Believe it or not, we're big fans of the minivan here at Motor Trend. Sure, a seven-seat family hauler is rarely a first pick for a stress-busting weekend drive up Pacific Coast Highway, but the truth is that the versatility, comfort, practicality, and carrying capacity of the modern minivan means that at least one staffer will find it his best option each night. Extended family visiting? Going to a beach party? Picking up a new television? The minivan is a great choice. Add in the fact that minivans are staff photographer favorites for loading gear and snapping rolling action shots, and it's no surprise we try to keep one in the fleet perennially.

With the departure of our long-term 2008 Chrysler Town & Country late last year, we found ourselves once again on the hunt for a new people-mover. That T&C had earned itself a strong reputation over its 32,244-mile stay as a capable, comfortable people and gear hauler, despite a few incurable creaks and rattles. So what better vehicle with which to replace it than its German-revised cousin, the Volkswagen Routan.

Produced on the same platform as the beloved T&C, the Routan shares the Chrysler's engine and transmission, but body panels, interior trimmings, and suspension tuning have all been engineered by Volkswagen to provide a little Teutonic refinement. To that end, the Routan looks a little sharper and rides a little sportier than the Chrysler. Interior materials are a notch above Detroit's minivan, and the Routan offers a hint more engagement to its driving dynamics. Our Routan, an upscale SEL model, features a high-grade standard equipment list. Power-sliding rear doors, a sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, expanded instrumentation, a hard-drive-based navigation system, rearview camera, second-row captain-style seating, heated first- and second-row seats, and a 251-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 are all on the spec sheet.

Add to that our tester's lone option, a Rear Seat Entertainment package ($2000) consisting of an extra DVD player along with second- and third-row monitors. Total price? $39,300, a couple thousand dollars more than our previous Town & Country.

With just under 5000 miles on the odometer so far, the Routan is already proving a valuable member of the MT fleet. It's been tapped by one staffer to help his girlfriend move into a new apartment, and it developed not one squeak or rattle in the process.

Will the appeal remain strong a year from now? Stay tuned to find out.


Our Vehicle
Base price $36,500
Price as tested $39,300
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 7-pass, 2-door minivan
Engine 4.0L/251-hp/259-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4544 lb (55/45%)
Wheelbase 121.2 in
Length x width x height 202.5 x 76.9 x 68.9 in
0-60 mph 8.1 sec
Quarter mile 16.2 sec @ 85.1 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 136 ft
MT figure eight 29.0 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 17/25 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mile
Total mileage 4865 miles
Average fuel economy 22.0 mpg