2009 Volkswagen Routan Preview

FAST FACTS
  • 7-passenger capacity

  • Dual power sliding doors

  • Power liftgate

  • Conversation mirror

  • European suspension tuning

  • Front-wheel drive (FWD)

  • Standard 3.8-liter 6-cylinder engine

  • Available 4.0-liter 6-cylinder engine

Introduction

The Volkswagen Type 2 "Microbus," launched in 1950, demonstrated the convenience of carrying more than four passengers in a boxy, utilitarian-shaped vehicle. With the driver positioned over the front wheels, and the engine low in the rear of the chassis, the vehicle configurations were limitless. Over the years, the Microbus platform was built as a bus, camper, cargo van, pickup truck, and even as an emergency vehicle. The Volkswagen van proved popular, and the original platform continued to evolve over the decades through the introduction of the Volkswagen Vanagon in 1979, and the Volkswagen Eurovan in 1990. Unlike its predecessors, the later Eurovan models featured a front-mounted, water-cooled engine and the driver was positioned behind the front wheels in a more conventional (and safer) manner. The Volkswagen Eurovan was sold in the United States until 2003.

In 2006, Volkswagen reached an agreement with Chrysler to build a minivan for the North American marketplace. Volkswagen would design the interior and exterior, while Chrysler would supply the platform. The result, the 2009 Volkswagen Routan, first appeared at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show. The all-new model, according to Volkswagen, ".combines European sensibilities in design, fit and finish, and handling characteristics with market relevant features and outstanding value." The 2009 Volkswagen Routan is expected in U.S. showrooms in the fall of 2008.

Design

According to the automaker, the new Routan is "instantly recognizable as a member of the Volkswagen family." As such, the front grille, headlamps, and exterior treatments mirror the styling found in the rest of Volkswagen's current lineup. The 7-passenger Volkswagen Routan features captain's chairs in the first two rows. With the three rows of seats in place, storage behind the third row is nearly 33 cubic feet. Behind the second row, 83 cubic feet of storage is available.

Special features on the 2009 Volkswagen Routan include a conversation mirror (an overhead convex mirror) to give the driver a full view of the rear passengers, and touch-screen navigation with a 20MB hard drive. The rear-seat entertainment system boasts dual 9-inch screens, wireless headsets, and a remote control. There are 13 cupholders-nearly two per passenger.

Hardware

The 2009 Volkswagen Routan shares the same platform with the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. The powerplants are largely untouched, but the suspension has been recalibrated. The FWD Routan will come with a standard 3.8-liter 6-cylinder engine. The base engine is rated at 197 hp and 230 lb.-ft. of torque. An optional 6-cylinder engine, displacing 4.0 liters and rated at 251 hp and 259 lb.-ft. of torque, will also be available. Both engines are combined with a standard 6-speed automatic transmission. The front suspension is independent, while the rear suspension is of a twist beam design. According to the maker, it has been specially calibrated to offer a "European" feel while maintaining a comfortable ride. For additional safety and security, all-season traction and stability control are standard across all 2009 Volkswagen Routan models.