2011 Chrysler Town & Country
Flexibility's the same hallmark it's always been, with two rows of disappearing seats giving Chrysler a trump card over all other vans save the 2010 Nissan Quest. It's a fine line, catering to adults or kids, but the ultimate utility baked into the T&C's floorpan strikes us as the sensible way to Scout's-motto the day's chores. Be prepared--but don't prepare a pack lunch, since the old Swivel 'N Go picnic table package is no longer available for reservations.
The Town & Country's luxe looks are paired with Touring, Touring-L and Limited trims. Rolled-up bundles of features are standard here, while they're either optional on the Grand Caravan, or entirely unavailable outside of the priciest editions. All Chrysler minivans have standard power windows for front and side doors; power locks and mirrors; power side doors, tailgate and pedals; automatic headlights; garage door opener; a 115-volt outlet; Stow 'N Go; a power driver seat; a safety bundle including parking sensors, rearview camera, and blind-spot monitors; and a music hard drive and audio controls delivered via a 6.5-inch LCD touchscreen. Oddly, the $31,000 Town & Country makes Bluetooth an option; the USB port is extra-cost, too. Options include a sunroof; leather seats; a navigation system; BackseatTV; a DVD entertainment system; and pushbutton start.
A $40,000 Town & Country Limited stretches the boundaries of what a high-function hauler can fetch in the open market. Its success hinges on those missing side-door hinges: can a minivan command that kind of premium, and is Chrysler the brand that's able to carry that marketing burden? In fighting trim, the T&C's a minivan perfectly tailored to take on other one-boxers like the most expensive Siennas, Quests and Odysseys. But dollar for dollar, it feels more like a natural predator for the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT crossovers, with its overt tugs on the chrome-and-leather levers.
We prefer the natty Flex's take on MINI Cooper chic, its superior handling and its knockout interior. Still, the Flex has doors with hinges--and sliding side portals make curbside drop-offs so much easier, don't they? The Town & Country is the superior entry-and-exit specialist and kid-friendly down to its on-demand Nickelodeon--but the adult in us prefers four-door chic and can deal with long rides with Slingbox.
The bottom line: choosing a Town & Country over those capable crossovers probably comes down to your passengers. Are they children, or adults? It's the same in TV as it is in cars: know your audience.