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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. Continue reading 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

Simplicity, reliability, economy = Corolla

toyo1Our family owned a Toyota Corolla in the 1980s and it’s on that generation of Corolla’s reputation that Toyota has built its automotive empire.

Simplicity, reliability and economy were the building blocks and the revamped 2014 Corolla appears to continue that corporate line of thinking. There are no surprises here, except maybe that the compact sedan’s interior has been improved in look and feel, and its exterior rounded a bit more and given a sportier nose.

Beyond that, if you own the last generation Corolla you’ll feel the new one is much the same in ride and performance. It is a tad surprising that the ride did not improve more as the 2014 model’s wheelbase grows nearly 4 inches to 106.3 inches. That’s where most cars and crossovers begin to exhibit a more refined ride. This still feels like a small car.

Ironically too, this is about the size that Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and Mazda 6 sedans were, just a few years back. All the compacts are growing in every dimension attempting to keep up with the expanding size of U.S. drivers. s plan in Mississippi, but some models also will be shipped over the border from Canada. Reportedly no Corollas will be imported from Japan.

My test car was the sportier S model, in fact the S Premium with a starting price of $20,400. It was an attractive metallic blue, something Toyota calls Blue Crush Metallic, with black leather interior, which is standard on the S model.
A base Corolla L still starts at a more modest $17,610, including destination charges and comes with a four-speed automatic, pretty old school.toyo2

The S came with Toyota’s new CVT, a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters behind the wheel that allow you to shift through simulated gears, giving the car more oomph. It needed it, but only in standard ECO mode, which the car defaults to every time it’s started.

In ECO mode the 1.8-liter I4 with intelligent variable valve timing feels puny. It makes 132 horsepower, about the same as my 13-year-old Camry that is similar in size. Yet the torque feels much less aggressive as the CVT is programmed to slowly ramp the sedan up to speed, reducing gas consumption. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium