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 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