By KBB.com Editors
While the press and public beg VW to bring back the classic Microbus, the company has instead taken a shorter (and cheaper) route, offering a minivan that is not entirely of its own creating. For the 2011 Volkswagen Routan, VW teamed up with Chrysler, borrowing the basic Dodge Grand Caravan platform and providing it with a hefty dose of VW styling. Die-hard VW fans, however, may have issues with the Routan, as its powertrain and electronics are pretty much Chrysler-derived. Available in three well-equipped models – S, SE and SEL – the Routan is a comfortable and practical front -drive family vehicle cable of holding as many as seven passengers; it's also loaded with features that help to make long road trips less arduous.
Although its drivetrain is borrowed from Detroit, the Routan's suspension and steering calibrations are clearly German. If you like a stiffer ride, sharper cornering and a more upscale interior, the 2011 Volkswagen Routan is probably the minivan for you.
If you're attracted to VW because you feel German engineering is superior to everyone else's, the Routan's Chrysler-based origins probably won't appeal to you.
For 2011, all Routan vans are now powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine teamed to a new six-speed automatic transmission. Also new is a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, an ECO fuel switch that adjust the transmission's shift points for optimal economy, a stowable roof rack (SE and SEL) and front-passenger side airbags.
Driving Impressions Of primary importance to VW was the ability to impart the 2011 Routan with a distinctly European driving character. The stock Chrysler springs, shocks and bushings were swapped out in...favor of firmer parts and the power steering unit's valve proportioning was adjusted to create a heavier feel that responds more quickly to inputs. The result is a minivan that still has a comfortable ride, but feels more in-touch with the road. The improved springs and shocks help minimize body roll and lean and the new steering setup allows the Routan to track straight without requiring constant corrective inputs. Helping keep the Routan firmly planted to the road are a host of electronic assists, including traction control, anti-lock brakes and Electronic Stability Control with brake assist. The new 3.6-liter V6 pumps out an impressive 283 horsepower and does a good job quickly moving the 4,500-pound Routan up to highway speeds. 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 those in the Chrysler counterparts, the first- and second-row individual seats in the Routan have been upgraded, 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 retains Chrysler's gauges, switch gear, heating and ventilation components and audio systems, but applies a liberal dose of German flavor by adding thicker carpeting, form-fitting seats (available in cloth, V-Tex or perforated leather) and soft-touch material on the dash, door panels and armrests. Numerous storage areas abound inside the Routan, which features cup holders at every seating station, under-floor storage bins and an overhead storage console. An available 115-volt outlet is ideal for powering laptops or game consoles, and overhead airline-style lighting allows individual nighttime illumination that won't light up the entire cabin. The 2011 VW Routan's second-row captain's chairs can be folded flush into the floor, while the third-row bench seat can be flipped 180-degress to serve duty during tailgating parties.Exterior
The 2011 Volkswagen Routan may start life as Grand Caravan, but VW's unique styling and suspension tuning make it far superior to its American cousin. Sharing only the side door panels, glass and windshield with its Chrysler twin, the Routan creates its own visual appeal by touting a prominent grille, wide lower air intakes and aero headlamps. S trims ride on 16-inch steel wheels, while the SE and SEL feature standard 17-inch alloy rims with 225/65 all-season tires. Up top, a newly-available roof rack features pivoting roof rails that stow into the side rails, while around back a subtle spoiler and integrated third brake light rest atop the large hatchback door.
Beyond the 3.6-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission, 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 controlled on the S and SE and automatic on the leather-trimmed SEL, which also gets a power sunroof, heated second-row seats, remote start and power-folding third-row seats. The SEL Premium adds a 506-watt nine-speaker sound system, 115-volt outlet and a tire-pressure monitoring system that individually monitors each tire. All models include stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, driver's knee airbag and front-seat side and side-curtain airbags, and all scheduled maintenance is free during the vehicle's basic warranty period.
The 2011 Volkswagen Routan 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. On the SEL and SEL Premium, the navigation also includes iPod interface and Sirius Travel Link. A power liftgate is available on the SE trim and standard on SEL and SEL Premium.
All 2011 Volkswagen Routan models are now fitted with a single engine and transmission combo: A 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission with ECO mode. The new engine is one of the most powerful in this class and is a welcome addition. Fuel economy is also quite good, although we assume mileage figures will vary based on the passenger complement and individual driving habits. The Routan's V6 is also capable of running on E85, a blend of 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol.
283-horsepower @ 6350 rpm
260 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (gasoline), 12/18 (E85)
By ekkomom on Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "LOVED under 2nd row storage! Always snacktime!"
Cons: "would like a softer drivers seat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"i bought this, my first, van because i was taking on a long commute carpool for school. 5 teenage kids, 2+ bags ea, @100 miles, 3-4 days a week. did not disappoint! reliable, stable (like in bad weather)and comfortable for me and kids."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Fred on Wednesday, November 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 58,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable ride"
Cons: "poor quality vehicle"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"A comfortable riding van, but that's the only good thing about it. It's underpowered and won't hold speed on a hill with the cruise on. Door remotes won't work unless within 10 feet or so. Uconnect, won't. Dealer wouldn't even attempt a warranty repair, said "all of them are like that". Transmission is noisy, dealer won't look at it until it fails. Driver's door electric window switch won't work. TPMS light on constantly, not a warranty issue according to dealer."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Scott on Thursday, September 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Power; handling; sound system; warranty; interior"
Cons: "Shifts too soon so I find myself going to manual."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I received a great price at the end of 2012, love the interior, the engine has plenty of power, a large gas tank, and plenty of room for the family. Storage on top is also a plus and I don't have any real downsides of the van."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Shadow32 on Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 98,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfortable, lots of storage, best styling"
Cons: "Chrysler built"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love the comfort, ride and storage. Best looking / style of minivan on the road. Very good gas mileage on the interstate even loaded down. Will normally get 26-27 mpg on the interstate. Had the smaller 3.8L engine in the 2009 model. This 2010 SEL was loaded with the 4.0L engine. At 70 mph is barely turns 1600 rpm. Can be very quick for a minivan. Lots of grunt and power. Very comfortable ride even on long trips."
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By carolina guy on Sunday, August 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Got a great price for it; solid & reliable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this van new 5 years ago to replace another VW van. This one is far superior to previous one!!! A German vehicle built by Chrysler in Canada...go figure :-)) Love the way it drives and handles--very smooth and solid. Seats are generous & comfortable for long distance driving. Gas mileage is around 19-20. Overall vision is very good w/ glass all around. Control panels well designed, easy to use. Aside from regular maintenance, have had only very minor issue with one of the power windows. Didn't get a van with a lot of bells & whistles, so there's less to go wrong/repair. Overall it's well made, and a good value. Gets me where I want to go, comfortably & reliably. Would recommend :-))"
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By driver on Friday, May 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive"
Cons: "adding oil pretty often"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Drove this van through snow storms, hail, dessert heat, cross country, and even raced/ chased a few crooks in it. 118,000 no transmission service done, basic maintenance, and it is still going strong. It does suck oil up pretty fast, but compared to other reviews I feel lucky thats all I really had to deal with. I drive this Van Like I am in Nascar!"
12 people out of 21 found this review helpful