2010 Chrysler Town and Country Limited Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on June 03, 2010

There isn't a more practical vehicle on the planet. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

An upscale look and plenty of features. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Infotainment system is amongst the best. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Top-tier audio, automatic climate control and the DVD interface up front where parents can control it! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Low seatbacks are good for kids but not as comfortable for adults. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Stow 'n Go makes up for any middle seat issues, it's simply the most useful seating system in existence. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

A nice deep well for putting groceries. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Cargo space galore! (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Power rear seat is convenient when hands are full. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Twin video monitors allow better visibility and the ability for one to play a movie and the other a video game. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Cool LED flashlight comes in really handy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

There's no single reason why Chrysler's minivans are number one, there's a lot of reasons. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

Published on June 03, 2010

"Caution, ferry on the route. Follow the arrow on the display!" were the words my navigation system announced after inputting my desired destination while sitting in my test car on the vehicle deck of the Queen of Coquitlam ferry en route from West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The well-spoken cyber woman was all too serious about my mid-channel predicament, causing me to literally laugh out load as I pondered the floatation capability that must be engineered into my Town and Country in order for such information to have ever been programmed into the device. While no water sealed hull could be found underneath nor propellers or jets protruding from behind, the minivan was a fine traveling companion. Truly, if there's a better vehicle to travel in than a full-size minivan, I don't know what it is.

I use the contradicting terms "full-size" and "minivan" in the same sentence to make a point about how much these vans have grown since their inception. I passed a second-generation Town and Country on the way to the ferry terminal and was shocked at how the new van dwarfed the tiny family mover, making me wonder what happened along our collective path to betterment that would cause the need for such monumental growth. Or is it the outgrown notion that bigger is better? A bygone concept that has dictated automotive one-upmanship for as long as I can remember, only countered when I was a wayward youth and the Big 4 (ya, AMC was around back then) were forced to compete against the first Japanese and European imports. Chrysler Group's answer was to rid itself of the gargantuan Cordoba, Monaco and Newport, amongst others, for downsized models like the Volare and Aspen, which eventually gave way to the Omni, K-Car and from that last platform, the segment-creating Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyageur and Chrysler Town and Country, or T&C as it quickly became known in 1983.

Twenty-seven years later and the minivan has grown into the maxivan, a full-size multidimensional carryall that can seat up to eight adults in absolute comfort with luggage in back, with entrance via powered side sliders and, lest we not forget, entertainment for those in back from the latest state of the art surround sound audio and multi-screen LCD video for DVDs, games or what-have-you. Likewise, a list of previously unimaginable features, such as the same navigation system that warned me about an impending collision with the ferry I was parked on, can be had. I'm not complaining about the nav, as it got me to my final destination without pause, as did the Town & Country. It's a fabulous vehicle that, so outfitted in Limited guise, is luxuriously equipped.

Leather with suede-like Alcantara trim surrounds, as does authentic looking environmentally-friendly birds eye maple woodgrain accented with similarly real looking aluminum trim. The plastics aren't soft-touch, but where it counts, particularly the nice and wide front window sills, where the arms of height-challenged drivers like myself often rest, and the lower armrests are made of such a nicely textured plastic that you'll need to press or tap it in order to validate its harder consistency. Up on the dash and pretty well everywhere else the plastic is less inviting, although coated in a leather-like grained low-gloss finish that shouldn't cause buyers in this class to feel like they're living low rent.

In reality the T&C is hardly bargain basement like its Dodge Grand Caravan fraternal twin. Starting at $37,845 for the 2010 Town and Country and $20,945 for the 2010 Grand Caravan it's clear that Chrysler has placed its van in the entry-level premium sector, if there is such a thing. While no premium makers offer a minivan, each competitor will sell you a well-equipped version of its mainstream offering, but none comes with anywhere near the day-to-day convenience of the Chrysler group duo, and I'm specifically talking about the Stow 'n Go seating system.

Stow 'n Go, for those uninitiated few, is simply the easiest way to create a flat loading floor in autodom. Merely lower the 60/40 split rear seats into the rear well, my version featuring an optional powered mechanism that lowers and raises them by the push of a button, and do likewise to the two mid-mounted buckets, the latter deposited into lidded compartments below the floorboards reserved for second-row feet, and your trip to the hardware store doesn't require you to leave a set of unwieldy seats in the parking lot. A bonus is covered storage bins when those same seats are upright. The only drawback to the system are low seatbacks for second-row passengers, which some larger adults might find a tad uncomfortable but kiddies won't notice at all. If this is a problem, or if you just want to recreate moments spent in your Volkswagen camper van experienced as a kid, Chrysler will sell you a different seating system called Swivel 'n Go that transforms the back into a portable family room. The two centre buckets, larger and more comfortable than the Stow 'n Go seats, swivel 180 degrees on their bases to face rearward, and a table can be inserted between; playing cards and backgammon board not included. Actually, laugh not. Chrysler really should consider a strategic partnership with Hasbro or Milton Bradley to package in some popular games to promote its Swivel 'n Go feature.

