2010 Volkswagen Routan Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 22, 2010

The 2010 Volkswagen Routan has the bonuses of Chrysler's segment-defining minivans with a touch of German flair, but a modern-day VW Bus it's not.

TheCarConnection.com's expert reviewers drove the 2010 Volkswagen Routan to bring you their own firsthand Bottom Line impressions of the vehicle, and supplemented that with the most authoritative sources from around the web to give you a conclusive picture in the Full Review.

Leaning on Dodge's Grand Caravan for basis of the Routan minivan, Volkswagen taps into a core American market. Well-equipped and offering a competitive set of features and abilities, the 2010 Volkswagen Routan presents an attractive package-but it's best when upgraded. New for 2010 is the addition of standard satellite navigation on SEL and SEL premium models, plus a standard rear entertainment system on the SEL premium. For 2010, there's a range of new colors throughout the lineup.

VW calls the Routan the "Volkswagen of minivans," and it wears its corporate identity clearly on its exterior. The attractive front end pairs a large VW logo with monochrome bumpers that give it more curb appeal than its platform-mates at Dodge or Chrysler. The interior is mostly successful, too, though the details aren't as refined as most "pure" Volkswagen vehicles, with some plastics coming up short. On the other hand, the instrument panel is easy to read, pleasingly styled, and attractive with a two-tone color scheme.

Rough and unrefined, the base 3.8-liter pushrod V-6 engine that comes standard on the S and SE trim levels also struggles to get the 4,500-pound van moving with authority. At 197 horsepower, it's understandably overtaxed at anything but a leisurely pace. Paired with a balky base six-speed automatic, the Routan's performance in base trim is less than inspiring. The 4.0-liter V-6 engine that comes standard on the SEL trim is a 180-degree difference, however, with its 251-horsepower output and smooth power delivery through an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission more than up to the task. Surprisingly, the more powerful engine also delivers the better fuel economy ratings, scoring 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway compared to the 3.8-liter engine's 16/23 mpg.

Review continues below

Standard features for all Routan minivans include an ingenious power-folding third-row seat, 144 cubic feet of storage with the seats stowed and removed, and sliding doors both left and right with windows that roll down. All trim levels offer a Volkswagen-tuned suspension that promises better handling than the Chrysler vehicles with which it shares a platform, a fact that's reflected in its stable on-road feel. Despite the "German tuned" suspension, the Routan feels more like a slightly more composed American minivan, with comfort at the fore. Seats are supportive and comfortable, with no complaints even on long trips.

Taking a look at the interior, the Routan's Chrysler roots begin to show through, and not in a good way. Materials, switches, controls, and other details aren't quite what you'd expect from a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, much less a Volkswagen. The controls for the HVAC, for example, are a morass of illegible black plastic buttons and require more attention to adjust than they should.

That said, the Chrysler minivans on which the Routan is based are themselves very competent vehicles in many respects. The Routan gets most of those advantages, but Chrysler's Swivel N' Go seating isn't one of them. The S trim picks up standard second-row folding bench seats, while the SE and SEL trims add fold-flat/removable captain-style chairs. All models get the folding/disappearing/reclining third-row seat that Chrysler calls Stow N' Go. The combination of these various seating arrangements allows all models to fit 144 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats stowed. A few more options, including a rear conversation mirror, power windows in the sliding side doors, plus in-cabin entertainment and touch-screen navigation, help bring the Routan up to the specification you'd expect from a Volkswagen.

Despite its relatively affordable cost, the base S model can quickly be optioned up to the price level of the Touareg luxury SUV. Upgrading to SE trim gets larger wheels and power sliding doors, a garage door transceiver, and heated power mirrors, but the bottom line will show it. Going to the SEL trim costs even more, but adds a more powerful engine, better fuel economy, a more refined cabin, and rear-seat entertainment.

Crash safety is one strong mark that carries over from the Chrysler basis, with the essentially identical Dodge Grand Caravan scoring a top mark of "good" in IIHS testing, and the Routan itself earning five stars in NHTSA testing. The top scores are possible thanks in part to the wide range of standard safety equipment, which includes driver and passenger airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and ABS.

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2010 Volkswagen Routan

Styling

Though the Routan doesn't fully capture Volkswagen's typical feel, it delivers enough style to make it an attractive option.

VW calls the Routan the "Volkswagen of minivans," and it wears its corporate identity clearly on its exterior. The attractive front end pairs a large VW logo with monochrome bumpers that give it more curb appeal than its platform-mates at Dodge or Chrysler, though the resemblance remains apparent.

Car and Driver says the Routan "still looks like a Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan from the outside," and the inside is "clearly a Chrysler dressed up in prettier Volkswagen materials." As Jalopnik puts it, "there's not much to connect it to its German heritage." Nevertheless, they call the Volkswagen-specific front-end "attractive." Despite the overall resemblance, Motor Trend points out that the only shared body panels between the "arguably more attractive" Routan and the Chrysler versions are the "side doors." Automotive.com says the Routan has a "boxy main body."

The interior is mostly successful, too, though the details aren't as refined as most "pure" Volkswagen vehicles, with some plastics coming up short. On the other hand, the instrument panel is easy to read, pleasingly styled, and attractive with a two-tone color scheme.

Cars.com notes "significant changes to the dashboard and door panels," and praises the improved materials and "low gloss, soft to the touch" styling of the upper dash, but doesn't like the plasticky silver elements or the blue backlighting and panel gaps. Edmunds similarly praises the "more upscale appearance," but slams the "chintzy switchgear."

