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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.


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.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Throw a TDI in it, then we'll talk.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Are you listening VW? Because we are all dissappointed!
      I wanted a Microbus!
      Every other car maker makes a lame van, we were looking to you to give us a cool one.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Because that would make to much sense :(
      • 7 Years Ago
      Better looking than the Chrysler versions but that isn't saying much. VW sells the Sharon in Mexico (along with the Transporter T5 (Eurovan successor) and Crafter (full size van with the same body as the Mercedes/Dodge Sprinter). Why can't they in the US?
      • 7 Years Ago
      novel ideas, rather than "not novel", my bad
      • 7 Years Ago

      As a former owner of a Chrysler T&C, and having endured a $2000 mechanical make-over at 54,000 miles, and knowing my best friends very annoying troubles with his Vdub , I'm convinced that VW has indeed chosen the right company to put their badge on.

      Why would any CEO, who was in their right mind, outsource to Chrysler? I'm sure there are many other minivan builders who would be a better alternative.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Agreed, they should have gone with the microbus concept that they had a number of years ago. So stupid of them not to and rebadge a Dodge.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Now why would I buy this over the cheaper Dodge version?
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think the world is upside down. VW's heritage is rooted in small cars and it is making a full range of them in low cost countries like Mexico (if they can't make money on Puebla produced cars they should close down now). What do they sell in the US? $20K+ Jettas that look like Corollas. Who are the front runners in small cars in sales? BMW (mini). In design? Mercedes (Smart but arguable). So what does the great VOA brain trust do to pull them out of this predicament? Have Chrysler private label them a big firkken minivan in a market that in general is tanking.

      I like VW's, my first 2 cars and a later one were VW's, but since the initiation of US production in 1976 they have been acting out a death wish. The strangest think is that they have the product that at the right price, the right quality and with a decent dealer network would be hugely successful. Why they can't do it I don't know, but as I said in the beginning the world is upside down.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If I'm a consumer looking to purchase a minivan, why whould I opt for the VW version? Here are 3 distinct reasons why the Chrysler van will attract more people:
      1. Price - starting price on the Chrysler is $4k less. Tack on the $3-4K in incentives that Chrysler throws on (which VW doesn't) and thats an $8K difference in the starting price.
      2. Warranty - Chrysler offers lifetime powertrain protection while VW will only offer 4/50.
      3. Features - Chrysler did not give VW access to all of their unique features. The VW van will not have the swivel seats, or the stow n go in the front row. VW will also be without the interior LED lighting.

      Simply put, the "upgraded" interior that VW is touting better be one heck of an upgrade, as a price premium of circa $8k and on a vehicle with less features is going to be a tough sell!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Yeah. I don't like minivans.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe they'll outsource their next brainfart to Seagway
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