2007 Chrysler Town & Country

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2005 Chrysler Town & Country

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2010.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.25
Pros:
  • Easy access to the interior
  • Stow 'n Go seats
  • Power sliding doors don't resist manual operation
Cons:
  • Tippy feel in the turns
  • Not a leader in quality studies
  • Ho-hum image

Who cares if people think you're a soccer mom as you drive the new Chrysler Town & Country minivan, I asked myself. So what if no one pays you any attention and instead stares at the red, showy Chevrolet Corvette in the other lane? Then I realized my conflicted feelings had nothing to do with the van I was test driving.

Arguably one of the most luxurious minivans around, the Town & Country is immensely comfortable for up to seven passengers, easy to climb into and out of, easy to drive and fuel-efficient for a sizable vehicle with ample and versatile cargo space.

Yet, I admit, there was that nagging concern about image.

Minivans, even the upscale Town & Country Limited test vehicle with navigation system, tri-zone automatic climate control, three slick power-operated doors and a rear-seat entertainment system, can't shake the "soccer mom vehicle" label that was stuck on them over the past 20 years of family use.

It's an unfair and inaccurate label, really. I've never carried kids to a soccer field and still found I enjoyed this minivan. And these days, more than half of Town & Country buyers are empty nesters with no kids at home, according to Chrysler spokeswoman Kathy Graham. She explained many buyers had liked the easy use of minivans while raising their children and have returned, now that they want a convenient vehicle for golf outings, comfortable evenings out with other couples, antiquing and garden chores. "They found out how much they miss the utility of their minivan," she said.

It's the same thing I discovered after concluding my Town & Country Limited test drive. I missed having the minivan around.

Not bargain priced
Shoppers can find many other, lower-priced minivans. For example, Kia's 2005 Sedona carried a starting manufacturer's retail price of less than $21,000. The Town & Country's siblings, the Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan, are priced lower, too, than the 2005 Town & Country's starting MSRP of close to $26,000 for a long-wheelbase model. (Note that few Town & Country minivans are the base, short-wheelbase model.)

Features such as manual air conditioning, push-button fob for entry, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with CD player and four speakers and frontal airbags are standard.

But the 2005 Honda Odyssey, which carried a starting MSRP of around $25,000, includes these features plus standard curtain airbags for all three rows of seats, side airbags mounted to the driver and front-passenger seats and a more powerful V6 engine.

And minivan pricing these days can easily head into luxury car range. For example, the test Town & Country Limited topped out at more than $37,000.

Upscale van
Chrysler was the first to start selling modern minivans in the early 1980s. These early vans focused on family needs such as affordability, passenger room and friendly features.

By the 1990 model year, however, Chrysler began carving out a premium part of the minivan market with the Town & Country, and top trim levels of this model rivaled pricing and features found on some entry-luxury cars.

Today, this premium minivan provides a quiet ride. I didn't hear much from the engine, except on acceleration, and I didn't hear much from passing cars or even nearby semi-trailers. Most outer noise came from the tires, which could hum mildly on certain road surfaces and prompt me to turn up the stereo. There also was wind noise around the windshield at highway speeds.

The ride is cushioned, and when I felt road bumps, it was as vibrations, not as abrupt jolts. On some mixed dirt-and-pavement streets, the Town & Country bobbed from one side to the other as the bumps were absorbed. But passengers don't feel a lot of rough stuff.

What they do notice is the tall, tippy feeling of this front-wheel-drive van as it turns and goes through curves. This is true even if the van is carrying only the driver. The sensation is even more noticeable when the Town & Country has a load of people and cargo. Bottom line: Don't expect a buttoned-down feel in this more than 4,200-pound vehicle.

On the other hand, the higher ride height—not requiring a climb to get inside as in some sport-utility vehicles—is a boon for driver visibility. I looked over many small cars and through the windows of many SUVs and trucks in order to see what traffic was ahead. Interestingly, though, I never saw the hood of the Town & Country from the driver seat. With the seat positioned for me to drive comfortably, all I could see at the low part of the windshield was the windshield wipers.

