I have always disliked the minivan mindset. The idea of a cushy,
utilitarian vehicle that is not very much fun to drive is not very
appealing to many automotive journalists. Nevertheless, I would be a
fool to omit the outstanding versatility of such a vehicle. The
Chrysler Town & Country is one of the top in this field.
Yes, just about every other make has better workmanship and more
comprehensive controls; the Chrysler minivan has enough goodness to
offset its flaws. After many decades of minivan pioneering, Chrysler
LLC knows a thing or two about building a family hauler.
Found this out I did, on a recent family outing.
Click HERE to view a slideshow of the minivan.
First the bad: Every plastic panel feels like it’s made out of used CD
cases. Tap on it and you hear an echo. There are a GAZILLION buttons
and it takes many moons to figure them out. The optional electric lift
gate (sliding doors are optionally powered too) has a mind of its own
as do the electric folding 3rd row seats.
Quality is so-so throughout and any other power-plant other than the 4.0 liter is underpowered.
Now the good: The 251 horsepower (which makes 259 lbs feet of torque)
4.0 liter V6 has lots of grunt. 0 to 60 mph times fell just a hair
under 9 seconds – not bad for 4,321 lbs. The 6-speed automatic shifts
smoothly. I got respectable mileage at about 17 combined, while driving
like an ape (highway maximum is about 25 mpg). It handles fairly well
for a rolling box with a turning circle of 38 feet.
My tester had more gizmos than the Space Shuttle. There are two video
screens (including the navigation screen when parked as a third
screen), power EVERYTHING and built in booster seats in the rotating
second row captain seats. Add to that retractable side shades. Not bad
for less than 40 grand (base is $25,995).
Best of all, the wife and kids dug it.
We spent a day this past weekend driving around, looking for pumpkins
and shopping. Near the end of our trip, I opted to rotate the second
row seats and pop in the table so my 5-year-old could have a platform
for coloring books. Although the process of spinning the seats and
placing the table is about as intuitive as removing my own appendix, I
finished the process in 5 minutes (the reverse process is worse).
After that, we found a nice little garden center with a few pumpkins
left called “Silver Sage” on Santa Fe Drive. It is south of a trailer
park so take care when pulling in as both driveways are nearly
connected. Anyway, it’s a nice little garden center with a very
Once we selected $27.00 worth of pumpkins, I easily loaded them into
the rear dugout storage area behind the third row. There was space to
spare and I placed a cooler and football in the same area, easily. More
storage exists under the front of the second row captain, swivel
chairs. This holds the table and its pole with enough room for at least
6 cases of canned drinks.
The driver’s seat is big and fairly cushy. I could do without the
constant lump in the lower lumbar position, but it was not too bad.
Sightlines are very good. The square greenhouse and blind-spots are
well covered with aggressive audio/visual warnings (with a massive
triangle apparent in the side mirror – indicating where the approaching
vehicle is coming from).
Later on, when it was time for me to hide from my wife (my turn to
change Junior’s diapers) I opted to use the Chrysler Town & Country
as my napping site. After lowering the third row, I was able to drop a
few jackets and create a cozy snooze site. I’m nearly 6’2” and I was
very comfortable – especially when watching a DVD with movie quality
I could get used to this.
Here’s the bottom line. The Chrysler Town & Country is a very good
family machine. Driving responsibly on the highway, one can get to Las
Vegas on about 2 tanks (20.5 gallon gas tank) and do it in complete
comfort. It’s a breeze to load kids and all of their junk without all
of the high lifting most SUVs require.
Would I use one? No, I’m a car guy – so every fiber of my soul would
revolt. Should others? Yes, it is a very accommodating, family friendly
machine – far more logical for a big family than a wasteful, less
utilitarian, hard-to-load SUV. If you’re not a gear-head and need this
much space (144 cubic feet of space), this is your car.
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car
sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out
of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to
enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com
page HERE. Photos by: N.D