A VW in name only.
Volkswagen’s longstanding success in the United States is due in part to its enthusiastic fan base. The largest VW in the family, however, probably doesn’t excite the Vee-Dub faithful all that much. The reason is simple: the Routan isn’t a Volkswagen at all. VW’s marketing may promise German engineering, but that’s more than a little far-fetched. In fact, the Routan is really a Chrysler Town & Country with slightly different front and rear styling, a retuned suspension, and a few interior upgrades. It’s even built by Chrysler in a Chrysler factory. Unfortunately, one of the Town & Country’s coolest features — the Stow ’n Go second-row seats that fold into the floor — isn’t available on the Routan. In 2011, the Town & Country received a major makeover — and so did the Routan. The core of that change was a new 3.6-liter V-6 that replaced two aging V-6 engines. Power climbed to an impressive 283 hp with no negative effect on fuel economy. The suspension and the chassis were also updated, improving the ride, handling, and steering. Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic is still not world-class. It is often hesitant to downshift and uncertain of which gear to choose. With a taut suspension and a nice interior, the Routan is a decent minivan, but it’s not a true Volkswagen.
Chrysler Town & Country
new for 2013
Volkswagen’s noncommittal relationship with the Routan continues into 2013. The brand appears uncertain of how to proceed with the Routan. It could continue to buy from Chrysler, develop its own alternative, or abandon the segment altogether. For now, Volkswagen is simply content to let the Routan linger in dealerships, unchanged from last year.
Standard equipment includes ABS; tire-pressure monitoring; front, driver’s knee, side, and side curtain air bags; and traction and stability control. Optional features include a rearview camera, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-path detection.
It’s actually a Chrysler
Base Price Range: $27,840–$45,100
TRIM LEVELS: S, SE, SEL, SEL Premium
BODY STYLE: Minivan, 7-passenger
ENGINE: 3.6L V-6, 283 hp, 260 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 163.5 cu ft
CAPACITIES: Towing 2000–3500 lb; cargo (behind third/middle/front seats) 33.0/83.0/144.4 cu ft