Volkswagen adds a minivan to its lineup in the form of the all-new 2009 Volkswagen Routan. Based heavily on the Dodge Grand Caravan, the seven-passenger Routan intends to fill a gap left by the VW Eurovan, which retired in 2003. Despite its Chrysler connections, the Routan differentiates itself with unique styling cues, sophisticated features, and a Euro-tuned suspension.
The Volkswagen Routan comes in three trim levels: the S, SE, and SEL. The first two trims house a 3.8-liter V-6 engine, while the top-level SEL draws power from a more muscular four-liter V-6. Both engines couple with a six-speed automatic transmission. While not the most original or exciting minivan on the market, the 2009 Volkswagen Routan may appeal to families with its ample passenger space, comfortable seats, and exceptional safety scores.
Body Styles: minivan
Engines: 3.8-liter V-6, 4.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: six-speed automatic
Models: Volkswagen Routan S, Volkswagen Routan SE, Volkswagen Routan SEL
The 2009 Volkswagen Routan marks a brand-new model for the Volkswagen lineup. However, much of the minivan’s body and design have been borrowed from the Dodge Caravan and its sister vehicle, the Chrysler Town & Country.
The 2009 Volkswagen Routan essentially represents a retooled version of the Dodge Caravan. But while the body, suspension, and interior layout get borrowed from Chrysler, Volkswagen has given the front end and cabin distinctive touches. The base Routan S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, privacy glass, power-operating rear quarter windows, variable intermittent wipers, a rear window wiper, a rear defogger, heated exterior mirrors, and a rear liftgate door. The SE gains 17-inch wheels and power-sliding side doors. The SEL adds the same features as the SE, plus a larger 4.0-liter V-6 and a power-operated liftgate.
A Premium Package, available only on the top-level SEL trim, adds a sunroof, a remote-start engine, xenon headlights, fog lamps, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, and rear parking assist.
The interior of the 2009 Volkswagen Routan has been updated with sporty bolstered seats and Volkswagen trademarks such as a dash with blue and red backlighting. However, elements of the Caravan and Town & Country still remain, such as a dash-mounted shifter and cheap-feeling control materials. Some families may feel disappointed that kid-friendly features found in the Chrysler and Doge minivans, such as a Swivel ‘n Go second-row seat, do not carry over.
Standard interior features on the Routan S include cloth upholstery, a leather steering wheel, a leather-trimmed shift knob, height-adjustable front captain’s chairs, a folding center armrest, reclining second-row seats, a removable split-folding second-row bench seat, a 60/40-split-folding third-row bench seat, one-touch power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, 12-volt power outlets, a cargo net, a cargo area light, and a six-speaker sound system with single-disc CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Routan SE gets premium cloth seats, second-row captain’s chairs, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, three-zone climate control, rear sunshades, and an upgraded sound system with a six-disc CD changer. The SEL adds heated front and second-row seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth, and power-adjustable pedals.
All models offer an optional entertainment package with a DVD player, second- and third-row screens, tri-zone air-conditioning, Bluetooth, the upgraded sound system, and satellite radio. When added to the SE and SEL trims, the package also includes a rear-view camera and a hard-drive-based audio system. Other options include a navigation system and a towing package, which includes a load-leveling rear suspension. Adding the Premium Package (available only on the SEL) gets you a premium nine-speaker sound system, driver memory settings, and a 115-volt power outlet.
With all seats in place, storage space totals 32.7 cubic feet. Folding the third-row seats and removing the second row increases cargo capacity to 144 cubic feet.
Performance & Handling
Two engines provide options for the 2009 Volkswagen Routan. S and SE models come standard with a 3.8-liter V-6 making 197 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque, while the top-tier SEL comes equipped with a four-liter V-6 capable of producing 253 horses and 262 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic serves as the only transmission option. Upgrading to the larger engine provides a significant boost in acceleration and, surprisingly, a slight improvement in EPA ratings. Volkswagen engineers have revised the Chrysler-based suspension and steering to create a firmer ride and more responsive handling.
What the 2009 Volkswagen Routan lacks in originality, it makes up with its excellent safety record. Standard safety features include front and rear head airbags, anti-lock disc brakes, emergency braking assist, electronic brake force distribution, stability control, and traction control. In government crash tests, the Routan earns a perfect five out of five stars in every category. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Routan its highest rating of ?Good? for the minivan’s performance in frontal-offset and side-impact collisions.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen Routan S: 16/23 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Routan SE: 16/23 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Routan SEL: 17/25 mpg city/highway
- Powerful V-6 option
- Stellar safety scores
- Comfortable cabin
You Won't Like
- Borrowed design
- Limited options
- Sluggish base engine
- Mediocre gas mileage
Volkswagen’s new minivan features a familiar design.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Dodge Caravan
- Chrysler Town & Country
- Honda Odyssey
- Hyundai Entourage