A VW Minivan By Chrysler
Minivans are not as popular as they once were, but they still account for 700,000 sales a year. Volkswagen wanted a new minivan, but did not want to spend the time and the money to develop a vehicle from scratch. Instead, they contracted with Chrysler to build a VW version of its Town & Country. The end product is called the Volkswagen Routan.
The Routan gets a VW styled nose and tailgate. It also gets a VW designed dash and steering wheel, plus upgraded fabric for the seats. The Routan comes with the Chrysler’s innovative cargo bins under the second-row floor, but not with the “stow ‘n go” seats that fold into the floor itself. Volkswagen says that they opted for more comfortable captain’s chairs, which wouldn’t fit.
The Routan is offered in three levels of trim, S, SE and SEL. At the press introduction, I drove a midrange SE. It was nicely equipped with standard features, like and eight-way power driver’s seat, a six-speaker audio system, and power sliding doors.
Powering the Routan in the S and SE models is Chrysler’s 3.8-liter V-6. This engine generates 197 hp and is teamed with a six-speed automatic. This engine delivers adequate power, but appears to be working hard, with the transmission shifting a lot. Fuel economy is rated at 16 City/ 23 Highway, but I managed only 15.7 mpg on the test route.
The SEL, which I did not drive, comes with luxury features, like heated leather seats, power adjustable foot pedals and a power liftgate. It’s propelled by Chrysler’s 4.0 liter V-6 that generates 253 hp., and is teamed to the six-speed automatic as well. The SEL is rated at 16-23 mpg, like the smaller V-6.
Volkswagen says that it recalibrated the steering and the suspension to its own specifications. On the road, I didn’t notice much difference in the driving characteristics of the Routan, as compared to the Chrysler minivan. Missing was the usual tautness I associate with Volkswagens. However, as minivans go, the ride and the handling were satisfactory.
Pricing for the Routan starts at $24,700 for the S model, and $29,600 for the SE. The SEL begins at $33,200.