2008 Chrysler Town & Country Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 18, 2008

If you’re shopping for a practical family hauler, the Chrysler Town & Country needs to be on your “must drive” list if only for the features it offers.

TheCarConnection.com’s automotive experts researched reviews from the Web’s most respected sites and combined these findings with our own to compile this conclusive appraisal of the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country. This minivan is worthy of consideration even in the face of stiff competition from SUVs, crossovers, and (certainly) other minivans.

While Ford Motor Company and General Motors have abandoned the minivan market to concentrate on SUVs and crossovers, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Kia still see the segment as a good place to find buyers. Chrysler thinks so too, and its 2008 Town & Country minivan is the company’s fifth-generation people mover and easily the company’s best-ever segment effort. Frankly, minivans may be the most practical way to transport lots of people and/or cargo. TheCarConnection.com finds the one-box designs more sensible than most SUVs or crossovers because those vehicles often sacrifice simplicity, room, and flexibility for style.

The Town & Country’s new squared-off styling represents an edgy departure from the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. Particularly from the rear, the van’s all-new boxy design looks as if it were artfully drawn with a rafter square. However, the most important features and refinements are found in the quiet interior, where Chrysler has packed more features than any competitor, including Sirius Satellite TV, twin LCD monitors (second and third rows), and Swivel ‘n Go seating.

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Styling

The slab-sided exterior works for the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country, but the real magic is inside, where material choices should prove functional and wear well for years.

Minivans are not machines of high style, although most reviews found the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country’s new shape acceptable, if not completely pleasing. MotorTrend.com wrote, “These are not good looking vehicles…they scream 'function-first' from every boxy corner and character line.” Cars.com noted, “They didn't go overboard trying to make it look like something other than a minivan.” Car and Driver liked the “Chrysler 300-like grille, quad headlamps, and chrome accents.”

The team at BusinessWeek doesn’t agree, remarking, “it still looks like a minivan—which is to say, big and dumpy.”

While most reviewers focused their interior comments on seating configurations and high-tech features, KBB.com did observe that the 2008 Chrysler “Town & Country combines wood-like and bright trim conveying a more sophisticated persona.“

TheCarConnection.com team eyeballed the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country with careful scrutiny. The angular exterior is what it is. Do keep in mind that the Town & Country’s interior is classier than the Dodge Grand Caravan’s, so if added sophistication is something you’re looking for, stick with the Chrysler.

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Performance

No 911 and not a ‘Vette, the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country accelerates capably and handles predictably and securely.

During their minivan shoot-out between a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and a 2007 Honda Odyssey, Edmunds tested the Caravan equipped with the same 4.0-liter V-6 that’s the top engine in the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country, and it trounced the Honda. The Dodge “scoots to 60 mph in just 8.2 seconds. That's a full second quicker than the Odyssey and it makes the Grand Caravan SXT the quickest minivan we've ever tested. Combine that with a swift 16.3 seconds at an 85-mph performance in the quarter-mile (safely ahead of the Honda's 16.8 seconds at 83 mph run) and the big-engine Grand Caravan is the new rocket ship among minivans.”

USAToday provides a good overview of this van’s engines: “The base 3.3-liter V-6 is pepped up and quieted. The optional 3.8-liter V-6 no longer is so coarse you're embarrassed to take it out in public. The high-end, 4-liter, overhead-camshaft V-6 provides extra scoot previously missing from your minivan experience.” Cars.com makes the point more directly: “Chrysler's 4.0-liter V-6 is potent — the marketers ought to brand it Hemi Lite.”

Many reviewers agree with KBB.com, which says, “You might appreciate the Chrysler minivans' balance between highway comfort and around-town responsiveness. We also appreciated the new model's much-improved steering and braking response…Overall, we've found Chrysler's newest minivans much more satisfying from behind the wheel.” AutoWeek says, “it handles nicely, with docile, carlike manners—fairly precise tracking, no wandering or floating,” but adds that “it feels not much different mechanically from the previous generation.”

TheCarConnection.com’s experts spent a week and nearly 1,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2008 Chrysler Town & Country Touring with the 3.8-liter V-6. Fitted with the six-speed automatic transmission, the combination provided more than adequate performance for this class of vehicle. The engine is nearly silent at speed, and the refined suspension tuning lets the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country take a confident set when pushed hard into corners. The feeling was more like a buttoned-down, sporting sedan than a seven-passenger family conveyance. Not that one would encourage such behavior, but the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country knows how to hustle.

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country shows interior quality is improving, but it is still a bit below that of the more expensive Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

When it comes to getting the job done for families, editors across the Web agreed that the new 2008 Chrysler Town & Country (and the Dodge Grand Caravan) nailed the mission. BusinessWeek astutely noted, “What sells this van is its interior, notably the available multimedia audio/video/navigation system and handy seating options.” Curiously, no reviews mentioned interior room, most likely because it’s abundant and obvious.

The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country excels in comfort in all three rows of seating. Even the third-row seat has ample headroom and bottom cushion length and angle for a 5’10” adult. One point, if maximum comfort for the most people is critical: TheCarConnection.com’s editors recommend you choose the Swivel ‘n Go seats, as the option's second-row chairs are more comfortable than the others offered.

