The Volkswagen Routan proved to be the perfect vehicle for my weekend dash to Chicago. Four adults, luggage, and a dog all made the journey. The two adults sat in the second row buckets while the canine enjoyed sprawling out across the 3rd row bench.
Gas mileage was impressive, I averaged 23 mpg for the entire trip, not bad considering we did a lot of city driving once we got there. On the downside, cruising at 75 mph on the highway caused an annoying, high-pitched whine coming from the front end somewhere. We couldn't identify where exactly it was coming from but all occupants in the cabin heard it. It appeared to go away if we dropped down to 70 mph or kicked it up to 80 mph. Road noise and ride quality were also not up to par with the latest minivans from Honda, Toyota, and Chrysler.
The interior needs a makeover; the bland radio and center stack area is even less attractive at night when everything lights up in a dull green glow, like something from Chrysler ten years ago. For example, the climate control knobs don't have a blue/red lights so you didn't know which way to turn them. Not a big deal for owners who would quickly memorize that but it was annoying to turn on the dome light to see how to turn the temperature up or down.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
Wow, when I drove the Volkswagen Routan home, I thought to myself, life would be pretty grim if you had to drive this dated, rebadged Chrysler minivan day in and day out for four or five years, especially with freshened and far superior minivans now available from Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and even Chrysler/Dodge. I thought of Brooke Shields, who was in the original Routan TV commercials, and I said to myself, I bet ol' Brooke isn't even driving one of these anymore--if she ever was to begin with.
All that said, if you're shopping for a minivan, you might want to give more weight to my colleague Matt Tierney's comments. He owns a Honda Odyssey. He has two pre-teen children. He is the target demographic for the minivan.
And, surprise, surprise, he likes the Routan.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor