2009 Chrysler Town &
For kids who grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the minivan almost amounts to a second home. Upon its introduction, the minivan formula proved so bulletproof that the rolling shoeboxes all but annihilated station wagon sales, ensuring an entire generation would miss out on the joys of Volvo wagon reverse-mounted third-row seating. Kids loved the interior space inherent to the minivan design and parents liked the fact that they could fit a bunch of kids and cargo in a vehicle that drove like a conventional car. Fast-forward 20 years and the crossover SUV is playing the same dirty trick on the minivan – putting family friendly versatility into a hipper package. Despite the shift in the market, Chrysler gives consumers a lot of options with the Town & Country
, offering four different models with three different engines and huge amounts of storage space. Game Boys and Walkmans may have been traded for ceiling-mounted DVD units and cellular internet, but the minivan’s intrinsic ability to transport lots of people, pets, cargo or any combination thereof remains appealing to many.
What's to Like
Looking for some extra storage space? On top of impressive cargo capacity thanks to multiple seating configurations, this van has more hidden compartments than the last National Treasure film. Power sliding doors and a power lift gate provide a way for you to open the car when you’ve got your hands full or when impatient children are waiting on you. It also helps appease childish adults.
What's Not to Like
Steering wheel-mounted control functions are severely limited, a bit of an embarrassment considering the car’s top-notch specification. Chrysler’s navigation system is starting to show some age – browsing between menus becomes a crisscrossed misadventure full of wrong turns, made no easier by the screen’s relatively diminutive size. Driving a minivan still has a certain stigma to it – as if you didn’t know.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Minivans have always been popular for their car-like driving experience, and the Town & Country hasn’t shaken up that formula one bit. The six-speed transmission delivers power nicely, really making the most out of the Limited’s 251 horsepower in the first three gears. Road noise on the highway was surprisingly persistent, requiring you to raise your voice to converse, but that was the van’s largest fault. The seats aren’t exactly cushy but are decently supportive and won’t cause you any pains, and the power steering has enough assist to make close-quarters maneuvers relatively effortless. Gears can be manually selected – a feature useful on steep grades – but using the dash-mounted shifter seems counterintuitive at best.
Engine and Drivetrain
There are three different engines offered across the exclusively front-wheel-drive Town & Country lineup, so brace yourself for a mind-numbing barrage of statistics and power figures. At the top of the heap, the Limited gets a 4.0-liter V-6 producing 251 horsepower and 259 lb-ft of torque, aided by a six-speed automatic transmission. Down one notch, the Touring and Touring L Package utilize a 3.8-liter V-6, churning out 197 hp and 230 lb-ft through a six-speed auto. Finally, the base model LX uses a 3.3-liter V-6 that makes 175 hp and 205 lb-ft, albeit through a four-speed automatic transmission. Got all that? There’s a quiz at the end.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
Chrysler offers a safety group for the Town & Country that includes both blind spot and cross path detection. The blind spot system illuminates a light on the side view mirrors whenever an object is detected in the car’s rear flanks. It’s surprisingly accurate, even detecting passing motorcycles (you’d be surprised how few manufacturers get this right). Cross path detection works much the same way and alerts drivers of approaching cars while reversing in parking lots. While both features might seem somewhat redundant in a vehicle with so much visibility, they’re well worth the $825 outlay.
Key Technology Evaluation
While the first-generation of minivan kids would have deemed watching The Goonies from the back seat to be on the verge of ‘80s childhood hedonism, today’s youngsters make due with the distraction of dual-DVD entertainment. That’s right, two DVD screens, one for the middle row and one for the back, both running on independent players. Chrysler’s uconnect system can work as a wireless router that allows for internet access from within your vehicle – convenient if you have to get work done on the road, or if your kids like wasting time on the internet. Who doesn’t?
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Thanks to intelligent use of a six-speed transmission, the Town & Country Limited gets a respectable 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway out of its ULEV-rated 4.0-liter V-6. Perplexingly, the smaller 3.8-liter engine does a slightly worse 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, while the 3.3-liter straddles both of those numbers at 17 mpg city, 24 highway.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The Town & Country’s interior is attractive enough, and build quality is surprisingly high for such a utilitarian vehicle. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find a cluttered center console with enough buttons to confuse an air traffic controller, all manner of flimsy plastic storage covers and some questionable driver and passenger ergonomics.
Chrysler has retained the classic minivan shape with the Town & Country, giving it a car-like ride height and relatively short, abrupt hood. Unfortunately, the Touring comes wearing very non-minivan chrome wheels, but all other models get more conventional alloys.
Market Segment and Pricing
Pricing for the all-the-bells-and-whistles Town & Country Limited starts at $37,350, but if you’re not looking to shell out that much, prices for the LX model start at $27,250. Key competitors include the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT ($28,575), Toyota Sienna XLE Limited ($35,665), Volkswagen Routan SEL Premium ($38,500), Nissan Quest 3.5 SE ($35,650) and Honda Odyssey EX-L ($33,155).
What We Think
Right now the crossover might be stealing a lot of sales from the minivan segment due to its contemporary image, but still nothing gets the active family around better than the classic front-wheel-drive sliding-door. The Town and Country is hampered by its high price point due to Chrysler’s placement as a premium brand within its corporate hierarchy, but those willing to pay up will get a lot for their money. In fact, with a lineup including the mediocre talents of the Sebring and Aspen, it’s arguably the best car currently wearing a Chrysler badge.