2009 Volkswagen Routan $32,700 (As tested: $33,835)


Load up and go with the all-new Routan minivan.
Load up and go with the all-new Routan minivan.

An ideal traveling musician’s life is one of comraderie, adventure, adoring fans mobbing you and pots of money stuffed in your pockets at the end of every show, and a feeling of Christmas 365 days a year.

The reality is more a bunch of smelly, windy guys jammed into a rolling can filling up rapidly with garbage of every sort, each passenger putting up with the others’ colds and the stench of Blue Ice Analgesic rub, stony silence or non-stop blabbing, sudden shouts at the slightest glimpse of a female, missing turns and getting grief for it, and other stuff you don’t see on MTV. Such was my lot as head musician/driver last week, though the gig was rockin’.

The Routan was the perfect baby sitter for my mob, despite its glaring flaw of having no privacy window separating backseat occupants from driver ala the “This Is Spinal Tap” exchange between Chistopher “Nigel Tufnel” Guest and Bruno Kirby. (Mr. Kirby’s blather was silenced by Guest via said privacy window in the movie.) Guitar, amps, a drumset, clothes and passengers all fit nicely with room to spare in the Routan’s rear—after the seats had been quickly and smoothly folded down into the minivan’s floor—and the floor compartment’s not a bad place to keep the evening’s receipts when you’re in the diner, either.

Cram it in, man! The azz on this thing is enormous.
Cram it in, man! The azz on this thing is enormous.

One wouldn’t necessarily recognize the Routan as an actual Volkswagen—it bears no resemblance to anything any other VW, and it looks like what it looks like, meaning a plain, functional ride meant for a lot of people with a lot of stuff. Despite the pleasing red color of our chariot, you’ll have to cool this thing up yourself with custom paint and other amenities if you hope to achieve even a modicum of fly, phat or dope. Fob-mounted buttons that open your rear and sides or start the engine are a handy, convenient touch, visibility is excellent and seats are comfortable. The acceleration/brake/handling combo is tuned just right—neither too fuzzy nor jerky—whether driving with an empty load or a full house. The sound system is typically so-so, but the vehicle’s steering wheel-mounted controls are positioned happily out of the way of fingers doing more important things, meaning you won’t try to make a turn and suddenly get clobbered by sound or a satellite station you don’t want to hear.

A color backup camera makes city parking easy, though the picture is crummier than on some models I’ve tested in recent years.

A push of a key fob button opens the vault on both sides of the Routan.
A push of a key fob button opens the vault on both sides of the Routan.

For a musician, the best transportation is one than can take everything you throw at it and still get you where you’re going on time and intact. Despite its idiotic, unsexy name, the Routan is a rock and roll road warrior/love machine. -Josh Max, AutoGigolo.com

Quick specs:

Drivetrain: Front Wheel Drive
Curb Weight (lbs) 4355
City (MPG) 16
Hwy (MPG) 23
Horsepower 197 @ 5200
Torque (lb-ft) 230 @ 4000