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2012 Volkswagen Routan (S, SE, SEL) review

The Routan is VW’s most family-friendly vehicle. If you want evidence, it’s not just the touchscreen multi-media entertainment system, or the integrated iPod® interface, or even the easy cleaning Vienna Leather and Leatherette seating surfaces that tell you—it’s the Getränkehalter. And this newest Routan boasts 13 of them.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo -2012 Volkswagen Routan photo -
These are family-sized cupholders strategically positioned around the Routan’s cabin. Two in the center stack storage bin. One in each of the front and rear doors. Four in the sliding center console. And three more in the back.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo2012 Volkswagen Routan photo
And with the Routan’s twin deep, under-floor storage bins, each designed to accommodate a six-pack of sodas, theoretically the tally of Getränkehalter is closer to 15.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo2012 Volkswagen Routan photo
The Routan continues as Volkswagen’s people hauling, cupholder-rich model. It appeals to buyers wanting seven-passenger minivan space and flexibility coupled with Volkswagen design and quality.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo2012 Volkswagen Routan photo
New for 2012
Having been extensively updated for the 2011 model year, with the introduction of an advanced new 3.6-liter V6 boasting a class-leading 283horsepower, changes to 2012 Routan line-up include the addition of even more features and equipment.
The popular Routan SEL with Navigation model, for example, adds Keyless access with push-button start, along with rain-sensing wipers. The range-topping SEL Premium adds, as standard, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection.
What doesn’t change for 2012 is the Routan’s exceptional value. The well-equipped entry S model has a starting MSRP of $27,020, while the top-selling SE model line-up begins at $32,010.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo2012 Volkswagen Routan photo
The 2012 Routan is instantly recognizable as a member of the Volkswagen family. Its front-end design hints at the horizontal elements that are part of the new Volkswagen design—twin chrome blades across the chrome-ringed grille, and matching twin horizontal blades across the lower intake.
The bold, aero-style front is dominated by swept-back quad halogen headlights that, seen front-on, take the eye to the Routan’s deep, sculpted front bumper with its projector-style foglights. Seen in a rear-view mirror, it’s a dynamic, most un-minivan-like look.
In profile, despite its 202.5-inch overall length and stretched, 121.2-inch wheelbase, Volkswagen designers have created a silhouette that is surprisingly sleek and visually ‘light’. The clamshell-like hood slims down the front fenders, while the swept-back windscreen, long roof rails, and body-color tailgate spoiler add to the streamlined look.
At the rear, oversized taillights, slim roof pillars and a large, deep, curved rear window help visually reduce the Routan’s 68.9-inch height.
But being a minivan, practicality is everything. So the Routan features large, wide-opening front doors and extra-large, optional power-sliding side doors, all designed to ensure easy access to the cabin. There’s also a full-width, high-lifting tailgate, with available remote power-opening.
The 2012 Routan models are offered in a range of seven colors, including Nocturne Black metallic and Deep Claret metallic. And, of course, the ‘famous’ Glacial Blue metallic that was the star of Volkswagen’s hugely-popular ‘Blue one’ TV commercial.
The heart of the Routan is its expansive, flexible, versatile interior. Volkswagen keeps it simple, and the height of comfort, by offering a seven-seat layout, with captain’s chairs for the two middle-row seats, plus a third-row, three-across bench.
And flexibility is the word here. The rear bench can flip, fold and disappear into the floor to leave a completely flat load area. Flip it over and back, and it makes a perfect tailgate seat to watch the game.
The middle-row captain’s chairs can fold flat onto themselves, or be removed entirely to create a cavernous load area. With the two chairs removed and the rear bench folded into the floor, the Routan offers an astonishing 144.4 cu ft of load space, easily accessible through the side doors and tailgate.
There are additional intelligent storage solutions everywhere, such as the dual glove boxes, or the over-sized storage bin between the front seats big enough to accommodate a large handbag or laptop. There’s available ceiling storage, and two deep, over-sized storage bins mounted in the floor. Plus, there’s an array of cargo nets, juice-box holders, trinket-stashers, cell-phone trays, not forgetting those 13 cupholders.
Up front, the driver is cosseted in a side-bolstered front seat with available eight-way power adjustment. Slim roof pillars, over-sized door mirrors and a high, command-driving position, help ensure impressive forward and side visibility—a key for safe driving.
Available power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals, height-adjustable safety belts, and a steering wheel adjustable for height also help ensure a tailored driving position.
The Volkswagen-style steering wheel has standard leather covering, even in the entry S model. The white-faced instruments are, in true Volkswagen tradition, clear and unfussy, and easy to read at a glance.
Most models offer the choice of Volkswagen’s trademark perforated leatherette or ‘Vienna’ leather. The plastics have a soft-touch feel, while underfoot there’s high-quality, high-density carpeting.
Plenty of light and fresh air are key requirements with any minivan. This is why every Routan comes with power-opening windows in the sliding side doors, along with power-opening rear-quarter windows. A power tilt/slide glass sunroof is also on the options list and standard on SEL models.
Entertaining the kids—or adults—in the back is an essential minivan ingredient. And the 2012 Routan is loaded with more ways to play music, play games, watch DVDs, store photos, or talk on the phone.
It all starts with an in-dash MP3-compatible CD player with AM/FM stereo, an auxiliary input for connecting other audio devices, and six speakers. That’s on the entry-level S model. Move up to the SE and standard features include a six-disc CD changer with MP3/DVD capability, and Bluetooth® connectivity.
This can be complemented with a comprehensive package that includes a large touchscreen display, 30GB hard drive, USB and iPod® connectivity, SiriusXM® satellite radio, a second DVD player for the rear seating area, the all-row touchscreen DVD entertainment system with touchscreen radio, auxiliary audio-visual inputs, wireless headphones, a pair of ceiling mounted nine-inch LCD screens, and a remote control. For the ultimate in rockin’ sound, the Routan SEL comes with a 506-watt, nine-speaker premium sound system.
Engine and Transmission
All 2012 Routan models are powered by a new 3.6-liter 24-valve V6 engine mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.
What sets the powertrain apart is its remarkable, class-leading power output of 283 horsepower, along with 260 lb-ft of torque, 90 percent of which is available from just 1600 rpm. It’s an impressive unit that focuses on light weight, high efficiency and low emissions. It features a high-pressure die-cast aluminum cylinder block with forged connecting rods, lightweight aluminum cylinder heads with four valves per cylinder, and aluminum exhaust manifolds.
Its design incorporates double overhead camshafts and high-flow intake and exhaust ports. These, in combination with variable-valve timing through independent cam phasing, allow optimum volumetric and combustion efficiency over the full speed and load range.
The result is an exceptionally flat torque curve together with high specific power. For the driver, this translates into outstanding drivability and quick-response to the throttle for off-the-line acceleration and fast, safer passing.
The six-speed automatic was fine-tuned with the introduction of the new 3.6 V6 to optimize its gear ratios and electronics to take advantage of the engine’s impressive outputs.
Volkswagen engineers had a single-minded goal when they were developing the suspension for the new Routan: It had to ‘drive like a Volkswagen’.
So they focused on retuning the springs and dampers to help reduce body roll and improve steering response. They tightened the bushings throughout the entire suspension to give a sharper, more responsive feel to the cornering. And they increased the torsional stiffness of the steering column for more precise steering.
While no minivan could ever be described as having ‘sporty’ handling, the Routan delivers that ‘Drives like a Volkswagen’ feel. It’s nimble and agile, and eager to change direction whether it’s negotiating a mall parking lot, or taking a road-trip with family along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The basic layout of the Routan’s suspension includes a compact strut design at the front, coupled with coil springs and gas-charged dampers and an anti-roll bar. At the rear, there’s a space-saving twist beam rear axle, with coil springs and heavy-duty dampers.
Because Volkswagen knows the Routan might be carrying some weight in its daily-driving—the driver, six passengers and all that gear can add-up—the rear suspension of the SEL Premium model is upgraded to a Nivomat® self-leveling air suspension system. This also raises the Routan's towing capacity with the available hitch package, to 3500 pounds, making it perfect for hauling a jet ski, ATV, dirt bike or cruiser to the beach for the weekend.
