A corporate boardroom shuffle left residue---a VW-branded Mopar-built minivan called the Routan. It has unique body panels, a retuned suspension and a Euro-style dash pad. Otherwise, its similar to Chrysler's Town & Country.
Its strong suit: cargo hauling. It easily ingests bulky items. Unlike Chrysler's vans, Routans don't have the mid-row, Stow 'n Go seating. That's a bonus; the wider chairs, which cannot tuck under the floor, are more comfortable. You remove them or fold them. The latter exposes sharp under-seat hardware.
The third-row, split bench is motorized. It acrobatically moves fore-and-aft, folds into a floor well or back flips creating a tailgater's lounge. Other trick features include swiveling overhead LED spotlights, motorized sliding side doors and self-lifting rear lid. There are two glove boxes. The navigation system requires an intensive training session; resetting home is difficult. In contrast, there's a simple voice-prompt demo. The rear-view camera's image is atmospheric Stieglitz--soft and grainy.
Aesthetically, the interior has European shapes and materials but fabric tufts look untidy and doors aren't ergonomically sculpted. Instrument faces slant making daytime reflections problematic. Plastic-covered, seat-mounted armrests rattled. Watch your feet. Due to insufficient space, toes are pinched between the dashboard's lower edge and the brake pedal. A sharp metal bracket adjacent to the throttle pedal threatens. The sliding front console jams.
Ride quality seems resilient but expansion joints produce kicks. It sounds hushed but wind rush, suspension clunks and the groaning engine are noticeable.
Handling is a sore spot. If the Routan's suspension is Euro-tuned, it's intended for an Autobahn rest area. Steering is slow, inert. Get frisky and the Bridgestone tires scream. Stability program kicks in early. In addition, the brakes feel overwhelmed.
There are two engine options. This one's 251-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 with six-speed automatic transmission, gets better mpg than the base 3.8-liter. While the engine and tranny collaborate, it frequently downshifts from sixth to fifth. EPA figures: 17 mpg city; 25 highway. I observed 18 mpg; mid-grade fuel recommended.
A Routan SEL's base price is nearly $37,000, as equipped it's $42,000. Expect discounts.
Get an in-depth review at TheCarConnection's 2010 Volkswagen Routan page