I've driven the new VW vans in Europe and they are absolutely stunning. Try to imagine morphing a Phaeton or the new CC into a van shape. That's the current series. The 2009 Volkswagen Caravelle is used extensively as an executive transport, festooned in Italian leather, burlwood and ultra-high-quality synthetics. Moreover, they are powered by VW's vaunted TDI engines and six-speed manual transmissions, and cruise at 100 mph with ease. Drive a Caravelle Executive and the minivan bar is set impossibly high. I guess you get what you pay for; said Caravelle would easily push 50 grand. That probably won't fly in North America.
The Routan is more good Chrysler than bad Volkswagen. It doesn't matter how much content VW adds, it still feels like a rather cheap car with a plastic interior. It handles OK and has a clever seating arrangement, but the Chrysler V6 feels like it's working way too hard. And the whole thing smells funny.
VW claims to be "testing the waters" with the Routan. Hopefully, this car will float away, or sink even. I don't think it does justice to the Volkswagen name. -Les Bidrawn
From The Hip
+ Dual sliding doors, ample cupholders, clever seating arrangement
- Cheap interior, crap engine, poor gauge visibility, ambiguous profile
2009 VW Routan S
Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
3.8-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
Peak Power: 197 hp @ 5200 rpm
Peak Torque: 230 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
0-62 mph: 8.9 sec.
Top Speed: 112 mph
Economy: 16 city/23 hwy
Price as Tested: $25,390