What it Is
Volkswagen Routan Preview – 2008 Chicago Auto Show: Volkswagen unveiled a vehicle that it says is part of its new strategy to move from a niche car company to one that sells in higher volume. Routan is the coined name for VW’s new minivan, which is based on Chrysler’s current people mover. The Routan will be built at Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario, plant along side the Town and Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan. VW will apply its styling to the interior and exterior. The name is a combination of “route” and the suffix “-an” and follows the naming style VW uses for its European minivans, the Touran and Sharan.Why it Matters
The deal between VW and Chrysler dates back to 2005, so this one’s been the wind for some time. Fans of the original microbus or the Eurovan who had hopes that one of those would be revived might be disappointed. The timing of bringing a traditional six-seat minivan to market doesn’t seem auspicious. The segment is dominated by Honda and Toyota, GM and Ford have abandoned it, and VW has struggled in the U.S. market the past few years. Restyling an existing platform and re-badging it is cheap, but making it profitable might prove difficult.
What’s Under the Hood
The Routan is available with one of two V-6 engines: a 4.0-liter and a less powerful 3.8-liter. The optional 4.0-liter engine produces 253 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard 3.8-liter engine is rated at 297 horsepower and 230 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Although there are no immediate plans to put a diesel in the Routan, VW has said that there will be a diesel in every car they make. The Touran has different shocks, springs, suspension bushing and re-tuned steering.
What It Looks Like
The side view isn’t all that different from the Chrysler product until you get to one end or the other. With a restyled front and rear, it looks more like a VW than its Chrysler cousins. The model that debuted had 19-inch chrome wheels, along with chrome door handles and mirrors with contrasting black paint.
The interior is restyled from the Chrysler models and includes the power third-row seat, but Stow ’n’ Go and Swivel ’n’ Go will not be available. The Routan has 32.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, which more than doubles to 83 cubic feet. Safety features on the Chryslers are carried over to the Routan.
What Volkswagen Says
Volkswagen believes that despite the slip in minivan sales that 850,000 to 900,000 Americans will buy one each year. If 5 percent of them buy a Touran, VW will sell as many as 45,000 annually. The company is banking on a stable market. The Routan is part of expanding the company’s vehicle lineup in an effort to become a larger player in the U.S. market.
What We Think
Volkswagen has set the lofty goal of selling 800,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018. Granted, Chrysler has done most of the expensive part of this project, but a re-worked Dodge Grand Caravan doesn’t seem like the best way down that road. The Routan has a nice interior, very modern, but it’s very much like most minivans. Now, a camper version with a clean TDI diesel would be a fun vehicle.
By Bob Beamesderfer
MyRide Road Test Editor
Photo Credit: Volkswagen