Although it has a VW badge front and centre, the Routan is more or less a Chrysler Town & Country.
When it was introduced in 2009, Volkswagen lacked a minivan in its lineup and claimed that the Routan featured "German engineering," sharing very few components with its counterpart from Chrysler. Uh-huh. But the Routan was, and is, built at Chrysler's facility in Windsor, and featured a V-6 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 2009, you could choose from Trendline, Comfortline and Highline models. There was also a top of the line Execline model, which had a base price just a whisker under $50,000. All models sat seven adults comfortably.
Power for the Routan was delivered via a 4.0-litre V-6 that developed just more than 250 horsepower. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission only, with the shifter mounted on the dash. Suspension was also a little firmer than that of the Chrysler product, despite the fact that these two were built on the same platform, and the Routan rode a little harder than the Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan.
Content level was reasonably high. Heated mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering and power first- and second-row windows all came standard, and you could get a three-zone climate control system, power rear tailgate, sunroof, leather interior, heated seats and centre console.
Options included a navi 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 2,350 litres, which is about on par with other models, such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, and fuel economy was decent, all things considered. In fact, in '09. the Routan led this segment of the market when it came to time spent at the pumps, if only by a small margin. One rather important note here, 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 are on file with Transport Canada, two of which are 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 2010 models, but since the differences between the two years are slim to none, it could apply to 2009s as well. The ignition key can inadvertently move from the ON position to the accessory (ACC) 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 or personal injury, according to Transport Canada. The third recall is a warning that objects should not be placed near the airbag on the instrument panel, as they could hit someone in the event of an accident.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, meanwhile, has 24 technical service bulletins out there for the '09 Routan. These range from starting complaints, to faulty PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valves on some models, to problems with the power sliding side doors, to leaky radiator caps, to "rattling" noises coming from the engine. Lots of issues with this one, in other words.
Consumer Reports doesn't much care for the Routan. CR says it fails in numerous key areas, including the transmission, climate control system, brakes, paint and trim, body hardware and so on. Consequently, the magazine gives the Routan – both 2009 and 2010 versions – a "much worse than average" used car prediction rating. Reliability is below average, it adds. 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."
From a base price of just less than $28,000 in 2009, the Routan has dropped considerably in value. The base Trendline is fetching $15,000-$17,000, while the top of the line Execline is in the mid-$20,000 range. As ever, the level of extras also affects resale values.
2009 Volkswagen Routan
Original Base Price: $27,975; Black Book: $16,325-$24,750
Engine: 4.0-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 251 hp/259 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.1 city/7.9 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest