Fumbling out of the "why bother" category here at the Chicago Auto Show is the 2009 Volkswagen Routan, which is their new minivan based on the Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan platform. Oddly, Volkswagen opened up its presentation by showing pics and videos of its classic vehicles, such as the old Beetle and the old-style rear-engined vans. What's odd is that those classics share absolutely no heritage with the new Chrysler minivan-based Routan. Why conjure up favorable memories of the old VW van before letting us down with this new one?
Moving on to better things, the new van does have a pretty attractive face, more attractive than the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country, at least. Standard features are many, including traction and stability controls, a 6-speed automatic transmission and Chrysler's 3.8L V6, though a 4.0L V6 producing 251 hp is also available. The interior is nicer in the Routan than in its Chrysler counterparts, though that's not necessarily saying much. We'll reserve final judgment until we get a chance to live with it, though.
Volkswagen believes that it has struck a better ride and handling compromise on the Routan than Chrysler was able to achieve with either of its vans, which is a bit like biting the hands that feeds you. Nothing on the Routan is all that bad, so we think that any potential minivan customer will consider it. What it will cost is unknown, but VW said the Routan will start around $25,000. We still question whether this is the best that Volkswagen could do with such a great history of vans to draw upon. As we see it, all this vehicle does is give VW dealers a vehicle to sell to large families.