7

2010 Volkswagen Routan

Performance

The 2010 Volkswagen Routan delivers good performance and respectable fuel economy when paired with the 4.0-liter V-6.

Rough and unrefined, the base 3.8-liter pushrod V-6 engine that comes standard on the S and SE trim levels struggles to get the 4,500-pound van moving with authority. At 197 horsepower, it's understandably overtaxed at anything but a leisurely pace. Paired with a balky six-speed automatic, the Routan's performance in base trim is less than inspiring.

The 4.0-liter V-6 engine that comes standard on the SEL trim is a 180-degree difference, however, with its 251-horsepower output and smooth power delivery through an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission more than up to the task. Surprisingly, the more powerful engine also delivers the better fuel economy ratings, scoring 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway compared to the 3.8-liter engine's 16/23 mpg.

That extra power and efficiency are noticed across the board, with Edmunds recommending the 4.0-liter engine for its "superior acceleration" and "respectable" fuel economy. Once it's moving, the VW-tuned suspension is readily apparent, too. Car and Driver raves, "It's actually fun for a minivan," but complains that there's none of the typical VW engine options, including a VR6, turbo four-cylinder, or TDI diesel. It's not a sports car, however, and Automotive.com notes that the Routan "can feel a bit top heavy at highway speeds," and it's "not as pleasant to pilot" as the Japanese competition. Cars.com reports that the Routan "handles like a minivan" and finds a "bit of rattle" over rougher roads.

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2010 Volkswagen Routan

Comfort & Quality

The Routan sacrifices some utility and passenger space, but delivers a composed and comfortable cabin.

Standard features for all Routan minivans include an ingenious power-folding third-row seat, 144 cubic feet of storage with the seats stowed and removed, and sliding doors both left and right with windows that roll down. All trim levels offer a Volkswagen-tuned suspension that promises better handling than the Chrysler vehicles with which it shares a platform, a fact that's reflected in its stable on-road feel. Despite the "German tuned" suspension, the Routan feels more like a slightly more composed American minivan, with comfort at the fore. Seats are supportive and comfortable, with no complaints even on long trips.

Taking a look at the interior, the Routan's Chrysler roots begin to show, and not in a good way. Materials, switches, controls, and other details aren't quite what you'd expect from a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, much less a Volkswagen. The controls for the HVAC, for example, are a morass of illegible black plastic buttons and require more attention to adjust than they should.

Cars.com points out that the Routan's front seats have "more prominent side bolsters" than their American counterparts, and finds only "modest" legroom, though they note the seating room specs are identical to the Chrysler vehicles' for all three rows. Car and Driver loves the 13 cup holders and observes that "storage bins are as prevalent as tourists in Tijuana," but notes that like the Caravan and Town & Country, the Routan "lags behind the rest of the minivan pack in interior volume."

Because the Routan also lacks the seating features that Chrysler calls Stow ‘n Go and Swivel ‘n Go, the Routan gives up some of its utility and is tight on passenger space. On the flip side, as Automotive.com notes, since the seats don't stow into the underfloor storage bins, they're open for use all the time.

9

2010 Volkswagen Routan

Safety

The 2010 Routan is a safe family vehicle that rates high in independent crash tests.

Crash safety is one strong mark that carries over from the Chrysler basis, with the 2010 Routan scoring a top mark of "good" in IIHS testing, and earning five stars in NHTSA testing in every crash impact category, with only the rollover rating dipping to four stars.

The top scores are possible, thanks in part to the wide range of standard safety equipment, which includes driver and passenger airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and ABS. Automotive.com points out, "Optional
safety features include rear park assist and a rearview camera."

The Routan does not earn a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, but it's worth noting that no other minivan does either.

8

2010 Volkswagen Routan

Features

The 2010 Volkswagen Routan can be configured with a bevy of entertainment and seating options, but the price of these additions can pile up quickly.

The Chrysler minivans on which the Routan is based are themselves very competent vehicles in many respects, and the Routan gets most of those advantages, but Chrysler's Swivel N' Go seating isn't one of them. The S trim picks up standard second-row folding bench seats, while the SE and SEL trims add fold-flat/removable captain-style chairs. All models get the folding/disappearing/reclining third-row seat that Chrysler calls Stow N' Go. The combination of these various seating arrangements allows all models to fit 144 cubic feet of cargo with all rear seats stowed. A few more options, including a rear conversation mirror, power windows in the sliding side doors, plus in-cabin entertainment, Bluetooth, a power liftgate, and touch-screen navigation, help bring the Routan up to the specification you'd expect from a Volkswagen.

The available rear-seat entertainment options will "keep the kids' attention," says Automotive.com, and Cnet calls the movable center storage console a "trick feature," but there's little here to differentiate the Routan from the Chrysler Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan. Cars.com sums up the lack of VW feel and above-average features by saying that the Routan just "doesn't demand the high premium that some VW models do."

Starting at a price about $1,000 higher than the Chrysler versions, model-for-model, the base S model can quickly be optioned up to the price level of the Touareg luxury SUV. Upgrading to SE trim gets larger wheels and power sliding doors, a garage door transceiver, and heated power mirrors, but the bottom line will show it. Going to the SEL trim costs even more, but adds a more powerful engine, better fuel economy, a more refined cabin, and rear-seat entertainment.

Tow packages and a load leveling suspension are available across the range, notes Edmunds, while you'll have to upgrade to the SE or SEL to get the option of satellite navigation with JoyBox 30GB hard drive-based storage system.

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7.8
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
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