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Volkswagen Routan, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review

Volkswagen Routan, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review 1As the first minivan for Volkswagen in six years, the 2009 Routan joins a long series of popular large and funky VW vehicles — the Microbus to the Vanagon. The new vehicle, available in 10 trims, hopes to appeal to the needs of large families seeking maximum passenger and cargo space.

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But the Routan has no easy path among 2009 minivan comparisons. The potential market share is tight, so the Routan will have to compete against segment leader Honda Odyssey as well as Chrysler’s Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, its not-so-distant cousins.

Volkswagen Routan, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review 2

The Weekly Driver’s Ratings

Acceleration (7)
Superior acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 8.9 seconds, according to VW’s estimates for the top-the-line SEL versus 10.2 for the 3.8-liter S and SE engines, all with six-speed automatic transmissions.

Braking/Steering/Handling (6)
Moves in-and-out of traffic well and maneuvers well particularly for its size. Steering is strong and responsive. Ditto for the brakes.

Cargo Room (8)
The third-row bench folds flat and with the second seats removed, total cargo space is an impressive 144 cubic feet.

Controls (5)
Straight-forward, efficient and hard to differentiate from the Town & Country and Dodge Caravan. Volkswagen should have tried a little harder.

Volkswagen Routan, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review 3

Details (6)
Lots of map pockets other small storage areas and VW made an effort to upgrade the console with clean, efficiently positioned equipment. But nothing stands out as a segment leader.

Front Seats (6)
Plenty of room with easy access and an immediately comfortable driving and passenger feel.

Fuel Economy (5)
The 3.8-liter engine is rated a 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined; the 4.0-liter V6 yields 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.

Quietness (7)
It’s not a luxury sedan, but it’s as quiet as some of the not-so-quiet luxury vehicles. Matched against other minivans, it holds its own, and that’s particularly impressive for a debut vehicle.

Rear Seats (6)
The Routan doesn’t have “swivel” seats like Chrysler, but the Routan’s superior comfort makes up for the lack of convenience. The second and third rows are roomy even for large adults, but there’s one downside. One option is a sunroof and it’s nice. But it also comes with a price — significantly reduce headroom in the second row.

Ride Quality (6)
The Honda Odyssey is the segment leader. It glides along the road, rarely with interference. The Routan . . . not so much. It’s about par for the segment, handling bumps and other road imperfections as best as possible, but certainly none escape.

Total (62 out of  100)

Class — Minivan

Primary competition —  Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna.

Standard equipment —  Three models, 10 trims: S, SE and SEL: S, SE and SEL. Base S includes 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, heated side mirrors, a six-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary input audio jack, a removable second-row bench seat and a 60/40-split third-row bench that folds into the floor.

The SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, power-sliding rear doors, upgraded cloth upholstery, tri-zone manual climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, removable second-row captain’s chairs, rear sunshades and an upgraded audio system with a six-CD changer.

The SEL adds larger engine, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, heated seats for the first and second rows, a power liftgate and Bluetooth connectivity.

Safety features — ventilated front disc / solid rear disc brakes, 4-wheel ABS, emergency braking assist traction control, stability control, front, rear and third row head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, rear door child safety locks, child seat anchors, 2 front headrests, 2 rear headrests, 3 third row headrests, engine immobilizer, daytime running lights, tire pressure monitoring, electronic brakeforce distribution.

Optional features — Entertainment package on S, SE and SEL. S model includes DVD player, second- and third-row flip-down screens, Bluetooth, the upgraded audio system, satellite radio and tri-zone manual air-conditioning. SE and SEL models get all-row DVD playback, a 30-gigabyte hard-drive-based audio system, a back-up camera and the power liftgate (SE).

For additional standard and optional features, visit: www.vw.com

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price — $29,600.00 (SE model)

Price As Driven — $30,290.00 (SE model)

Mileage Estimates — 16 mpg (city), 23 mpg (hwy).

Warranty —  Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion 12 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 4 years/unlimited miles.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words — So far, not so good. VW asked Chrysler to stop building Routans for the entire month of February since according to reports only 4,000 or about 14.5 percent of the vehicles assembled had been sold. Volkswagen minivan fanciers in previous generations were passionate about their lifestyles and images in minivans. It doesn’t look like that’s the case with the latest incarnation.

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