I recently rented a 2012 Chrysler Town and Country for one day. The van was equipped like the Touring model with the SafetyTec packeage, which has an MSRP of around $32,000. My rental had around 1400 miles on it when received and I added over 600 miles myself, driving on probably 70% highways, 20% rural back roads and 10% suburban streets.
The Generation V Chrysler Minivans (Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country) debuted for the 2008 model year. For 2011, the vans featured several significant updates, including a redesigned interior and new engine. I also rented the Town and Country's sister, the Dodge Grand Caravan (2011) last fall, which is nearly identical but with slightly different features. The 2012 models are pretty much carry overs from 2011.
As with the Grand Caravan, overall I was very happy with the Town and Country. You can read my review of the Grand Caravan here
, which covers a lot of the same content. I'll also review the differences and additional features that my Town and Country rental had here. The Drive
Performance wise the 3.6 Liter V6 standard on all Town and Country's can really haul, although you have to put your foot in it to get to the power. The transmission tends to stay in the top few gears in normal driving at speed, which keeps the car 1000-2000 RPMS most of the time. The power at these low engine speeds feels sluggish and certainly not inspiring. Put your foot to the floor though and the van accelerates like you're in a different vehicle, much better then I expected and as good as I can imagine anyone could want from a minivan. Merging onto highways, passing and climbing hills and actually pretty fun with this much power! Engine Performance: 5/5
The Town and Country's handling was also good. The minivan generally handled well, although in moderate to slightly aggressive cornering on a few on ramps, I felt some body roll and the front end tended to wash out more then I remembered on the Grand Caravan. Without driving them back to back, I'm unsure if the van's suspensions are tuned differently; if they are, my guess is the Town and Country might be a little softer. Steering feel is moderate, a bit over boosted at speed, yet probably a bit heavier then I would expect in a minivan. At slow speeds, as someone used to compact cars I did find the van a bit difficult to maneuver. With a huge 121 inch wheelbase and at 202 inches long, the turning radius was large, and it was so wide, it barely fit through the door of my garage with an inch on each side of the mirrors to spare. That is all expected of such a large vehicle though. Overall, very acceptable handling for a minivan. Handling: 3/5
The ride was pretty comfortable and smooth. Bumps are transferred to the cabin somewhat but certainly not so much as to be jarring. With a pretty primitive looking rear suspension I wouldn't be surprised if other minivans like the Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey had a smoother ride though. I did seem to feel the Town and Country rode a bit smoother then the Grand Caravan, but again without driving them back to back I'm not positive. Ride: 4/5
The 2011 and up Gen V Chrysler vans now come with a 6 speed transmissions. The gears are pretty close together and you can barely feel the 5 shifts when accelerating from a standstill. The top gear is particularly tall, which keeps cruising RPMs down, but it does mean the transmission must downshift to accelerate when passing cars or maintaining speed up moderate hills. This means the van can bounce around hunting between gears sometimes, but as mentioned, they aren't particularly jerky shifts or anything. As noted above, the transmission does like to stay in higher gears and you really have to add a good deal of throttle to get it to downshift, particularly in the econ mode. Normally I wouldn't bother to manual shift an automatic transmission, but with the Town and Country I found that bumping down a gear for hills instead of jabbing the throttle to get the tranny to do it for you is actually a logical thing. Transmission: 4/5
The 6 speed transmission with economical shifting does help with fuel mileage though. According to the trip computer display, my mileage averaged around 26 MPG while cruising at 70-80 MPH on the highway, and went up to 27-28MPG when slowing down to 50-60MPH on rural backroads with few traffic lights. I had the econ button on most of the time, which did seem to boost economy slightly by further keeping the revs down with early upshifting. By my manual calculation, I averaged just on 26 MPG, so perhaps the computer display is a touch optimistic. But considering the 283HP V6 pulling 4500lbs, I think this is great mileage! Fuel Economy: 4/5
I have no doubt the brakes stop the van sufficiently; however, I didn't find they had particularly good feel. Some might call them mushy and not confidence inspiring. Braking: 3/5 Interior
The Town and Country was a very comfortable ride. Both front seats were 8 way power adjustable, the steering wheel had tilt and telesoping adjustments and the pedals were power adjustable. I definitely had no problem getting in the perfect position for my 10 hour driving day. The spec sheet says the Town and Country come standard with a two way adjustable driver's lumbar support, which I wish I'd known about, my lower back usually fatigues first on long drives; however even without adjusting the lumbar, I made it through the day fine, with only a little discomfort at the end of a 4 hour long nonstop drive. Front seat leg, head and shoulder room were obviously more then antiquate. As noted in my Grand Caravan review, my only complaint is that the brake pedal was very far forward compared to the accelerator. Although a lot of new cars seem this way I find it awkward, less comfortable and don't really understand the reasoning. I only briefly sat in the middle and third row seats while pulling them back up to return the van, but in my opinion there was more then enough room to seat adults in every seat comfortably. More passenger room would probably be excessive. Overall Interior Comfort 4/5
Cruising at up to 80MPH was very quiet, the cabin felt well insulated, wind noise was minimal, and although the engine can be pretty loud under acceleration, while cruising it was not noisy at all. Interior Noise 5/5
The interior look is very similar to the Grand Caravan, but with a bit more of a luxurious rather then sporty feel with some details such as the gauges and chrome trim. Overall I say it works. The Town and Country came with a 3 zone climate control which was not on my Grand Caravan rental. Although it wasn't super hot (in the 70s) the climate control worked well, and overall the HVAC and other buttons are well laid out, easy to reach, and have a pretty solid feel. The gear selector is located high up on the dash near the right side of the steering wheel. It's position seems strange although I will say it is convenient for shifting in manual mode without taking your right hand fully off the wheel. I really like the information screen on the gauge cluster which can actually show many helpful things including fuel economy, tire pressures, water temperature and oil pressure, and is very easy to navigate through using the steering wheel controls. The stereo, like most new cars I've been in sounded good and the audio controls on the back of the wheel were intuitive to use. The media center display with touchscreen was nice and easy to use and particularly useful for browsing the satellite radio stations. I particularly liked that I could not only plug in a device in the USB with my music on it, but I could navigate through the media on the touchscreen easily. I was disappointed that on a $32,000 minivan, navigation was still a $750 option even after the screen is already there for the media center. Interior Design and Ergonomics 5/5
When I reviewed the 2011 Grand Caravan, I gave the redesigned interior high marks on quality, fit and finish, noting much improvement over Chrysler's reputation for cheap interiors and many negative reviews in this regard of the Gen 5 interior before the redesign (2008-2010). While I think this holds true, I am changing my tune somewhat for the Town and Country. I calculated that the Town and Country as equipped is around $5000 more then the Grand Caravan I drove, so for that price, I do expect more in terms of the quality of materials used, but by and large most of the interior is the same. That said I have to say I find some auto reviewers way to picky about these things. The dashboard of the van looks decent enough, does it really matter that it doesn't have a soft touch feel? How often do you really touch your dashboard? But I have to agree with these reviews on the cheapness in a few areas, for example the gloveboxes just seemed a bit light and flimsy for what I'd expect on a this class of vehicle. I should mention that I heard no rattles on the almost brand new Town and Country or my 13,000 mile rental Grand Caravan so at least initial quality over the first year is good, which is way more important then the feel of the dashboard. However another area where I need to dock points for the Town and Country is the seat material. The black “leather” seating with the white stitching on the Town and Country looked great, but the once you sit in it, it just doesn't feel like quality leather you'd find in a luxury vehicle. It is stiff and plasticy, and on a somewhat warm day, did not provide good ventilation. To me it's not worth paying extra for the cheap feeling leather over the functional cloth in the Grand Caravan. I felt the same way about the surface of the steering wheel and gear selector, I actually preferred the textured finish on the Grand Caravan better. Overall for a luxury van, I feel the Town and County interior quality is decent but probably still a bit behind the bar. Interior Quality, Fit and Finish 3/5
The SafetyTec package my rental came equipped with contains two main features – a blind spot detection system, and a rear park assist system. Typically I would think the blind spot detection feature is not necessary, but I found in the Town & Country (and probably many minivans) the positioning of the b-pillar tends to obstruct my peripheral vision so there is some blind spot no matter how I adjust my mirrors. The blind spot detection system works well, by illuminating a yellow arrow on the outside of the side view mirrors when a car is alongside you. The system never gave me any false positives, such as when passing parked cars or other objects, and worked even when there was a motorcycle in my blind spot. The rear park assist feature has two components, a back up camera and back up sensors which warn you of nearby objects. The parking sensors definitely came in handy when backing into my driveway in an unfamiliar vehicle, I misjudged and got very close to my neighbors porch which is right next to my driveway, and the vehicle warned me with beeping and a visual on the information panel of the gauge cluster. On the other hand, I had trouble using the rear view camera, which is displayed on the media center screen at the top of the center console. I wasn't comfortable just looking at the camera and not looking back, and when I got out of the car to check, what I saw in the camera wasn't exactly what I expected. I also found the red yellow and green hash lines that are supposed to guide you where your going somewhat confusing. However, I do think with some practice I could get used to using the system, and ultimately I think it can be very helpful, particularly for gauging distance. So overall I think the SafetyTec package is definitely a nice thing to have and can definitely be helpful. My biggest concern is what happens when people become reliant on these features, and then they can't drive a car without them or worse their own car if they malfunction! SafetyTec features 4/5
One of the biggest pluses for me with a minivan, and the Chrysler's especially is the cargo space. Both rows of seats fold completely into the floor leaving a complete flat, huge cargo area. Other vans of the same size such as the Sienna and Odyssey boast similar cargo volume, but I'm not sure if the space is as usable and practical as the Town & Country. The Town & Country's Sto-and-Go 2ndrow seating is relatively simple to use and much more convenient then removing the seats completely and storing them outside the vehicle, not to mention the areas under the floor make for pretty large storage bins when the seats are up. I'm surprised other manufacturers are not offering something similar after all these years. The vans cargo box is almost 50 inches wide at it's narrowest point, as the rear wheels do not protrude far into the interior area. I was able to transport my go kart, about 70 x 50 inches in size with ease. With the low floor and rear tailgate level I was even able to unload the kart myself pretty easily. Finally the power liftgate and side sliding doors were convenient and worked great. I can't think of another vehicle that would be more ideal for hauling this type of load. Cargo area and practicality: 5/5 Summary
I read a lot of negative reviews of the Generation V Chrysler minivans, mostly of the 2007-2010 models. I believe Chrysler has addressed most of the negative aspects pointed out in these reviews. For 2011 and up the new 3.6L engine is standard on all models and is certainly not underpowered. The interior has been reworked with improved materials. Otherwise, I find many of the complaints for the vans insignificant. It might have slightly less middle row or rear seating room then some competitors, but it is more the sufficient. The engine might be noisy at WOT, but who cares, at cruising speed it is quiet.
Having driven the mid-trim level 2011 Grand Caravan, I would give preference to it over the Town & Country because I feel it is a better value. I like many of the additional features the Town & Country adds but I question if they are worth the price difference between the two. For the price as equipped, I would have liked higher quality leather, navigation and some upgraded interior components. If you are looking for a minivan at this price, I definitely think the Town & Country should be a strong contender, but I wonder if the Honda Oddessy or Toyota Sienna are better vehicles for the same price.
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