New & Used Chrysler Town & Country: In Depth
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The Chrysler Town & Country was one of the very first minivans on the market, following closely behind the original Dodge Caravan with which it shares roots. Given a major refresh for 2011, the Town & Country carries over to the 2015 model year nearly unchanged--since a new model is expected for 2016.
The Town & Country has rivals in its Dodge Grand Caravan sibling, the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey, as well as the revamped 2015 Kia Sedona.
MORE: Read our 2015 Chrysler Town & Country minivan review
Three generations of Chrysler Town & Country minivans have depended on the basic goodness of the minivan design itself to carry the day--since most of the differences from other versions are limited to high-end features and slightly different styling.
Although Chrysler offered its first minivans in the '80s under the Dodge and Plymouth brands, the first Town & Country didn't arrive until the 1990 model year. It was a lightly revised version of the first K-car-based vans from the sister marques, with more luxurious appointments. There was still just one sliding door at that time, located on the right, but the T&C boasted leather upholstery, a choice of V-6 engines mated to a four-speed automatic, and the iconic wood-look side paneling.
The K-car chassis was revamped for the 1991–1995 Chrysler minivan. The Town & Country continued in the lineup, as a long-wheelbase-only minivan loaded with features and few options. The powertrains were upsized V-6 engines and four-speed automatic transmissions that gained a poor reputation for reliability. All-wheel drive became an option during the 1992 model year; driver and front-passenger airbags were fitted during this generation.
From 1996 to 2000, the Chrysler Town & Country adopted a much sleeker look. This third-generation minivan attracted new competition from Ford's Windstar, and from the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna--but innovations like a second driver-side sliding door, roll-out seats, and an optional rear-seat entertainment system kept it ahead of its competition. A short-wheelbase edition found a few buyers; V-6 engines and a four-speed automatic continued in front- and all-wheel-drive versions.
Chrysler brought out a revamped Town & Country for 2001, with this fourth generation ending in 2007. The brand also added a less expensive Voyager model to its minivan roster, with that name and placement adopted in the wake of Plymouth's closure. From 2001 to 2003, the Voyager would be the short-wheelbase Chrysler minivan, and the Town & Country the long-wheelbase version; the Voyager went away in 2003, when Chrysler resumed offering short- and long-wheelbase Town & Country vans.
Chrysler likes to remind everyone that it invented the minivan, and it has done a good job of improving interior packaging along the way. For 2005, the company added the Stow 'N Go seating option. This setup allows the second- and third-row seats to fold flat into the floor, removing the need to, well, remove the seats when more space is needed. The reworked floorpan allowed for the birth of the Chrysler Pacifica using the same architecture, but it also killed the previously available all-wheel-drive van, since there was no longer room underneath to route a driveshaft.
For the current generation, Chrysler has given the Town & Country an angular theme that looks less upscale than before. From 2008 to 2010, the styling fell far short inside, where plasticky dash trim covered almost every surface that wasn't upholstered. The engines were uprated again, among them a base 3.3-liter V-6, a 3.8-liter six, and a 4.0-liter V-6 that actually earned the best fuel economy ratings. To maintain its class-leading features list, Chrysler added in-car satellite TV, a folding in-car table, swiveling seats and entertainment systems.
For the 2011 model year, the Town & Country received a mid-cycle makeover that included a new interior with much more acceptable interior trim, a new drivetrain featuring a perky 3.6-liter V-6 with 283 horsepower, a mostly smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, and a retuned suspension that delivered a slightly bouncy ride but good highway stability. The features list in this edition now included satellite radio, blind-spot monitors, a rearview camera, a navigation system, and streaming satellite-based BackSeat TV, which later was dropped.
In 2012, Chrysler left the minivan largely unchanged, but more recently, the 2013 Town & Country was upgraded to standard leather seats, while a Blu-Ray video player with twin screens was made optional for the rear two rows of seats.
Also for 2013, Chrysler revealed a Town & Country S model, with a blacked-out scheme inside and out, plus new piano black trims inside, as well as the otherwise optional Blu-Ray entertainment system.
The Volkswagen Routan was essentially a restyled version of the Town & Country, although without the Chrysler's top seating and entertainment options. It was built alongside the Chrysler models in Canada and went out of production after the 2012 model year.
A new Chrysler Town & Country minivan is expected in the 2016 model year, by which time it will be the only Chrysler minivan. The Dodge brand will lose its minivan, according to current plans, but the Grand Caravan name could be applied to a new crossover vehicle. It is not yet known whether the next-generation Chrysler minivan will retain the standard sliding-door arrangement or move to a more crossover-like layout. Recent comments from FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne suggest there will be additional variants of the van, with the base model retaining the Town & Country name.