May 26, 2011
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Not your ordinary minivan!
With summer road trip season nearly upon us, it's time to start thinking cars. Whether you're a city gal like me who rents the occasional vehicle for a weekend jaunt or family vacation, or a suburban dweller with a full-fledged garage (jealous!), chances are, safety and comfort are tops on your list when deciding on the right car for your family. You'll hit a home run on both fronts with the Volkswagen Routan. Aptly billed as a "driver's minivan," the Routan combines German sensibilities in design, fit and finish with refined ride and handling characteristics, all while delivering outstanding value (pricing on the 2011 Routan starts at under $27,000). Our family was lucky enough to take the Routan for a spin during our Fall trip to Mohonk Mountain House and Mohegan Sun, and after driving this palace on wheels for a week I can honestly say I'm a minivan convert!
The most obvious benefit of the Routan is its spaciousness. The Routan can accommodate up to seven adults and their belongings - meaning it had more than enough room for a smaller family like mine. The first time we took a road trip with our daughter Sadie, I recall filling my mother-in-law's SUV to the brim with all the "stuff" we brought with us. Every nook and cranny was filled with strollers (yes, we brought 2 strollers for a then 6-month-old baby), a bouncy seat, cases of diapers, and more. Although we've since learned to travel much lighter, it was really nice to have all the extra room afforded by the Routan.
I also quickly developed a fondness for the Routan's plush, amenity-laden interior, which was clearly designed with the needs of the modern family in mind. The leather seats were obviously a plus, but beyond that, we truly appreciated the standard 12V power outlets, available 115V AC outlet for charging our phones, power fold third row seating, touch screen navigation system, various cargo nets, airline style LED reading lights in all three seating rows, dual power sliding doors, and no less than 13 cup holders throughout the vehicle. Our trip took place in November, when the weather was quite chilly, so the remote controlled power sliding doors were a lifesaver when we were dashing through a cold parking lot and eager to jump into our warm Routan as soon as possible!
I do have two minor complaints about the Routan's interior. First, the rear passenger seats cannot be adjusted, which was disappointing because the standard position is a little uncomfortable for shorter passengers such as myself. Second, for the life of me, I could not locate the 12V power outlet for the second row of passenger seating (i.e., where Sadie and I sat during our trip). So whenever I needed to charge my phone on the trip (which, given my massive Twitter addiction, was quite often), I would have to plug it in in the front seat area. Not a huge deal, but it would have been nice to have been charging it right at my seat so that I could have used it as it charged. These are minor issues, but definitely something to keep in mind when considering whether the Routan is right for your family.
Not surprisingly, my daughter Sadie's favorite Routan feature was the built-in high-tech entertainment system. The Routan is a technophile's utopia, complete with an in-dash, MP3-compatible CD player with an AM/FM stereo, an auxiliary input for connecting other audio devices, a 6-disc DVD changer and Bluetooth connectivity. The drop-down 9-inch LCD screen was a huge hit with Sadie, who happily kicked back in her car seat watching videos during some fairly long stretches of driving. This was a huge change from our previous road trips, where we'd struggled to keep Sadie entertained, and which tended to involve me balancing a portable DVD player on my knee while Sadie craned her neck to get a good look at the screen. The built-in DVD player and screen on the Routan was an absolute joy, although it didn't come without its quirks. Despite poring over the manual, we never could figure out how to get the remote control to work, so whomever was driving would have to fiddle with the controls whenever Sadie wanted to skip to the next song or video or we needed to adjust the volume. It also would have been nice if the entertainment system had more than one sound feed, instead of requiring everyone in the vehicle to listen to the same DVD being played on the drop-down screen. But all in all, the Routan's entertainment system is a real treat for families traveling with antsy toddlers.
And of course, because it's a Volkswagen, the Routan comes standard with a host of safety features, including a rear view camera, standard side airbags, a knee-airbag for the driver, three-point safety belts at each seating position, anti-lock brakes, and a LATCH system for quick and easy car seat installation.
Our family had a blast test driving the Routan, and I'll admit to feeling a tinge of separation anxiety when we had to return it. I'd never really thought of myself as a minivan person, but now that I know the comfort and convenience that comes with driving a minivan like the Routan, I've got a whole new outlook!
For more information on the Routan or any other Volkswagen vehicle, visit www.vw.com.
Disclosure: My family received a Volkswagen Routan to test drive for purposes of preparing this review. The opinions expressed herein are, as always, entirely my own.
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