2012 Volkswagen Routan Minivan - FROM $27,020
While the 2012 Volkswagen Routan is a competent minivan, it's still outclassed by newer and more appealing competitors.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan gets just a few minor changes, including a new blind-spot warning system and Rear Cross-Path Detection on the top-of-the-line SEL Premium. SEL models equipped with the navigation system also add keyless entry/ignition and rain-sensing wipers to the standard equipment list.
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan is based on the same platform as the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. Virtually identical to its American cousins save for a unique grille and rear end treatments, the Volkswagen version offers a slightly firmer suspension designed to make it more fun to drive. Unfortunately, these changes aren't enough to eclipse other, more polished, minivans.
The Routan does share the same 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine. It also gets many of the features American families have come to expect in a minivan, including power-operated sliding side doors, an available dual-screen rear seat video entertainment system and more. On the other hand, the Routan lacks some of the cool features available on the Grand Caravan and Town & Country like the handy Stow 'n Go second-row seats.
Mostly, however, the Routan's real problem is simply that it's up against some incredibly stiff competition. To see what we mean, we'd strongly recommend comparing it against the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, both of which are hard to top for their combination of solid engineering, competent driving dynamics and innovative features. The recently remade Nissan Quest is also worth a look by virtue of its distinctive styling and unique interior layout.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan is a minivan available in S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium trim levels.
The entry-level S model comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power rear vent windows, keyless entry, three-zone manual climate control, second-row captain's chairs, third-row folding bench seat and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack.
The SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, upgraded exterior trim, power-sliding side doors, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, second- and third-row sunshades, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead storage console, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a six-CD changer. SE models with the Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) package gain dual video screens for the second and third rows, a power rear liftgate, rearview camera, touchscreen audio interface, single-CD player (in place of the six-disc changer), digital music storage and satellite radio. A Garmin navigation system can also be added on models with the RSE package.
Step up to the SEL and you get automatic headlights, a sunroof, remote starting, automatic three-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, a power-folding third-row seat, a rearview camera, a Chrysler-sourced navigation system with real-time traffic info and voice controls and the touchscreen audio interface with digital music storage, satellite radio and an iPod interface. The rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available as an option here, too, and also comes with keyless entry/ignition and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The SEL Premium gets xenon headlights, foglights, keyless entry/ignition, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, additional chrome exterior trim, driver seat memory functions, an eight-way power passenger seat, interior wood trim, an advanced trip computer and a nine-speaker audio system. Also available are a blind spot warning system and a cross-path detection system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 VW Routan is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. In Edmunds testing of the mechanically identical Dodge Grand Caravan, this powertrain got it from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, which is about a half-second slower than the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
The 2012 Volkswagen Routan comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side-impact airbags, a driver side knee airbag and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows. A rearview camera is available on SE and SEL models. The SEL Premium trim level comes standard with a blind zone warning system and Rear Cross-Path Detection, which alerts the driver to approaching cars or pedestrians when backing out of a parking spot with limited visibility.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Routan its highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset and side crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 2012 Volkswagen Routan's passenger cabin is still a bit nicer than those of the Grand Caravan and Town & Country, recent upgrades to the Dodge and Chrysler versions means they no longer look quite as cheap by comparison. Even so, for an automaker known for its top-quality interiors, the Routan looks low-budget compared to other models in the VW lineup.
Up front, some drivers may find the seat and pedals a little too close to one another for comfort. The second-row seats lack the removable center section found in the Odyssey and Sienna that bumps total passenger capacity to eight, not to mention the clever Stow 'n Go feature found in the Dodge and Chrysler that allows them to fold down into the floor to maximize cargo space. The Routan's third-row seat does fold into the floor, but it's tilted rearward enough when in use that sitting there ends up feeling a little awkward.
When it's time to haul freight instead of passengers, the Routan offers 83 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats. Remove those and you have a cavernous 144.4 cubic feet of cargo room.
On the road, the 2012 Volkswagen Routan's firmer suspension tuning gives it better handling than you might expect from such a big and boxy people mover, though it still pales by comparison to the driving dynamics of the Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna SE. As expected, though, the Routan delivers a comfortable ride.
The 3.6-liter V6 engine is powerful, though it can sound a bit unrefined under hard acceleration compared to the Odyssey, Sienna and the rest of VW's engine lineup. The six-speed automatic is well-matched, however, producing quick shifts that help make the most of the engine's output.