The steering, power rack and pinion, has a mainstream, not a sporty, feel, and I could move the steering wheel quite a bit at highway speeds without the van starting to move from its lane.

V6 engines only
The Town & Country comes with choice of two V6 engines, both mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

There's good get up and go from the Town & Country's uplevel 3.8-liter overhead valve V6 that was in the test van. The power doesn't come on in a sporty rush. Rather, it's a responsive, non-threatening, smooth power flow—enough that I felt comfortable merging into traffic quickly, if need be.

Specifically, this V6, found on the two top Town & Country vans—the Touring and Limited models—generates 207 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.

Note this is less than the 255 horses and 250 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm found in the V6 of the Honda Odyssey minivan but more than the 180 horses and 210 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm that's in the 3.3-liter V6 found in the base Town & Country and the LX model. Indeed, even the Kia Sedona's V6 has more horsepower than the Town & Country's base, 3.3-liter V6.

Unleaded regular gasoline is the recommended fuel on all Town & Country models. Fuel economy ratings range from 18 to 19 miles a gallon in city driving and 25 or 26 mpg on the highway, depending on the engine. This puts this minivan in the top 40 percent of the segment in fuel economy.

In the test van, the transmission worked well, with few noticeable shifts, in the test vehicle. But the steering column-mounted shift lever had such a light feel, I had to focus to be sure I engaged the correct gear every time I shifted. Often, the shifter would go into a gear past the one I intended.

And I wished braking power came on more quickly. As it was, in the tester, I could press more than halfway down on the brake pedal and feel no braking force. This would prompt me to jab down on the pedal and make a more abrupt stop than I liked.

Great features
After years of minivan second-row seats that slide, fold or have to be hauled out of the vehicle to maximize cargo space, Chrysler officials engineered a new concept: Stow'n'Go.

Basically, second-row bucket seats fold fully flat into the floor where they don't intrude a bit on cargo room or people walking back to the third row of seats. Head restraints don't have to be removed, either, during this storage process.

I found the Stow 'n Go arrangement provides a spacious feel to the van inside and gives limo-like legroom to people sitting in the third row. And if no one sits in the third row, the third-row, split bench can fold into the floor, too, giving a full 160.7 cubic feet of cargo space.

I also love the power sliding rear doors of the Town & Country. Not only do they open and close easily with the touch of the key fob or an interior button, they can be operated manually without the usual resistance that's found in other van power doors, such as the Odyssey's. This is tied to how Chrysler mounted the doors' electric motors.

A nice touch: Each time these rear doors are open, the van automatically turns on its emergency flashers, thereby alerting nearby drivers.

The Town & Country's rear liftgate can go up at the touch of a button, too, and has an accompanying warning beep to warn people walking nearby, so they don't get hit by the rising or closing door.

But the Town & Country's radio buttons and display screen seem small compared with those in many other new vehicles. The test vehicle had wires coming out of the back of the rearview mirror that showed through the windshield in a sloppy way, and there was a high-pitch squeak that emanated on occasion from one of the right rear passenger seats.

Despite its premium market positioning, the Town & Country has ranked only once among the top three minivans in J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study this decade—in calendar 2005. This study tallies problems owners report within the first three months of ownership. In addition, this decade, the Town & Country has never ranked among the top three minivans for long-term dependability.

A final note: All-wheel drive is no longer offered on the Town & Country. Graham said it was eliminated when Chrysler added the Stow 'n Go seats. These seats complicate the placement of all-wheel-drive mechanicals. Besides, she said, few shoppers demanded all-wheel drive on their new vans. All-wheel drive is offered as an option on Toyota's Sienna minivan, though.

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BB06 - 9/23/2014 5:50:59 PM