Minivans are strange beasts, wielding a two-edged sword of unmatched utility and a soccer-mom stigma. That stigma is hard to get past for some, but once the shear versatility and people-hauling capabilities have been explored, it’s hard to consider the minivan anything less than spectacular. I spent a week behind the wheel of Chrysler’s Town & Country to experience the conundrum for myself.
I’ve driven a number of rather interesting vehicles in my line of work, so I was admittedly a little weary about piloting the mom-mobile. However, as luck would have it, a minivan was just what I needed during the week. Up first was hauling my two-year-old around town for the week. The double DVD screens truly came in handy as a loveable mouse kept her attention off the “are we there yet?” statements. Next was chauffeuring a large group of friends to a social event. We had room to spare and all were comfortable.
Finally a family trip to the beach confirmed my suspension the Town & Country could do it all. With the third row folded flat, fishing poles lying between the second row captains’ chairs, and gear for the day packed all around, the Chrysler proved its worth. What’s more, the van’s front wheel drive also proved confident in the loose sands of Daytona Beach.
Click past the jump for the full review.
Chrysler’s Town & Country minivan has long been a staple of transportation for families since its introduction in 1990. It was based off the Dodge Caravan platform that had literally started the whole minivan craze when it hit showrooms in 1984. Over the next 30 years, the Chrysler and Dodge vans held a firm grip on the market, adding extra doors, unique features, more powerful engines, and more luxurious interiors.
Its sloping hood also helped with outward visibility, nearly disappearing while driving.
The Town & Country features some pretty upscale looks on the outside with chrome trim, blacked-out wheels, and HID-like headlights. The deeply tented windows kept passengers inside both shielded from the hot Florida sun and private from outside on-lookers. The overall shape of the van is very familiar but still features nice additions to keep it interesting.
A backup camera, parking sensors, and cross-traffic alert kept backing up a breeze. Even without those modern functions, the van offers plenty of rearward visibility for tight maneuvering. Its sloping hood also helped with outward visibility, nearly disappearing while driving. The massive windshield and large side windows made me feel like I was driving a glass bubble. I did find myself wishing the side mirrors were larger, as I kept having to look over my shoulder in distrust of their reports. They did come equipped with blind spot monitoring, which helped with cars directly beside me.
It’s here, inside the Town & Country, that the true story is found. The interior is cavernous. Period. With three rows of seats, the van offers room for seven passengers and a respectable amount of cargo. Fold the rear bench seat down, however, and it’s like a Chevy Suburban back there. What’s more, the second row seats tumble and fold completely within the floor as well to provide a cargo van-like 144 cubic feet of storage room. Chrysler is unmatched in this department thanks to its ‘Stow N Go’ seat architecture.
Besides all the seats’ ability to fold flat, the Stow N Go offers the ability to choose which seats to fold and which to leave up. The rear bench is a 60/40 fold while the two second-row captains’ chairs are independent of each other.
Up front, the driver and front passenger sit with a commanding view of the road. All the controls are at the driver’s fingertips and ergonomics are pretty good. Even the odd-placed gear shifter atop the dash works well in practice. The level of storage cubbies and bins are amazing. Two glove boxes reside in front of the passenger while two smaller cubbies with rolling doors inhabit the center console. Down below the console and between the dashboard is an open little cubby with netting that provides a great place for odds and ends.
It’s here, inside the Town & Country, that the true story is found. The interior is cavernous. Period.
The seats were comfortable but seemed to lose their appeal after an hour or so of continuous driving. I also found the leather materials covering the seats to be rather low budget as it felt more like vinyl.
Another complaint I had revolved around the Uconnect system. Unlike the Uconnect 8.4 system I raved about in my recent Dodge Durango review, this unit made do with much older technology. It was hard to pair my iPhone over Bluetooth and frustrating to set up the DVD player. Even navigating around the menus was a chore. Perhaps my biggest complaint was the absence of a connected USB port to stream music. For instance, a passenger wanted to play audio through the speakers with is USB power cable. We plugged that cable into every USB port in the entire van with no luck. It finally took a ¼-inch headphone jack to stream the audio over. Of course, we could have paired his phone over Bluetooth, but that function is blocked out while driving.
