Not only are the creaks and groans of our long-term Town & Country present, those same creaks and groans are actually louder in this Volkswagen Routan. The Chrysler has 30,000 miles on the clock and a more posh trim level while this VW barely has 1300 miles under its belt. How in the world did that happen?
The 3.8-liter engine doesn't really provide less torque steer than the 4.0-liter in our Chrysler, but it's not nearly as strong when you need to merge with traffic or pass someone. Sadly the refinement is nowhere near what we've come to expect from the Volkswagen Group. Add this thing to the list of vehicles I'd pass over in a heartbeat if I were in the minivan market. I'd much rather have a Kia Sedona.
As Marc points out, the seats are more supportive and the trim and gauges are better looking than those of a standard Chrysler minivan, but all the regular faults of a Chrysler van are still present. Despite the "German tuning" infused during the rebadging ceremony, the suspension on this Routan leaves a lot to be desired. Initial turn-in feels marginally better, but all hell breaks loose as soon as you hit a bump mid-corner. I wasn't driving hard this morning, and I swear the back end started to slide in more than one turn.
The public clearly agrees with our negative assessment of the Routan; Volkswagen asked Chrysler to stop building Routans for the entire month of February this year. Apparently there have been about 29,000 Routans assembled and fewer than 4000 have found owners. The 148-day supply (as of January 17, 2009) is a bit much, even at a time when sales of all new vehicles are at or near historic lows.
I think the only reason people are so hard on the Routan is that VW had a chance to develop a very cool new van that would have captured people's hearts like the Microbus and decided to rebadged a Chrysler instead. Even when new Volkswagen products aren't perfect, there's a certain charm to them. This Routan has all the charm and character of a watered-down Chrysler.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor