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Chrysler's Town & Country minivan returns with a few new standard features this year, and last year's renovation from nose to tail is holding up well--as is its reputation for safety.
With better styling and a smoother powertrain than in the recent past, the Town & Country still is a near-twin to the Dodge Grand Caravan. The differences come primarily in pricing and features. The Grand Caravan is the minivan value leader, with prices as low as $22,000. The Town & Country goes upscale to places its name implies, up and above the $30,000 barrier to a niche where "luxury" and "minivan" don't sound so mutually exclusive.
That said, there's not enough distinction between the looks of the Grand Caravan and this Town & Country to make for much cocktail-party talk. It's more refined than before, for sure, but the Town & Country remains an upright, square-jawed vehicle, one that stands out as the elder statesman in a crowd of Siennas, Quests and Odysseys. It's gussied up with Chrysler's latest winged logo and the grille is a bit more discreet, and its taillamps are lit by LEDs. It's inside where the differences from the Dodge minivan are a little more striking: the dimensions are shared but the finishes and styling are nicer, with more chrome bangles circling major controls and none of the pervasive cheapness of the pre-2011 Chrysler vans. It's pretty rich inside the T&C, right down to the analog clock that mimics the shape of the grille.
The Chrysler minivan shares its powertrain with the Dodge, which means a 283-horsepower V-6, a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive--there's no all-wheel-drive option as the Sienna still offers. Chrysler's "Pentastar" powertrain is fine for lugging a full family around from mall to mall, and the steering's a bit quicker to respond than before, but the Chrysler vans' handling is softly tuned, and the suspension bounds more than the fairly responsive Odyssey and Sienna. The V-6 delivers better acceleration by a wide margin, but fuel economy is flat against the Town & Country's pre-2011 numbers.
With standard Stow 'N Go seating system, the Chrysler minivans lead the minivan pack in flexibility. Stow 'N Go means the two rearmost rows of seats can be folded into the floor. The former Swivel 'N Go picnic table package is no longer available for reservations, however. This year, all Chrysler minivans have standard leather upholstery--and a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS.
The Town & Country is offered in Touring, Touring-L and Limited trims. Most of the features offered as options on the Dodge are standard on the Chrysler, including 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; and a power driver seat. Bluetooth and a USB port are standard. A safety option package includes parking sensors, rearview camera, and blind-spot monitors. Options include a sunroof; leather seats; a navigation system; BackseatTV; a DVD entertainment system; and pushbutton start.Given its closeness to the new Grand Caravan, our editors are leaving those driving impressions with the high-volume Dodge. For more information, steer over to TheCarConnection's 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan page--and for a more in-depth look at this minivan, see FamilyCarGuide's first drive of the 2011 Chrysler Town & Country.