The 2011 Volkswagen Routan, selling in an MSRP range of $26,930 to $43,240 just does not deliver enough minivan bang to justify that many bucks. Based on the Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan, the Routan is outsourced and only sold under the VW name, making it an oddity in the markeplace. It sells in four trims, the S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. All seat seven in a three row arrangement. Average gas mileage is 17 city and 25 highway. The primary competitors are the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Sedona.
Under the hood, the Routan relies on a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 hp. Reviewers are universal that the engine is an improvement over the 2010 version, but it lacks the refined performance and low noise levels of the Odyssey and the Sienna. Paired to a six-speed automatic, the shifts are quick, but at low speeds the transitions are still rough. For its size, however, the turning radius is surprisingly tight and the Routan leans well into corners.
This is one minivan, however, that does get extra points for a nice exterior. VW was shooting for a more European feel, and accomplished it was sleeker lights and a stylish grille. Both power sliding doors and a power rear liftgate enhance the kid-wrangling and cargo-hauling capabilities. Inside, however, be prepared to be somewhat let down, primarily because neither Stow-n-Go nor Swivel-n-Go seats are present. It's a trade-off. More comfortable seats, less versatile hauling. Some people will like it, for others, it's a deal breaker.
The Routan has not been crash tested extensively although the 2011 did pick up four stars from the federal government for rollover performance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the vehicle 'good' (their highest score) for front and side impact tests. Safety standards include anti-lock braks, electronic stability control, and a full array of airbags including side curtain units.
Perhaps its a telling factor that US News puts the Routan at the bottom of the minivan class. It costs too much and offers too little, other than being attractive. For most people exterior appeal isn't enough. Like many vehicles in this perplexing situation, there's nothing wrong, per se with the Routan, there's just not that much right either.