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We're giving the Routan a rating of 8 here at FamilyCarGuide. It's a spacious package with a much nicer execution than had been the norm for the Chrysler vans. Safety is still a strong suit, and though it doesn't have the fold-away seats found in the Chrysler vans, it's still a more flexible family vehicle than the Kia Sedona or Nissan Quest, and competitive in many ways with the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
The biggest news for the Routan this year is its new powertrain. The new 3.6-liter V-6 gets teamed with a six-speed automatic, and retains front-wheel drive, without the all-wheel-drive option you'd find on the Sienna. The Routan's new engine makes 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. In Chrysler's minivans, which we've driven extensively, the new powertrain turns the vans into pleasant, brisk performers without the moaning and groaning found in Chrysler's old V-6 engines.
There's only a mild update to the Routan's exterior, and of the trio of vans, the VW version still has the best-executed cabin, with the best materials. We continue to be fans of these vans' light, airy interiors and big glass areas, which make for great visibility. However, the Routan's not quite the equal of the Chrysler vans: it doesn't offer the fold-in-the-floor Stow 'N Go seating, and it doesn't even have fold-flat seats in the middle row. instead, the second-row buckets can be removed entirely. You'll still find the storage tubs in the floor, a sign of that VW's omission of the Stow 'N Go is mostly a marketing decision.Safety systems are intact, with the same front, side and curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes and stability control. A rearview camera is now available on the Routan, but the VW van doesn't get the blind-spot detection system offered on the Chrysler vans. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Routan "good" ratings for front- and side-impact protection, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet updated its scores for the current model year.
Volkswagen lets the Routan span the range of prices you'll find on both Chrysler vans. Like the Dodge minivan, there's a base $26,930 Routan S that includes manual sliding side doors, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD with auxiliary audio jack, cloth seats, and power windows/locks/mirrors. A Routan SE adds Bluetooth, power sliding side doors and power adjustable pedals for $31,770. Since the Routan doesn't offer Sirius BackseatTV like the Chryslers, you may want the optional DVD entertainment system offered on the Routan SE and other trims.The $37,390 VW Routan SEL adds in plenty of gear, including a sunroof, automatic climate control, a navigation system, satellite radio, USB port and real-time traffic. Options include the DVD system, and a premium package with a megawatt audio system and dual power front seats.
For more on its utility, performance, styling, features and safety, see TheCarConnection's 2011 Volkswagen Routan page.