Our Thoughts on the Volkswagen Routan

(Mostly Colleen's thoughts... with Nick's added opinion!)

I was contacted on twitter by @Patrick_Nash and asked if I might be interested in test driving an Infiniti or Volkswagon.  I have to say my first thought was "Why would I want to do that?  We're not getting a new car anytime soon."  I mentioned it to Nick though... and his response was "Well... you're going to aren't you?!?!?"  (You see... Nick just goes to test drive cars for fun.  He loves cars.)

The next thing I knew we were at Douglas Volkswagen in Summit, NJ meeting with Patrick and taking a look at their Volkswagen Routan.  I requested to test drive a minivan (or something similar) so I could kind of compare it to my Honda.  It ended up the Routan is also a (sort of) version on the Chrysler Town and Country, which my brother has.  I've driven that too... so it was interesting to make that close comparison.

So shiny.  So clean.  So new.

See... it's a minivan.  Very very much like Chrysler Town and Country (except for the suspension and the interior). 

VERY comfortable front seats. 

The steering wheel material?  I'm dying to say "like butter".  It was so soft.  I would be feeling the steering wheel while driving (hmm... maybe that's a negative).  The dash looked very much like the dash of my brother's van.  They have the fancy screen (we don't). 

The rear seats look almost EXACTLY like the front... and are almost as comfortable.  No middle seat.  Although you can't see them in the photos... this van version has the ceiling monitors.  The "rear-seat entertainment system" also has a hard drive and USB port, so you can transfer music and pictures and play movies.  Fancy right?

3rd row was not really anything special... although the flip up headrest are cool.  The 3rd row also had the sunshades.

Well... the 3rd row wasn't anything special until I was introduced to the power button.  Inside over on the left there were buttons.  Buttons I don't have in my car.  Magic buttons that, first, can tip the rear seat all the way back so that you can use it as "tailgating seating".  (I personally would use it to sit at the end of my driveway to watch Zoe ride back and forth and back and forth up and down the street on her bike.)  Another push and the seats fold over all the way to stow flat.  Yep... magic.  I wish I had video of the magic.

So... it's a minivan.  And... we got to drive the fancy version.  We don't have the fanciest version of the Honda.  No built in dash gps/touchscreen for us.  No built in ceiling monitors.  No magical power rear seats.  Our steering wheel isn't like butter.  Hmm... maybe I need to go drive the fancy version of our van now to REALLY compare.  (Or not... it might make me desperate to trade up... and that's not happening.  We'll just go with what we know.) 

Positives about the VW Routan SEL:

-  Details.  The interior of the Routan is all about details and little perks. 

- Very smooth drive and breaking.

- Conveniently located front and rear power outlets.  (Our Honda rear outlet is WAY in the back behind the 3rd row seats. The VW rear outlet is just rear of the 2nd row passenger.)

- The "power 3rd row bench seat with tailgating position."  The push button seat stow is AWESOME.  I struggle with stowing my 3rd row.  I'm sure it's funny to watch me climb and pull and tug to get my rear seat set.  With the VW you push a button (or 3).  Magic I tell you.

- Really comfortable front and rear seats.

- The steering wheel felt heavenly.

- The expected minivan space/storage/ and cup holders (I love cup holders.)

- Details and perks.  Did I mention the never-ending details and perks?

Negatives about the VW Routan SEL:

- Well... if you're not a minivan person... it's a minivan. There is no denying or pretending it isn't a minivan.  VW did not magically make their minivan "sporty".

- It seats 7.  Which is great.  But our Honda seats 8 (with the removable middle row seat).  I can not tell you how many times we've had 8 people in our Honda.

Those are the "mom details"... Nick can add some "car guy" details...

Nick's thoughts: OK, this is basically a Chrysler Town and Country Minivan (which which we are familiar) with a VW interior and suspension, both of which (to me) are big improvements.  We have a 2008 Honda Odyssey, which could be the best minivan of all time, and here are some quick comparisons:

-For a minivan, the Routan is pretty great to drive.  Great road feel and suspension, great (Chrysler) engine, great breaking (for a minivan).  Better than the Honda in this regard.

-The Honda is bigger, particularly in the rear area behind the rear wheels.  Our Honda seats 8 (as Colleen outlined above).

-The Chrysler and VW have a larger distance between the bottom of the exterior floor and the interior car floor (due to the Chrysler Stow-and-Go design, which is absent on the VW).  This makes the Honda seating position slightly more desirable.

-The VW seats are great, more comfortable than both the Honda and Chrysler.

Nick's bottom line: If one is a VW or other German car driver, the Routan is probably the least painful minivan to which to transition.  It drives great (for what it is), and is fairly utilitarian.  However, there are other decent vans with more space.  While our 2008 Honda isn't quite as tight handling-wise, it's pretty good for a large vehicle (that's why I lobbied for it over the Toyota Sienna we tested), and it is bigger.  However, I understand Honda's new Odyssey model has the suspension softened.  If this is the case, and if one wants a tighter German road feel, than the Routan is probably the one to get.

Nick's final thought: I bought my first new car (Jetta VR6) at Douglas VW in 1999.  The dealer experience was great, and the service department was also a pleasure to deal with.

So, there you have it.  My thoughts... Nick's thoughts.

I do want to add that we had a really nice experience with the people at Douglas Volkswagen.  They were aware that we were there to test drive for a review and weren't buying... but that said, they were simply personable people.  Along with Nick's previous customer experience it just seems to be a great choice for a place to buy a car.  Patrick Nash was extremely friendly.  He was also familiar with my blog and a little about my family (which was REALLY nice... since that's not always the case with social media people who set up bloggers to do reviews)  Tito (who took us for the test drives) was really patient with our never ending questions.  It was easy to be straight forward with him and ask blunt questions since he knew we weren't buying... and he gave us some really honest answers.  Nick says the dealership was just as nice when he was a buying customer.

(Maybe one day I'll be back at Douglas Volkswagen and finally get that VW bug I dreamed about when I was 17.)