2009 Volkswagen Routan SEL

Jeffrey Jablansky
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I drove the Routan to the local Mitsubishi dealer to help drop off the magazine's Lancer Evo for service. The van was cavernous; I wondered if there were bears hiding out in the third-row, in-floor storage well. And, yes, I was greeted by a familiar set of controls that seemed pleasing to the eye. But then I realized that I was in a minivan far inferior to the three-year-old Honda Odyssey I recently used for moving. (And that was a Zipcar with tens of thousands of miles on the odometer.)

The media have been bashing the Routan for a long time already, citing its humble Chrysler roots and lambasting its similarity to its American-badged brethren. I've never driven a Town and Country, so I can't make the comparison between it and the Routan, but suffice it to say I wasn't really impressed with the Routan. Off the line, even at a stoplight, the Routan was a little too jumpy on the throttle; I had to modulate how much power I was sending through the front wheels. In terms of handling, the Routan seems far off the well-mannered Odyssey, which doesn't wallow around corners. Steven Sherman remarked that he'd like to see the Routan stripped of its seats and used as a cargo van. And so would I. The Routan is not a bad van, but I don't think I'd be proud to show off Volkswagen's attempt at badge-engineering an already imperfect vehicle.

Jeffrey Jablansky, Intern

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