2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

Town & Country minivan carries family, friends and stuff easily and efficiently

Minivans are much maligned by the image conscious, or should we say, self-conscious car buyers. These folks let image stand in their way of buying the most family friendly vehicles on the market.chry1

This week’s Chrysler Town & Country Limited is at the top of the minivan food chain, meaning it’s loaded with extras and luxury items that most families would be proud to wallow in, if they weren’t in a minivan. But heck, a minivan is easy to climb aboard, and this one has a luxurious ride along with good power and tons of storage room. Ah yes, and it will carry a family of seven. Not much else can boast that, and be this comfortable.

First, consider that the tested cashmere (metallic tan) test van had power sliding side doors. This makes it incredibly easy to load up the family for all those kid events, and if you have young children, it’s equally easy to strap them into their child seats. In a sport-utility vehicle, for instance, you have the doors in your way along with a bigger step up, making it tougher for the kid to crawl aboard, and a bigger lift for the parent loading one aboard.

The Town & Country, or T&C, also boasts a power hatch to make loading groceries, luggage or athletic equipment easier too. This one goes a step further with power third-row seats that you control just inside the hatch, part of a $1,995 luxury package. Within seconds you can lower the third row for a hefty hauling area. Cargo space starts at 33.0 cubic feet behind that third seat (about double that of even the largest luxury sedans) and expands to 83.3 cubic feet with the third row down.

Flip-down screens add to long-term enjoyment on trips. Plus there's room for seven in a minivan.
Flip-down screens add to long-term enjoyment on trips. Plus there’s room for seven in a minivan.

Cargo space and easy loading is obvious, but let’s move on to the driving part. Ride is absolutely luxurious in the T&C. First, the van rides on a monster 121.2-inch wheelbase. For reference, a standard mid-size sedan usually rides on 106-109-inch wheelbase and have pretty darned good rides. Longer is better, so this one is excellent.

Power is good too with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with variable valve timing and a horsepower rating of 283. Just a few years ago Chrysler’s 4.0-liter V6 delivered just 255 horses, so this is getting more power from a smaller displacement engine. Naturally the van is relatively heavy, at 4,671 lbs., but you can hammer down and get onto the highway easily in this minivan. If you load it up with seven folks and gear it’ll need all those ponies to pull you up to that cruising speed, but you’ll be glad you have each one of those horses. Chrysler’s 6-speed automatic transmission also is well suited to the van and provides smooth shifting.

Steering is where you will know you’re not in a sport sedan as steering here is moderately vague. But the van is easy to handle on the highway and in parking lots. Steering effort is moderate so you won’t be fatigued by it on a long drive to grandma’s house.

Braking is first rate with four wheel discs and stability control is standard too.

Gas mileage is on par with a mid-size SUV, the EPA rating the Chrysler at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The more folks and cargo you have on board the lower those numbers are likely to be. I had this in snow and moderately cold weather and got just 18.1 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway, and with only me aboard. Friends with minivans report better highway figures, even with the family aboard.chry2

All that is what you’d expect from a van’s performance, but the interior is where the T&C excels at creature comforts and family coddling, and why not. It starts at $41,295 and has a $995 delivery fee. Add some options and the test van hit $45,230. This is NOT your parents’ minivan.
So that price could be a little rich for many families’ budgets, but there is a Touring model that starts at $31,760 and still features the same powertrain.

Inside, the test van featured an attractive dark chocolate brown dash over medium brown leather seats. There are wood-like inserts in the dash and doors and chrome gauge surrounds along with the center stack’s face. A matte silver finish is used on the tilt/telescope steering wheel’s hub.

I found the seats soft and comfortable, much better than in a T&C I’d tested several years back. The front and second row seats also are heated, as is all of the wood and leather steering wheel, a real treat for drivers in our climate. Note that most luxury cars with heated steering wheels do Not heat the wood portion. In addition, the T&C also has two memory settings for the driver’s seat.

On the practical side, Chrysler offers Stow ‘n’ Go seats that fold down into the van’s floor to boost cargo room. These are standard in the second and third row here. An option is Swivel ‘n’ Go seats that rotate – swivel if you will – to allow riders to get out of the sliding power side doors more easily, or turn around to face the third row seat.

Controls are tidy and well placed in the Chrysler.
Controls are tidy and well placed in the Chrysler.

There’s a tilt and telescope steering wheel with audio and other major controls such as cruise control and trip computer settings on the hub, plus power accelerator and brake pedals to help us short folks get comfy behind the wheel and still be able to reach the pedals. One of the features I’ve appreciated for years is Chrysler’s addition of radio volume and channel selection buttons on the back of the steering wheel, right where your fingers can easily find them as you drive.

The gear shift lever is mounted up on the dash, just right of the steering wheel, so easy to reach and the van comes with push button start, not to mention buttons on the key fob to activate the sliding doors individually as you approach the car with kids and groceries. And yes, the rear hatch is powered and also can be triggered by that fob.

Inside there are push buttons to open the van’s rear vent windows and surprise, surprise in this pricy luxury van, an entertainment system with screens that fold down from the car’s roof for both second and third-row riders. Not only can you play DVDs and listen on wireless headphones, but the T&C comes with a 1-year subscription to Sirius Travel Link to get some TV channels and naturally a 1-year hookup to Sirius satellite radio.
Up front there are dual glove boxes, four cup holders in a large removable center console (part of the luxury option package that also includes the power third row seats, plus a sunroof, load leveling and height control and overhead consoles. Sun visors are quite large, but still do not slide or include extenders.

Other standard features include a blind-spot warning system, power passenger’s front seat, 3-zone climate control system, 9 speakers and a subwoofer for the stereo, and a remote start system.

Chrysler's Pentastar V6 delivers good power for the van.
Chrysler’s Pentastar V6 delivers good power for the van.

Again, most of that is family friendly and Chrysler minivans also have a five-star crash safety rating, the best in the biz, thanks to copious amounts of airbags and side airbag curtains. That’s even more family friendly!

So if you’ve got a larger family, what’s not to like (beyond the price), no matter what you Think your image may be?

FAST Stats: 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Ltd.

Hits: Comfortable ride, good power and will haul 7 people and luggage. Attractive interior with primo seats that are heated (first two rows), plus a heated steering wheel, power hatch, blind-spot warning and video screens in back for the kids.

Misses: Moderately vague steering and, well, it looks like a minivan, so get over it.
Made in: Windsor, Ont.
Engine: 3.6-liter VVT V6, 283 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Weight: 4,671 lbs.
Wheelbase: 121.2 in.
Length: 202.5 in.
Cargo: 33.0 cu.ft. (83.3 cu.ft. third row seats down, 143.8 cu.ft. second/third row seats down)
MPG: 17/25 (EPA)
MPG: 18.1 (tested)
Base Price: $41,295
Dealer’s Price: $40,649
Major Options:
Compact spare tire, $295
Uconnect web, $650
Preferred package 29X (luxury group, sunroof, power folding third row seat, load leveling & height control, mini overhead console, rear overhead consoles, removable center front console), $1,995
Delivery: $995
Test vehicle: $45,230
Sources: Chrysler, http://www.kbb.com
Photos: Chrysler

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