On a more practical note, the Town & Country can stow a total of 3,968 litres (140.1 cu ft) behind the first row of seats when all seats are removed, in the case of Swivel 'n Go, or folded flat, with Stow 'n Go. Keep those seats in place and 2,367 litres (83.6 cu ft) of storage is available, while 915 litres (32.3 cu ft) can be found behind the third row. Of note, the T&C can tow 816 kilos (1,800 lbs) in stock trim or 1,588 kg (3,500 lbs) with the towing package.

On the road, the Town & Country delivers a solid, planted feel. It comes across as more substantial than the all-new 2011 Sienna I drove on my way to Chrysler's press car depot, with the tradeoff being a less agile demeanor at high-speed and the feeling of less maneuverability at low speed. It is quite capable in the curves, mind you, for a full-size, top-heavy vehicle, and is hardly difficult to maneuver in parking lots or while parallel parking, the latter especially easy thanks to the parking sensors in my test model, now updated with visual alert to enhance the audible alerts and an "Object Detected" warning that displays in the EVIC (electronic vehicle information centre), replacing the light bar in rear of the headliner, and the rearview camera that comes as part of the navigation system. An obvious benefit to the heavier feeling Town & Country is ride quality, and it's very, very good, while get up and go from the 4.0-litre V6 is more than adequate for moving my 2,096-kilo (4,621-lb) Limited van thanks to 251 horsepower at 6,000 rpm 259 lb-ft of torque at 4,200 rpm, albeit less refined sounding than some of its rivals. The engine adds an Interactive Decel Fuel Shut-Off (iDFSO) for 2010, mind you, to save fuel, which is rated at an estimated 12.2 L/100 km in the city and 7.9 on the highway; the T&C uses cheaper regular fuel. A six-speed automatic transmission allows it to be even thriftier while making light work of shifting duties, delivering smooth and seamless operation. Its shift lever is located up high on the dash for easy back and forth manual-mode selection that hardly requires the removal of the right hand from the steering wheel. On that note steering wheel spoke-mounted controls are fitted, the left side capable of toggling through the aforementioned EVIC housed below the speedometer in the instrument cluster, the latter of which incidentally adds a fuel saver indicator for 2010.

I like the powered second-row windows, which have become a minivan staple now, the T&C adding passenger-side one-touch express up and down for 2010. My tester featured the fabulous overhead console that stretches from front to rear and comes loaded with audio-visual gear along with myriad storage compartments, or alternatively on lesser models you can get a glass sunroof that now comes with automatic temperature control. 

With respect to features on lesser models, I should mention the base Touring trim level gets standard 16-inch wheels with a Silver Silk finish aluminum finish on 225/65R16 all-season tires; 17-inch Satin Silver finish aluminum rims riding on 225/65R17 all-season rubber are optional. The colour palette has been enhanced with Dark Titanium Metallic, Blackberry Pearl, White Gold Pearl and Dark Cordovan Pearl while Modern Blue Pearl, Light Sandstone Metallic and Clearwater Blue Pearl have been discontinued.

The base Touring model comes well stocked with three-zone manual temperature control, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, dual powered side sliding doors, a power liftgate, overhead front and rear consoles, keyless entry, easy-clean floor mats, garage door opener, overhead LED halo lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals, eight-way power driver's seat, Stain Repel upholstery, second-row Stow 'n Go seats, 60/40 split-folding third-row seat, a CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary input, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel with audio controls, powered front and second row windows, powered rear vent windows, a 115-volt power outlet, cruise control, fog lights, a black roof rack, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

On the safety front, all Town & Country models come with standard front and side curtain airbags, as well as standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, plus traction and stability control. The standard warranty covers 3 years or 60,000 km comprehensively and 5 years or 100,000 km for the powertrain.

The Limited, as my tester was equipped, starts at $43,845 and includes three-zone automatic climate control, xenon headlamps with SmartBeam high-beam control, chrome-finished roof rails with black crossbars, rain-sensing wipers, Sirius satellite radio, a premium removable floor console, EVIC, eight-way driver and passenger power-adjustable heated leather seats, driver's side memory, heated second-row seats, second- and third-row sunshades, a backup camera, rear park assist, a remote starter integrated into the Mercedes-sourced electronic key, a security alarm, plus a CD/DVD/HDD touch-screen Infinity sound system with iPod connectivity.

The nav system, optional by the way, saw me arriving at Departure Bay and "found itself" appearing a few hundred meters from water's edge and actually pointing sideways to the shore in the exact direction of the wharf, prepared to lead me to my destination, a feat it executed to perfection in the same manner that the Town and Country went about all of its duties. Truly, this is one of Chrysler group's best vehicles, a mainstay for the brand and one of the key reasons new parent company Fiat group saw such value in the automaker last year. It continues to be the trademark Chrysler vehicle, dominating the minivan market and making the lives of families everywhere more enjoyable.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Minivan, Chrysler, 2010, Town and Country, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

Organizations: Town and Country

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