Tucking a lavish array of equipment and a passel of luxury touches into a rapidly aging body yields the only premium-level minivan on the U.S. market. Largely identical in structure and mechanical elements to the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Chrysler Town & Country is priced higher but contains enough features to justify the added expense.
Despite its obsolete underpinnings, the Town & Country is the most luxurious, and perhaps the most flexible, minivan on the American road.
Both the Chrysler and Dodge minivans have a long history, having debuted for the 1984 model year. Each has been a popular item through the years; but those years have taken a toll, in terms of the ability to cope with today’s crash-testing programs.
Sole drivetrain of both minivans is a 283-horsepower V6 engine, coupled to a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. That’s entirely sufficient for carrying a large family or group of friends, on long trips or short jaunts. Chrysler does not offer all-wheel drive for them; all are front-wheel drive. And that’s the same story with its competitors, except for the Toyota Sienna.
Chrysler’s minivans have retained the same basic body style since 2008, though restyled three years later. That’s a considerably advanced age for any type of passenger car. Yet, the Town & Country still looks attractive, at least judged by minivan standards.
Chrysler and Dodge minivans promise good visibility from the driver’s seat all around. They also stand out for seating convenience. Stow ‘n Go seating offers one-touch fold-down action. On the connectivity front, a Uconnect technology group ensures convenient control of multiple media sources, along with hands-free phone connectivity. To satisfy frequent Internet users, optional Uconnect Web can transform the minivan into a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Second-row captain’s chairs are available for Touring-L, Limited, and Limited Platinum models, dropping passenger capacity from eight to seven.
Available for 2016 is dual-screen DVD entertainment, featuring HDMI input for video game systems. An available super center console provides CD/DVD storage.
Because the Town & Country is due to be replaced by a markedly different minivan during 2016, nothing of consequence has changed for the current model year, apart from a new special edition: The Town & Country Anniversary Edition commemorates 90 years of the Chrysler brand. Based on the Touring-L model, it includes a sunroof, heated first- and second-row seats, heated steering wheel, and Keyless Enter ‘n Go.
The 2016 Chrysler Town & Country comes in six trim levels, in addition to the Anniversary Edition. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Town & Country LX ($29,995) is surprisingly well-equipped, with leather-trimmed front- and second-row seats, Stow ‘n Go seating, rearview camera, 17-inch aluminum wheels, left and right powered sliding doors, and power liftgate. Also standard are steering-wheel audio controls, 6.5-inch touchscreen, overhead console, tri-zone manual air conditioning, power heated mirrors, tilt/telescopic steering column, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and six-speaker audio. Touring ($31,580) adds automatic lighting, automatic air conditioning, and power front seats.
Town & Country S ($33,695) gets Torino leather seats with cloth inserts, plus nine-inch video screens for the second and third rows for use with available DVD player. Touring-L ($35,395) has Smart Beam lighting, rain-sensitive wipers, and power heated folding mirrors. Touring-L models include a Safety Tec Group with rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beam headlights, rear park assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross path detection. A new Anniversary Edition, based upon the Touring-L, marks the 90th anniversary of Chrysler cars.
Limited ($37,995) includes a 430N media center with navigation, power driver’s lumbar adjustment, and heated front- and second-row seats. Limited Platinum ($40,295) takes just about every available option or package and makes it standard, adding Nappa leather seating, Satin Silver 17-inch wheels, a nine-speaker stereo, radio memory, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, high-intensity discharge headlights, driver’s seat memory, and power-adjustable pedals.
Safety features include a rearview camera, driver’s knee blocker, side-curtain airbags for all three rows, and trailer sway damping. An available safety option package for all but the LX model includes rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beam headlight control, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross path detection.
Chrysler takes steps to make the Town & Country somewhat distinct from its Dodge Grand Caravan sibling, even though they’re nearly identical in overall structure. Town & Country has more bright trim on the body, as well as a completely different grille.
Both minivans share an upright shape with plenty of glass, which translates into great visibility. Neither exhibits the fashionable style of vans such as the Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest, but Chrysler’s duo captures the attention of customers who fret more about function than form.
Viewed from either side or from the rear, there’s not much visual difference between Dodge and Chrysler vans, apart from the Town & Country’s LED taillamps. Up front, the Town & Country temps discerning buyers with its familiar winged logo, set within a discreet grille. These are still bolt-upright, essentially square-jawed people carriers.
Inside, Chrysler’s near-premium Town & Country is clearly less of a family workhorse than the lower-priced Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s also equipped abundantly, even in entry-level LX trim.
Neatly organized, if somewhat plastic-like, the interior is trimmed in leather. Instruments are encircled in chrome. So are the primary controls. The dashboard has a tasteful appearance, highlighted by a traditional-type analog clock.
Ride and handling are essentially as expected from a capable minivan: predictable but engaging, focused on security and safety, despite trailing crash-test scores. Road behavior is satisfying, though the near-cushiony ride could use a greater level of suspension damping. The softly-tuned suspension tends to bound fore and aft at times while underway; more than, say, a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna.
Steering remains on the ordinary side, but responds a bit more quickly than on previous Town & Country models. Overall, the driving experience differs little from a Grand Caravan.
Acceleration is enthusiastic with the strong V6, though it’s not the smoothest engine in a minivan. Gas mileage might not sound so thrifty, but Chrysler’s minivans are close to the top of their class, EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined.
Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan have a lot to offer for a relatively affordable price. However, the design is old and arguably obsolete, and safety scores fall short of those achieved by competitive minivans.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.