The Routan, Volkswagen's version of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, will hit dealerships in summer 2008. The Routan is more upscale than both its siblings, but it forgoes some of their most versatile features. Competitors include the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Hyundai Entourage.
Power comes from a 3.8-liter or 4.0-liter V-6, both with a six-speed automatic. Like Chrysler's minivans, the Routan offers a wide array of safety features, including an electronic stability system and antilock brakes.
The Routan shares the same boxy shape as the Town & Country and Grand Caravan, but its face wears Volkswagen's sloping grille and lower air dam. The headlights incorporate rounded sections for the outboard bezels, similar to the lights on the Passat and Volkswagen's SUVs.
Available features include power sliding doors, a power liftgate and chrome five-spoke wheels. Volkswagen says it tuned the Routan's suspension and steering for a sportier, more European ride than the minivan's U.S. counterparts.
The Routan's dashboard follows the Town & Country's design, with two distinct layers separated by metallic trim. Materials quality has improved noticeably: The upper dash has soft-touch plastics, and the doors have leather stitching around the armrests. The gauges and climate controls have distinct markings. The steering wheel doesn't telescope, however, and the flip-down armrests for both rows of seats are rather rough.
The second row has removable captain's chairs, which fold onto themselves but not flat into the floor, as do Chrysler's Stow 'N Go seats. The seats don't swivel, either, as Chrysler's Swivel 'N Go seats do. A three-seat third row brings seating capacity to seven, and it drops flat into the floor. The Routan will keep most of Chrysler's other kid-friendly features, like an onboard hard drive for music storage and backseat TV with two flip-down screens.
Under the Hood
The standard 3.8-liter V-6 makes 197 horsepower, while an optional 4.0-liter V-6 produces 251 hp. Both engines team with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 3.3-liter V-6 in the base Grand Caravan and Town & Country is unavailable.
Antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and side curtain airbags are standard.