Instead, testers focused on how the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country’s features helped it accomplish its goal of comfortably moving families and friends. Car and Driver observed, “The new minivan is as kid-friendly as they come. We quite like the removable front console that slides to the second row. The minivans also have 13 cup holders and plenty of storage to hide a purse. There is ambient lighting to help set the mood, as well as LED reading lamps similar to those in airplanes. The interior shows well in the harsh light of day, with vast improvements to its perceived quality.”

Without a doubt, the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country has nearly closed the quality gap. Cars.com said it this way: “The interior quality is better than Chrysler's usual fare, but the automaker still has some ground to make up. The window switches feel luxo-European, and the faux wood and metal inlays are respectably subdued. There's an endless array of cheap plastic panels, though, and in many places they look downright tacky.” AutoWeek complained, “We did find the climate controls a little low, and the small buttons required taking our eyes off the road longer than we liked. Overall, the interior has good looking plastics, though we noticed a handful of rattles and creaks.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors felt the presence of plastic everywhere, but nearly all visible pieces are good quality, and there is enough variety in color and texture to keep up a degree of visual interest without looking busy. Chrysler’s choice of materials should wear well over time, resisting the ravages that kids can dish out on a vehicular interior that doubles as their mobile restaurant and playpen. The most serious knock against the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country is its flimsy-feeling gearshift lever. It sprouts out of the dash at shoulder lever, and while it’s easy enough to use, it felt and sounded cheap every time we used it.

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Safety

The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country is fully equipped to be a safe family hauler.

Safety is a leading priority for those shopping minivans. All the reviews we studied pointed to the long list of safety features included on the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country. USAToday said, “Intended as family machines, the new vans rightly have the array of bags and electronic nannies you associate with safety for your loved ones.”

Cars.com listed key items: “Standard safety features include side curtain airbags for all three seat rows, which also deploy in a rollover. There's also standard antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. There are two options to ease backing up and parking: a sonar ParkSense audible system and the ParkView rearview camera.” This latter uses the audio system’s LCD screen in the center stack to display a view of what’s behind you, and it is not bundled with the optional navigation system, so it remains more affordable. The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country also offers a seating option that includes integrated child booster seats.

TheCarConnection.com’s team looked carefully at the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country, and could identify only one factor that kept this minivan from ranking a solid 10/10: the availability of all-wheel drive. We, however, recognize that for most buyers, AWD offers no benefit, and there is a large development cost behind offering what would turn out to be a low-volume option. Thus, we think Chrysler made the right choice (and spent its money wisely).

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

Features

The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country offers everything a family could want within those squared-up walls.

Reviewers across the Web felt that there isn’t another minivan on the market that can match the Chrysler feature for feature. The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country is loaded with items that meet the needs of families on the go who can genuinely use the underfloor storage, multiple 12-volt outlets, grocery bag hooks behind the front seats, power sliding doors, and all its unique features.

Cars.com listed “Lots of kid-friendly features" and "Innovative storage solutions” for the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Spot on. What’s not to like about available Sirius TV, dual-rear LCD monitors, several versions of the MyGIG entertainment system, and a second-row 115-volt outlet to keep game consoles running or laptops charged? Chrysler reintroduced the world to the minivan in 1983, and the company really does know its stuff when it comes to including features that make a difference to families on a practical basis.

Car and Driver does some arithmetic and concludes, “The 2008 models have 35 new or improved features, but equally compelling is pricing that comes in below 2007 stickers.” Motor Trend adds, “Based on our drives in a range of preproduction 2008 units, Chrysler looks to have leaped straight back to the front of the minivan pack. Astutely reworking its family favorite, the automaker has retained the good stuff (the innovative quick-fold Stow 'n Go seats unveiled for 2004), jettisoned the Achilles' heels (dated jellybean design, weak powertrains), and added a ton of desirable new features--all while trimming the bottom line.”

While a shopper can get lost within the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country’s three trim levels (LX, Touring, and Limited), the option groups, and individual options, TheCarConnection.com recommends selecting your seating configuration first. USAToday described them succinctly: “Basic layout is a two-passenger second-row bench seat with a three-passenger third row that folds into the floor. There's under-floor storage in front of the second row. Optional Stow 'n Go ($795 on Chryslers, $945 on Dodges) retains the disappearing third row, and allows you to tuck the second row under the floor for room enough to swallow 4x8-foot sheets of building material. Swivel 'n Go ($495) surrenders the second-row Stow 'n Go feature, but retains under-floor storage.”

The last option (Swivel 'n Go) enables second-row passengers to face rearward. Additionally, this option includes a pedestal-mount table that can be secured in the floor between the second and third rows—a great feature when those in back want to play a four-person game or share snacks. But beware, legroom gets tight when the chairs face each other. AutoWeek commented that the Swivel ‘n Go table “is very sturdy and locks in to place nicely.”

After selecting your seating arrangement, keep the final sticker price in line by choosing options carefully. TheCarConnection.com thinks you should also steer way from options that you’ll rarely use, like the navigation system.

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8.2
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
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