click above to view more high-res pics of the VW Routan

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.

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PRESS RELEASE


VOLKSWAGEN UNVEILS ROUTAN AT CHICAGO AUTO SHOW
European inspired design and driving dynamics highlight new minivan

CHICAGO – Volkswagen of America today unveiled the Routan, an all new seven-passenger minivan. It delivers the best of both worlds: a vehicle that combines European sensibilities in design, fit and finish, and handling characteristics with market relevant features and outstanding value.

The Routan is instantly recognizable as a member of the Volkswagen family, with its stylized front grille and exterior treatments. The interior enhancements create an environment that is visually pleasing, modern, and meticulously detailed. The high quality materials, beautiful textures and rich luxurious colors are combined with exacting tolerances and superb fit and finish. While pleasing and contemporary, the interior also follows the traditional Volkswagen design philosophy that form follows function.

Second row captain's chairs offer an increased level of luxury and comfort while still providing the convenience of a traditional minivan, with over 32.7 cubic feet available behind the third row seats and a full 83 cubic feet is available behind the second row.

The Routan will come standard with a 3.8L V6, offering 197 hp and 230 lb. ft. of torque when combined with the standard six-speed automatic transmission. A 4.0L V6 will be available rated at 251 hp and 259 lb. ft. of torque. Routan features European tuned suspension and steering optimized for handling and improved driving dynamics. Standard all-season traction control and ESP, brings safety and security to the Routan.

The Routan comes with a host of unique features, including:

• Conversation Mirror
• Rear seat entertainment system with two 9 inch screens for second and third row, wireless headsets, and remote control
• Dual power sliding doors with power windows
• Touch screen navigation with twenty meg hard drive
• Power lift gate with flood lamp
• Thirteen cup holders

Volkswagen delivers a competitively priced entry into this high volume segment with prices starting below $25,000. The Routan will be built in an already existing facility in Windsor, Ontario.

With Routan, Volkswagen dealers add a vehicle that will provide additional, incremental growth in the market. A distinctly designed minivan at an attractive price point will broaden the brand portfolio, while providing a roomy alternative to existing Volkswagen owners.