Today, I felt a need to give a first hand look from a gear head’s perspective on a car genre that gets a lot bad looks. I think I’ll begin to do double-takes now every time I see one. Today’s review is on a minivan, more specifically, the 2011 Chrysler Town and Country.
First, let me backtrack a little and give you folks a little history lesson. The Ford Mustang and the Chrysler Town and Country (Dodge Caravan) actually bleed the same blood… Lee Iacocca. The man who brought us the spectacular entry level sports car, the Mustang, also invented the minivan segment with the Town and Country and the Caravan. After being fired from Ford (he did also bring us the Pinto afterall), Lee took his idea to Chrysler which loved his forward thinking and decided to debut the first ever minivan. I think it might be a safe bet to go ahead and think that Ford is probably still kicking themselves about this. With over 13 million Caravan and Town and Countries sold to date, and keeping the market on lock for the better part of the segment’s life (until about 2008 to the Honda Odyssey), Chrysler has done well. There might still be your curious side asking “How can minivan’s still be selling? Aren’t they a dead market to the SUV and crossover?” I hear your pleas and let me explain why I think the minivan market will stick around and MIGHT even flourish once more.
The Town and Country is a rental. My wife’s car is in the shop and with the Toyota Yaris that we originally rented being a dud and needing work, we were swapped into a fully loaded Chrysler. I drove the beast home, and being a car nut, I had to put it through my test. First up, acceleration, braking, and handling.
Honestly, I was surprised here. Housing a 3.6 liter V6, this thing had some pep when I planted my foot. Hitting the near 6.5k redline mark, I was thrust back into my heated and electric sliding seat. Granted, this isn’t designed to be a track car, it did very well at impressing and shocking me. Braking was just as impressive. Very good response and I felt like I knew what was going on when I hit the brakes. With the TnC getting stiffer swaybars front and rear for the 2011 model, I felt like this car was firmly planted, yet giving on the bumps. The autostick feature let’s you shift like Mario Andretti all the way through the 6 available gears. There was an “eco” button located just under the climate controls and to be honest, I didn’t see a noticeable change in the demeanor of the TnC as far as the performance goes. A bit odd but presumably it will boast better MPG’s.
Next, comfort and amenities. This minivan has comfort in spades. Heated and leather wrapped steering wheel, dual climate control with independent rear climate controls, soft (yet still firm) suspension, all weather comfort tires, and dual DVD players for 2nd and 3rd row occupants. If I’m honest, I was stunned at everything this van threw at me. The middle glass rolling all the way down and with a button that lets the rear side glass open outward a bit was a nice touch. From the keyfob, you can start the car, open and close both side doors as well as open and close the rear liftgate. From the cockpit, you have a nice big touchscreen with all your radio controls and optional SatNav. The steering wheel allows you to conveniently control the radio and cruise control (but as this is becoming more standard, it wasn’t too impressive). Wood grain and leather abound. The little touch I love that Chrysler has snuck into most of it’s cars is the little analog clock. Makes it feel more like a luxury car and less like a dying brand. The Stow’n’Go seating makes the interior space go from comfort to “I could fit a sofa in here.” Optional swivel middle seating and table means you could play a board game on the go.
Exterior styling isn’t amazing but when compared to the Toyota Sienna or the Nissan Quest, this thing wins and it wins big. However, compared to the Honda Odyssey, I’d say it’s a draw. Even though I personally wouldn’t classify the Mazda Mazda5 wagon a minivan, most sites do and I’d say I’d still take the Town and Country based on exterior looks.
All in all, this van surprised me in all aspects. I’ve never considered really buying a minivan (although I love the idea of modding one for kicks; wheels, lowered, etc.) but if I had to, I’d definitely consider the TnC. With all the headroom you get, if you have kids, these suckers do the job well. I timed my wife putting in a carseat just to see how easy it made the job. Even having to wait for the door to open itself, she managed to comfortably get the seat in the middle row in a speedy 1 minute and 15 seconds. The reason minivans have stuck around as long as they have is because quite frankly, they do their job and they do it well. SUV’s drink gas and crossovers still don’t have the same headroom, legroom, and overall space that a minivan does. If I had to pack 2 adults and 4 kids with all the luggage needed for a weeklong roadtrip that would take 8-10 hours, I feel confident in saying it would get us there in style and with little nagging and complaining (and that’s just from my wife).
If you’re looking for a stylish way to tote the kids and be able to head to Home Depot at a moments notice, the Chrysler Town and Country would definitely not be a bad way to do it. Coming from a guy who thrives on speed and thrills, that might be the biggest compliment the Town and Country could get.
Your friendly neighborhood gear head,