Built and sold from 2008 to 2012, the Volkswagen Routan featured a VW badge front and centre, but was more or less a Chrysler Town And Country.
When it was introduced, Volkswagen claimed the minivan featured “German engineering,” sharing very few components with its counterpart from Chrysler.
But the Routan was built at Chrysler’s old facility in Windsor and featured a V6 engine also found in Chrysler’s product line. You could call it whatever you like, but if walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. …
In 2010, you could choose from Trendline, Comfortline, Highline and Execline models, all of which sat seven adults comfortably.
Power was delivered via a 4.0-litre V6 that developed just over 250 horsepower. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission only, with the shifter mounted on the dash.
Suspension was a little firmer than that of the Chrysler product, despite the fact that these two were built on the same platform. So the Routan rode a little harder than the Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.
Content level was reasonably high. Heated mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering, and power first- and second-row windows all came standard. You could also get things like a three-zone climate control system, power rear tailgate, sunroof, leather interior, heated seats and centre console.
Options included a navigation package, which also gave you a rear-view camera; a rear entertainment system; and larger 17-inch alloy wheels.
Cargo capacity on the Routan was some 2,350 litres, about on par with other models such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
Fuel economy was decent. For a while, the Routan led this segment of the market when it came to time spent at the pumps, if only by a very small margin.
However, this vintage of the Routan lacks Chrysler’s clever Stow ’n Go seating arrangement. And doesn’t have the Swivel ’n Go seats, which can be spun around to face backwards.
Three safety recalls were on file with Transport Canada, two of which are kind of important.
The first involves a possibly flawed wiring harness that could cause the power rear doors to chafe through the wiring and, ultimately, lead to a fire within the sliding door assembly.
The second concerns the ignition key, which can inadvertently move from the on position to the accessory position while driving, which would cause the engine to shut off. Loss of propulsion, in conjunction with traffic and road conditions, and the driver’s reactions, could increase the risk of a crash causing property damage and/or personal injury, according to Transport Canada.
The third recall is a warning that objects shouldn’t be placed near the airbag on the instrument panel, as they could hit someone in the event of an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States had 24 technical service bulletins for the ’09 Routan. These ranged from starting problems, to faulty PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valves on some models, to issues with the power sliding side doors, to leaky radiator caps, to “rattling” noises from the engine.
Lots of issues with this one, in other words.
Consumer Reports didn’t much care for the Routan. According to CR, it failed in quite a few key areas, including transmission, climate control system, brakes, paint and trim, body hardware and so on.
Consequently, CR gave the Routan a “much worse than average” used car prediction rating. Reliability is below average, it added.
Some comments from owners:
- “Lots of storage.”
- “Nightmare on wheels.”
- “Clunks and rattles throughout the interior and no factory support.”
- “At 6,500 miles, it has been in the shop five times.”
You can pick up a used Routan from about $3,500 right up to $10,000, depending on years and trim level. As ever, the level of extras also affects resale value.
2010 Volkswagen Routan
Original base price: $27,975
Engine: 4.0-litre V6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 12.1 litres/100 km city, 7.9 highway, with regular gas
Some alternatives: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest, Chrysler Town And Country
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).