileage and its a living room on wheels. Tons of room! awesome car just wish it was a little cheaper."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By KH (KS) on Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Like the stow-and-go feature."
Cons: "Wished gas mileage was a little better (who wdnt)"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We recently bought a 2009 Routan. Shortly after we bought it we drove it out to the Grand Canyon (2800+ mile round trip). After driving it around before our vacation trip I was a little concerned about how the 3.8L engine would do in the mountains, but I was pleasantly pleased with the performance. The downside of the performance was that when the cruise was on the mph would go down 5-10 before the transmission would shift to compensate for the elevation gain. The ride is a little stiffer than our old van (Chrysler T&C), but not too bad. Overall, I am happy with our purchase."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By mac_addict32 (CA) on Friday, May 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, great features w/o the price,"
Cons: "towing capacity"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We have loved this van. As a man who drives it a lot, I love how it handles more like a semi-sports car than a loose town-car. I've heard some people say it's not as smooth riding but I don't know what they're talking about. It's got very responsive steering and an engine to back it up. We've made several long road trips in it and it travels well. We put about 20k miles a year on our vehicles and it has stood up to the wear and tear. In the VW, you get many of the "upgrades" but without the premium price. I personally like the sporty changes that VW put on the van. The spoiler, different nose, and interior designs are great. All the seats are VERY comfortable. The leather has been extremely durable and I would highly recommend it. There's also a lot of great extra storage space in the floor due to the design from Chrysler but without the stow-and-go seats. We have one with a dual entertainment system and wireless headphones. Our kids love it. If we wanted to, our kids can be watching 2 different movies on the headphones and we can listen to iPod or something up front on a long trip. It also has an AUX input by the rear row that you can plug a game console or iPod into and feed into speakers and/or video screen(s). The touchscreen entertainment system has been great. We love the built in hard drive for loading CD's onto it. We did have an issue with an engine valve spring but it was covered under the warranty. The VW dealership has a technician who is specially trained to work on the Routan. I did wish that it had a bit more towing capacity but even the other vans can't tow that much. One other thing, if you want to use the LATCH in the 3rd row, it will fit 2 car seats and not leave any room left for a third person. We've gone ahead and just used the seat belts and it hasn't been a problem. I would recommend this to anyone in a heartbeat."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful