OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. — It’s hour eleven of a thirteen-hour road trip. Six other passengers are stowed safely in back, all but one asleep. A light’s on in back in case one wakes up; a bottle of water sits patiently in a cupholder for another. And as Tropical Storm Barry slaps water at the windshield in gallon waves, the Town and Country needles effortlessly through the darkness.
It’s here, somewhere between New Orleans and the panhandle of Florida, that I realize the essential goodness of the minivan and Chrysler’s mastery of it. Only a minivan could handle a duty like this. And even if every family doesn’t always need seven-passenger capabilities, it’s the special occasions like vacation shuttling that makes the minivan the hands-down winner in utility and driveability.
And when it comes to the Town and Country, you can add luxury to the list of superlatives. It is the ne plus ultra of minivans, if the prosaic machines ever needed a foreign description. And while Honda may be stealing some of Chrysler’s innovation thunder, what with its gymnastic foldaway back seat, Chrysler has undoubtedly the most luxurious one on the market, all $35,185 of it.All-access pass
Minivans are about access – getting people and things inside, stowing them properly for safe and secure travel, and disgorging them without the limb-mangling antics required of a fewer-doored vehicle. The Chrysler vans have enough doors and power feature to ensure that’s never an issue: two sliding side doors can be powered, as can the tailgate. And though you might deem both a frilly unnecessary accessory, try closing them all during a blinding tropical rainstorm from a dry condo. The only downside is the school-bus-like beeping the tailgate emits before it closes — reinforcing the notion that minivan drivers are also qualified to pilot public transportation.