The Volkswagen Routan: A Minivan Disguised as a German Machine

The Volkswagen Routan: A Minivan Disguised as a German Machine

The Volkswagen Routan occupies a curious niche in automotive history. Unlike the iconic vans associated with the brand, like the Microbus, the Routan was a full-fledged minivan built by Chrysler, but donned the Volkswagen badge and aesthetics. Produced for just a brief period between 2 and 2014, the Routan presented a unique proposition for minivan shoppers seeking a European flair.

Chrysler Roots, Volkswagen Refinements

At its core, the Routan was a Chrysler product, a rebadged version of the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. This collaboration wasn't uncommon; car manufacturers have a long history of platform sharing to optimize production costs. However, Volkswagen took the base and instilled some of its signature characteristics.

The most noticeable difference was in the styling. The boxy minivan shape remained, but the front fascia received a complete makeover. Volkswagen outfitted the Routan with their signature grille and headlights, giving it a more refined and distinctly European look compared to its American cousins. The interior too incorporated Volkswagen design elements, with a focus on clean lines and higher-quality materials.

Suspension tuning was another area where Volkswagen put its stamp on the Routan. Compared to the Chryslers, the Routan offered a slightly firmer ride, catering to drivers who preferred a more car-like handling experience. Engine options remained the same Chrysler Pentastar V6, but Volkswagen may have tweaked the calibration for a more responsive driving feel.

Features and Trims

The Routan offered a range of trims, each with increasing levels of features and amenities. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • S: The base trim offered features like power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, and a six-speaker sound system.
  • SE: Added features included fog lamps, heated front seats, a power driver's seat, and tri-zone automatic climate control.
  • SEL: Offered leather upholstery, a sunroof, a navigation system, and a premium sound system.
  • SEL Premium: The top-of-the-line trim boasted features like ventilated front seats, a power liftgate, and a rear entertainment system.

Across all trims, the Routan provided a comfortable and spacious interior with seating for seven passengers. The second-row seats offered flexibility with options for stowing or folding, while the third-row seats could be folded flat to create ample cargo space.

The Short-Lived Minivan

Despite its unique offerings, the Routan's time in the market was short-lived. Launched in 2009, production ceased in 2012. Several factors contributed to this. The minivan segment itself was facing a decline as consumers shifted towards SUVs. Additionally, high inventory levels and the complexities of managing a rebadged platform likely played a role in Volkswagen's decision to end production.

Finding a Used Routan Today

While no longer available new, the Routan can be found on the used car market. Given its short production run, finding one might require some searching. However, for those seeking a comfortable, feature-rich minivan with a touch of European flair, the Routan presents an interesting option.

Here are some things to consider when looking for a used Routan:

  • Mileage: As with any used car, mileage is a crucial factor. Aim for a Routan with under 100,000 miles for potentially lower maintenance costs.
  • Service History: A well-maintained Routan is more likely to offer reliable service. Look for a vehicle with a documented service history.
  • Trim Level: Consider your needs and budget when choosing a trim level. The base S trim offers good value, while higher trims provide additional comfort and convenience features.
  • Known Issues: Research common problems associated with the Routan. Some reported issues include transmission shudders and electrical gremlins.


The Volkswagen Routan may not be a mainstream minivan, but it stands out for its unique blend of American practicality and European sophistication. While its short lifespan limits its availability, for those who can find a well-maintained example, the Routan offers a comfortable and stylish minivan experience.

comments powered by Disqus