I may just be the only automotive journalist (actually, one of two – ed.) that genuinely gets excited when given the keys to a new minivan. I traded in my rear-wheel-drive, manual trans sports car years ago and now drive our family minivan almost daily. I have four kids, so anytime we’re ready to go somewhere we’re riding with six – at a minimum. There are lots of good SUVs on the market today with three rows, including the Ford Explorer and GMC Acadia. We actually shopped both of those vehicles, but even with 3-rows the SUV gets pretty cramped, and offers no cargo room with the 3rd row seat up. You have bigger SUVs, ones we love and have taken on many family road trips, but every time I review one of these (like Ford’s Expedition or Chevrolet’s Suburban) I can’t get over how expensive they are these days.
When you have a larger family, it’s harder than ever to afford one of these larger SUVs that fits everyone. As a family man or mom, if you’re looking for the most room for the buck while still getting good fuel economy and fitting the whole family, you can’t beat a minivan. So when we get one in the txGarage, know I’ll be putting it to a real test.
This week we’re driving the Anniversary Edition Chrysler Town & Country. Introduced in 1989 as a 1990, the Town & Country was one of the original minivans to hit the market; today it remains the 13th best-selling automotive nameplate worldwide with over 12 million in sales. With all of this success you can expect excellence in daily use, and probably some apprehension as the T&C ultimately evolves.
Subjectively, the Town & Country is a good looking minivan. Its bodywork is a little more bold and boxy than the Japanese competition, but still projects a great American Luxury vibe with its large chrome grille and bold lines. The looks have definitely enjoyed (of suffered) a slow evolution throughout the years, but this is no surprise; if it’s selling well, don’t change it. You do get modern conveniences these days like dual-automatic doors that can be opened and closed from your keyfob. You can also get a power liftgate, making it easier for loading your family gear in the rear.
Inside this vehicle is where you and your family will find most of the tricks and toys. This is not the most luxurious interior out there (think top-of-the-line Siennas and Odysseys), but it’s by far the most luxurious Town & Country ever made. You still get a few spots of hard plastic, but generally you’ll enjoy soft touch points, leather seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel. Our model also had dark-wood trim along the dash and the door panels, which looked really well done. I’m usually not a big fan of throwing wood trim into a car and calling it luxurious, but the dark trim used here looks both good and appropriate.
This new Town & Country is also packed full of technology, including heated seats and a heated steering wheel, a built-in Blu-ray DVD player with dual screens, a 3-zone climate control system, rearview camera, USB port, HDMI connectivity and hookups for game consoles, Also, driver and passengers will enjoy Chrysler’s Uconnect with voice commands and a touch-screen display with navigation. You also have full control of most of these systems right from the steering wheel, making it easy for the driver to interface with all of this tech without getting distracted.
It’s not all about the technology inside, although the kids love the DVD entertainment; it’s also about the vast amounts of room. All six of us fit very comfortably in the van with plenty of legroom, shoulder room and head room. Even with the vehicle packed full of people you get a plethora of room in the rear to pack in whatever you may need for your family’s adventures. If you need to haul even more stuff than people, the Town and Country has their legendary Stow ‘n Go system allowing you to fold the third and second rows completely flat giving you room for bikes, or whatever your significant other might find lying on the neighborhood curb ready for a DIY project.
Under the hood is a Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine delivering a best-in-class 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Most people buying a van will ignore the difference in engine options (you’re not buying a sports car), but having enough power to haul your family and stuff is very important and a minivan with a larger engine and more power can actually be more fuel efficient than one with a smaller engine that struggles to carry the heavy vehicle.
Driving the Town & Country is smooth and comfortable, not quite as floaty as the Toyota Sienna but just as smooth. The power from the V6 engine will get you up and going so quick that you need to actually watch your throttle input as you can easily squeal the tires, which doesn’t have the same coolness factor as doing the same in other vehicles. Steering input is good and direct, a huge improvement over previous generations.
One of the biggest selling points here is price, and even with all the luxuries packed into this vehicle it still comes in under $40k. That’s something you won’t find in minivans from Honda or Toyota. It’s easy to recommend this van to families and it actually won Family Car of Texas and Minivan of Texas in 2014 from the Texas Auto Writers Association. The Sienna and Odyssey are both great minivans as well, but if you’re looking for some of the best bang for your buck you can’t (and won’t) beat the Chrysler’s Town & Country.