And to haul it to a halt, the 2012 Routan features four-wheel Anti-lock Braking (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Hydraulic Brake Assist (HBA), and Engine Braking Control (EBC).
The entry Routan S models comes with 16-inch steel wheels as standard, shod with all-season tires; the Routan SE features 17-inch 10-spoke Mervin alloys; while the SEL is equipped with 17-inch 10-spoke Rota alloy rims. The range-topping SEL Premium has five-spoke, broad-faced 17-inch Soho alloys.
Safety and Security
Safety is Job One with any people-carrying minivan. Which is why the 2012 Routan is equipped with a suite of the latest, most advanced safety features.
Safety for those inside starts with driver and front seat passenger front- and seat-mounted thorax side air bags. For the driver, there’s the additional protection of a standard knee airbag located below the instrument panel. There are also Side Curtain Protection® airbags that provide enhanced protection to all outboard occupants.
Active safety features that come standard with every 2012 Routan include Electronic Stability Control (ESC). This remarkable system helps gets the van back on track through braking and throttle, if it senses any slip or slide. Anti-lock braking (ABS) is also standard, as is Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPMS) that warns the driver of a flat, or if the tire pressure needs checking.
Additional features for the Routan SEL Premium include Blind Spot Monitoring, and Cross Path Detection, which warns the driver when backing out of a restricted-view parking space, of another vehicle approaching.
2012 Volkswagen Routan photo2012 Volkswagen Routan photo
Model line-up
The 2012 Routan model line-up features seven models, each with the 3.6-liter 283-hp V6 with six-speed automatic powertrain.
The well-equipped S is the first step on the Routan ladder with its starting MSRP of $27,020. Its standard features include three-zone manual air conditioning; second-row captain-style reclining, fold-flat and removable seats with in-floor storage tubs; heated exterior mirrors; cruise control; conversation mirror; 12-volt auxiliary outlet; manual tilt steering column; leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and shift knob; dual glove boxes; four-way manually adjustable front seats; power-vented rear quarter windows; power windows with one-touch up/down for front and second row; third-row folding bench with foldable headrests; six-speaker sound system with single disc player, aux-in jack, and MP3 capability; remote locking power door locks; and multi-function steering wheel.
The SE adds: power operated sliding side doors; eight-way power driver seat with power lumbar; heated front row; V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; second and third row sun shades; Bluetooth® system; six-speaker sound system with six-disc CD player, aux-in jack, DVD/MP3 capability; 17-inch Mervin alloy wheels with all-season tires; adjustable floor pedals; and Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC).
SE with Rear Screen Entertainment
Priced from $33,490, it adds a single second-row nine-inch video screen with headphones and remote, power-lift tailgate with flood lamp, rearview camera system, touchscreen AM/FM with DVD player and hard drive, SiriusXM® satellite radio with one-year complimentary service.
SE with RSE and Navigation
This adds a DVD-Navigation system with SiriusXM® Traffic, and SiriusXM® Travel Link Services with one-year complimentary service.
SEL with Navigation
In addition to the SE equipment, it adds a power tilt/sliding sunroof; three-zone automatic air conditioning; remote start; keyless access w/push-button start; rearview camera system; Vienna leather seating surfaces; heated second-row seats; power-folding third row; DVD-Navigation sound system with built-in satellite radio; SiriusXM® satellite radio and SiriusXM® Travel Link and SiriusXM® Traffic with one-year complimentary service; voice-activated play command, satellite playback, and integrated iPod® interface; automatic headlamps; and 17-inch Rota alloy wheels .
SEL with RSE and Navigation
This adds second- and third-row nine-inch video screens with additional DVD player for the rear-screen entertainment.
SEL Premium
The top-of-the-range model takes the SEL RSE with Nav features and adds Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection; chrome-finished door handles and exterior mirror caps; multifunction, heated, auto-dimming, fold-away, exterior mirrors with memory and integrated turn signals; bright finish roof rack; Nut-Burl trim; 115-volt power outlet; power adjustable floor pedals with memory; eight-way power driver with memory and eight-way power passenger seat; premium nine-speaker, 560-watt sound system; HID automatic headlamps; and 17-inch Soho alloy wheels.


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