I never wished for more power, as it would have outmatched the skinny tires.
Powering the Town & Country is Chrysler’s ubiquitous 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. In this application, it generates 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Mounted transversely to a six-speed transaxle, the Pentastar gave plenty of grunt to get the van moving. I never wished for more power, as it would have outmatched the skinny 225/65R17 tires.
Over my time with the van I averaged 20 mpg. That included a wide mix of highway and city driving. On the highway, I my average would sneak towards the EPA estimate of 25 mpg while around town I generally averaged around 18 mpg. A 20-gallon fuel tank provides plenty of cruising distance – likely more than the six other passengers riding along care to travel without a bathroom break.
All-wheel-drive is an option for the Town & Country, though my tester didn’t come equipped. Nevertheless, the van was able to trudge through some deep sand while driving down Daytona Beach without issue.
The Town & Country has a base MSRP of $30,765. Available in four different trim packages, the price can rise about $41,995 for the top-dog Limited trim. My tester came in S form with a starting price of $32,995. The Customer Preferred Package was then added for $1,845 that included automatic high beam control, blind sport and cross path detection, ParkSense sensors, rain sensitive windshield wipers, and the tire pressure monitoring display within the driver’s information center in the gauge cluster. Lastly a $995 destination charge was tacked of for a grand total of $35,235.
The commanding view of the road became addicting with such a huge windshield.
The Town & Country handled pretty well for being such a large vehicle. It had plenty of power for merging and never felt unwieldy. The steering was nicely weighted and the thick-grip leather steering wheel was a pleasure to hold. The commanding view of the road became addicting with such a huge windshield.
A folding inboard armrest, along with a nicely padded door panel armrest help keep me comfortable, though I wished the seats were a little more padded. A small convex mirror in the overhead console help keep an eye on backseat passengers, but would have been even handier if it was adjustable.
Body roll through interstate cloverleaf onramps was well managed at lower speeds. Try pushing the van too hard or misjudge a corner, and understeer will come quickly. Otherwise, the Town & Country was a pleasure to drive and even more fun to use it like it was meant – as an all-around, do-anything people and stuff hauler.
The Odyssey is a strong competitor for the Town & Country as it exudes a somewhat up-market presence. It comes with a ton of features and optional extras that put a truly positive spin on the Honda minivan. Those options include a built-in vacuum cleaner, a chilled storage box, and a host of updated technology features.
The Odyssey comes powered with Honda’s venerable 3.5-liter V-6 making 248 horsepower while getting 28 mpg highway.
The Odyssey might not have Chrysler’s innovative Stow N Go seating, but it does offer an optional second row bench for seating up to eight. Prices for the Odyssey start at $28,825 and shoot upwards of $42,000 for a fully-loaded Touring Elite model.
Gallery Honda Odyssey
The Kia is the oldest-looking player in the bunch with its exterior and interior suffering from a major makeover need. If looks don’t bother you, the Kia does offer a compelling sales case with a base price of $25,900. The Sadona does offer a stow-away third-row seat that hides nicely in the floor. However, the second row has to be manually taken out and stored if the need ever arises.
However, the Sadona is due for a major redesign for the 2015 model year that’s expected to bring the Korean minivan up to snuff with the rest of its impressive product line. There’s no word on pricing for the new van, but stay tuned to TopSpeed for all the latest info.
Gallery Kia Sedona
Overall the Town & Country did its job flawlessly. I carried large numbers of people and stuff without complaint and had the perfect amount of storage for odds and ends. The DVD system was great to have, though it was a little clumsy to use. The infotainment system was also on the clumsy side, especially compared to the newer Uconnect systems.
The van’s greatest quality by far is its Stow N Go seats. They have the ability to move, fold, and arrange in almost any way you need. Hauling cargo and people couldn’t be easier. And that is the Town & Country’s purpose.
- Unmatched versatility
- Loads of storage everywhere
- Peppy V-6 engine
- This Uconnect system is showing its age
- Some three-row crossovers get better MPGs
- Still fighting that soccer-mom stigma