The Routan SE is much nicer inside than the Dodge, and I prefer the styling over that of the Chrysler. The faux leather seating was thoroughly convincing -- I had no idea it was imitation hide until I read the spec sheet. For $35K including two rear video screens, a 30-gigabyte hard drive, and touch-screen navigation, this van is hard to beat. You lose the Stow 'n' Go seats of the Dodge, but honestly, I'd never miss them. The captains chairs in the Routan (and other vans) are significantly more substantial than the Dodge's folding seats. I've removed the second-row seats from my family's Honda Odyssey maybe half a dozen times in nine years. This much-ballyhooed feature is pretty overrated in my book.
In short, I think the Routan is an improved version of the Chrysler vans -- nicer than the Grand Caravan, more tastefully styled than the Town & Country, and I would choose the Routan SE or SEL over either of them. The Routan is also nicer inside than a Toyota Sienna, but if a similarly featured Odyssey is in the same price ballpark, that'd be the van for me.
Matt Tierney, Art Director
Like its Chrysler and Dodge counterparts, the VW is a perfectly decent family hauler with lots of handy options such as power-opening sliding doors and hatch, navigation, rear-seat entertainment, and so forth. Its Volkswagen-ness is highly dubious, but the VW-specific dashboard components are fairly attractive looking, in my opinion. I can't say the same for the head- and taillamps, which are strangely proportioned and, to my eye, make this the least attractive of the current bunch of Chrysler-built minivans.
The fact that the Routan received the much-improved new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 for the 2011 model year seems like evidence that the relationship between Chrysler and VW is extremely amicable and maybe could live on past the current generation of minivans.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor