By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 6/23/2011
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's Significant About This Car?
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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)
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) on the 2011 Volkswagen Routan starts at about $28,000 for the S, around $32,500 for the SE and $35,500 for the SE with RSE/navigation, and just over $44,000 for a fully-loaded SEL Premium. The Routan's base price places it in the middle of the current minivan pack, relatively pricier than the Hyundai Entourage and Kia Sedona, but modestly below the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. SE and SEL pricing place the Routan in contention with comparably-equipped versions of its mechanical kin, the top-selling Chrysler Town & Country. The current state of the minivan market does make figuring residuals a bit tricky but, overall, the Routan appears to be holding its value better than the Town & Country, although not as well as the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.