The 2011 Chrysler Town & Country minivan returns with some of the same upgrades found on the best-selling Dodge Grand Caravan, but this year there's a notable change in the marketing tack taken with the more expensive minivan twin.
This time around, Chrysler and its new colleagues at Fiat have decided the Town & Country needs more breathing room in its price. As a result, the Town & Country stickers above $30,000, leaving the more economical versions to the Dodge brand.
To minivan-shopping families, the difference is mainly in the bottom line and in features. Both vans continue to offer the most flexible seating package in the segment, and safety is just as good as before--even if the major testing agencies haven't finished scoring the vans just yet. For all those reasons, the Chrysler Town & Country gets a high score of 9 from FamilyCarGuide, outdone only by a couple of competitors, including its own kin, the Grand Caravan.
Inside, the Chrysler minivans lead the pack in flexibility. The Town & Country has standard Stow 'N Go seats, which means the second and third rows of seats fold flat into the floor to maximize interior space or passenger space, depending on the need. The old Swivel 'N Go picnic table has been deleted, but whether they're in the adult-sized first- and second-row seats or the kid-sized third-row bench, up to eight passengers will be able to tuck into the T&C with ample head and leg room, and with good entry and exit thanks to wide-range, dual powered sliding side doors.
This year the interior's been dressed up nicely, too. The old, drab plastics are out, and the richness of the new finishes goes a long way to masking the same shapes we've seen since this generation of the Town & Country bowed in 2008. Some plastics surrounding the third-row seat aren't up to the same standard, but in the context of their kid- and cargo-carrying, it's fine.
The 2011 Chrysler minivans haven't yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), due to testing changes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the vans "good" scores for front and side impact protection, though, and the vans have standard curtain airbags and stability control. Also standard this year: parking sensors, a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors.
The Town & Country ladles on luxury features, too. The usual power features are teamed with adjustable pedals; a power driver seat; a music hard drive and an LCD display for audio features; automatic headlights; and a garage door opener. Bluetooth is an option, and an odd omission we think, due to its safety implications, and a USB port costs extra, too. A sunroof, leather trim, a navigation system and push-button start are available, and if you're going all the way to vacation via van, Chrysler wants you to opt for the DVD entertainment system and Sirius BackseatTV's three channels of kid-friendly programming.
The Town & Country gets its power from a 283-horsepower V-6, shuttled to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. It's ample power for tugging the usual minivan load, but fuel economy is about even to last year's numbers--still near the top of the minivan pack, though. The minivan's steering is as quick as a minivan buyer might want, and there's a suitable softness to the ride that only gets out of hand when you bounce over a string of long road bumps.
It's almost a twin of the Grand Caravan, but the Chrysler minivan's refined take on styling gives it a formal grille and broad swaths of chrome. The LED taillamps are new, but the silhouette isn't--and it's a bit more boxy than today's minivan norm, though that also leaves the interior with an airy, spacious feel.