Ach du lieber! Give me back my Fahrvergnügen!


Quite often I am asked “What happens when you get a vehicle you don’t like”?

Well, here goes.

It has been very rare that I could not find it in my heart to enjoy something about the wide array of vehicles I have tested over the years. Each one of them seems to “speak” to me in a different way. Some through their luxury – others their fun factor. Lately, many have shone through the technological advancements in the marketplace.

And then Volkswagen sends me the Routan minivan.

Normally I love VeeDubs, be they new Beetle or CUV, but when the German automaker went to Chrysler to shop for a new minivan, that’s where I draw the line.

Please don’t get me wrong – if you are in the market for a new minivan, the latest Caravan/Town & Country product is quite capable and lives up to its quarter century-legacy – that being a box loaded with utility and function for large families or small businesses. It works.

But please don’t take a rental fleet standout, wrap it in “Fahrvergnügen” and expect me to like it … that dog just won’t hunt. And those silly and annoying Brooke Shields’ commercials? Don’t even get me started on that.

This ain’t no microbus and this won’t replace the Eurovan. Maybe they will sell more Routans than the aforementioned nameplates of VW past but when you have virtually the exact same product for sale right up the street from a company that NEEDS to sell vehicles right now, well, you just cannot compete. I hope the Routan does well globally but I do not think it will be a huge hit here in the States. (April new vehicle sales figures show VW selling 4,801 minivans year-to-date while Chrysler and Dodge have sold nearly 60,000 units combined.)

That’s what happens when I get a vehicle I don’t particularly care for. I like this vehicle as a Chrysler/Dodge, but not as a Volkswagen. And now that Fiat is coming into the corporate picture, I may get my wish. I would hope the Italians force Chrysler to stop selling its minivan to the German automaker. And I can go back to loving Volkswagen that much more, thank you very much.

By the numbers, the 2009 VW Routan we tested came in SE trim and was powered by a 197hp 3.8-liter V-6 engine backed by six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. It features all of the basic safety and convenience items one would expect in a new vehicle. About the only thing we found unique was the addition of “Euro-tuned suspension system” in our tester over a comparable Chrysler model.

If you are a Volkswagen customer and just have to have a minivan, well, this is obviously your baby. Expect to pay around 30 grand for it at this trim level and expect fuel economy to average around 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Don’t expect anything more.

This just in: Now we have a talking Microbus telling us to buy the Routan?

Ach du lieber!

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.

6 Comments on "Ach du lieber! Give me back my Fahrvergnügen!"

  1. … but since Chrysler would make money selling it to VW, and many people buying the VW are thinking they are cool and hip and not buying a traditional ‘Caravan’ … isn’t it all win for Chrysler anyway?

  2. Christopher Gavula | May 12, 2009 at 3:34 pm |

    This isn’t exactly the first deal these two have had together (remember when VW used to supply the engines for the original Dodge Omni – oh yeah baby!) or when VW leased space at a Chrysler factory to build Rabbits (that didn’t work out too well either), but this is the worst. They barely disguised this thing!

  3. This ‘review’ makes no sense. You say the Chrysler is a good minivan (although as a Sienna owner who studied the new chrysler/Dodge minivans and found them lacking in many ways) but then you say you don’t ‘care’ for it.

    What are the specifics? Poor handling? Poor power? Doesn’t have a european handling feel?

    You can’t say you don’t care for a car and call it a review. It’s just not credible.

    You might just hate minivans in general. I know there is a big stigma. If you’ve got 3 or 4(like me kids) you have little choice since flipmobile, gas guzzling, over priced, minimal storage, hard to enter/exit mega-suv’s are hardly a good alternative.

    There is simply nothing more efficiently designed as a minivan for carry people and/or cargo in comfort.

    That being said IMHO the Sienna and Odyssey are superior.

  4. David Goodspeed | May 13, 2009 at 4:53 pm |

    Sorry, I guess I did not make that point clear enough. In Chrysler form, this is a competent minivan worthy of scrutiny by any in the market, such as yourself. I have owned 2 Chrysler minivan products myself over the past couple of decades and appreciate them for what they are.
    However, (making my point here once again) I do not buy this as a Volkswagen. Every VW I have tested, and all of the VW owners I have spoken with in recent years, appreciate the brand for providing owners with a bit more than what Chrysler provides (except in their performance vehicles).
    The Routan is not what I expect from a brand such as Volkswagen, but perhaps this is their way of showing consumers they want to distinguish themselves towards being more of a daily grocery-getter than being more driver-oriented as their Audi brand. Perhaps we will see more future VW product being minor makeovers of North American product and telling us “Hey, I know you had Audi dreams, but you have to settle for VW reality”.
    And I agree that Sienna and Odyssey are superior in style, quality and performance over the Chrysler (and Volkswagen) product.

  5. I’m not saying I disagree about the car. I looked at it at its definitely just a coat of pain and a logo on a chrysler. But still, for the average reader, if it were a true ‘volkswagon’ (which in Europe is the Chevy of cars) what would be different?

    What we are really saying is the vast majority of american made cars don’t have the fit and finish (especially the interiors) vs. similarly priced foreign cars.

    If you’ve been in virtually any chrysler made cars, the interior looks and feels like something Walmart would import, yet they charge similar pricing to foreign cars.

  6. jojowasher | May 14, 2009 at 11:51 am |

    Pretty sure i read somewhere they have announced already that they are not making any more of these, didn’t sell well enough.

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