Every Fall I anxiously await the unveiling of the next year's new car models. I like to checkout and test drive at least two of the new cars every month. This time, my young cousin, who is the mother of three little ones, asked me to help her make a decision regarding the purchase of a new Minivan. Her husband is serving in the military overseas, and I was complimented that they chose to ask my advice and opinion about such a major purchase as a new car.
I admit it, I do not know much about Minivans, but I do know that Chrysler (now Daimler/Chrysler) is the company that created them, and so with this in mind, I suggested to my cousin that we start with the company that has the most experience in the field. Chrysler as a 17 year track record of making Minivans, and they have sold over 8.5 million of them to date, and so, they must be doing something right.
They say that the only job where you start at the top is digging a hole. Nevertheless, I felt that it would be nice to start with the top of the line Chrysler Minivan, namely the 2001 Town & Country, Limited Edition, and work our way down. In so doing, I felt that we could figure out just what features were available, and which ones were actually essential to meet the needs of my cousin's young family.
I am a person who is attracted to good looks, and upon entering the showroom, my eyes were immediately drawn to the stunning appearance of the 2001 Chrysler Town & Country, Limited Edition. The model I was attracted to was painted a gorgeous Sterling Blue Satin Glow, which is actually a silver color with a subtle blue tint to it. This was a very unusual color, and I have never seen anything like it before. The interior was a Navy Blue Seton Sutton Leather, with Preferred Suede accents. I have always felt that leather was a very important feature in a car if the owner is transporting young children round. This may surprise you, but some children, perhaps not yours, are prone to spilling the contents of their Happy Meals all over the upholstery and rugs of a car, and leaving stains of all sorts in difficult to clean places. Leather makes it easy to clean up the mess that can potentially be left after a long trip to grandma's, or a ride home from the kid's soccer game.
After walking around the 2001 Town & Country, I was even more impressed by the sensible yet fashionable appearance of this vehicle. The styling was sophisticated and elegant, yet at the same time, it was strong and well built. The overall construction also appeared to be quite solid and firm. I was pleased to find that it has front and rear bumpers that are designed to withstand a 5-mph impact, which is a nice feature to have when you are in the Supermarket parking lot, and fellow drivers are more preoccupied with looking for a parking space close to the entrance of the store, rather than keeping their eye on the road that's in front of them.
I was also pleased to note that the 2001 Town & Country, Limited Edition comes equipped with both driver and passenger side rear sliding doors. All of the doors opened smoothly and effortlessly, and closed easily, tightly, and securely. The paint job was flawless and very impressive, with a durable looking baked on gloss. The length of the Town & Country is 16 feet, 8.5 inches, which may seem a bit big when you are trying to park in the city, but which may also seem quite necessary when you think about packing the car full of kids and all their related essential paraphernalia on those long trips to grandma's house.
No inspection is of course complete without a look under the hood. The 2001 Town & Country, Limited Edition comes with a powerful 3.8 liter, 12 valve, V-6 engine, which generates 215 horsepower, and is capable of producing 245 pounds of torque. The engine is strong enough to handle just about any towing needs that you might have. By adding the Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package, the Town & Country has a gross combined weight (vehicle & trailer) rating of 8,600 pounds, with a maximum loaded trailer weight of 3,550 pounds. That's a lot of groceries. The transmission on the model I was looking at was a 4-Speed Automatic with All Wheel Drive (AWD), which automatically sends torque to or from whichever axle needs it during slippery conditions.
It was mow time to inspect the interior of the vehicle. The model I was looking at had door trim panels, foldaway power heated mirrors, power windows (including front and rear quarter vents), and power door locks. There were also heated, 8-way power seats for the driver and front passenger. The intermediate seats were also buckets, and the rear seat was a bench with a center armrest. The overall appearance of the interior was quite inviting, and beckoned for me to slip into the driver's seat, which I naturally did. The seat's in this vehicle are remarkably comfortable, and that includes the various passenger intermediate and rear seats, which I tried out later on.
The controls of the 2001 Town & Country, Limited Edition are all quite ergonomically positioned, and are both comfortable to touch and to manipulate, and are easy to reach. I was especially delighted to see that the speed and cruise controls, as well as the audio controls, were mounted on the leather wrapped, tilt adjustable steering wheel. The controls on the dash are all easy to read, and are well positioned as well. There was a removable center floor console with a power outlet, as well as a very attractive and quite functional overhead console, complete with an EVIC mini-trip computer.
The sound system was also quite impressive, and the vehicle I was looking at had an AM/FM stereo radio, with cassette, and an in-dash 4-disc CD changer and an Infinity Acoustic 10 Speaker System. The sound of the music was clear, crisp, and rich. The option that really impressed me however was the optional Mopar Rear Seat Video System which lets the rear seat passengers enjoy watching their favorite video releases, or even playing their favorite video games. This is sure to keep the kids from asking the infamous "Are we there yet" question every few minutes. Where was this feature when I was a kid.
I know I've said it before, but I hate the noise of a loud rattling fan, especially when I am trying to listen to music, and I was very pleased to feel the strong current of air that freely, and almost silently flowed from the vents of the climate control system. I was very impressed by the Three-Zone Automatic Temperature Control system, which permits separate regulation of the environmental temperature for driver, front seat passenger, and rear occupants. The filtration system also effectively removes small particulates and pollen from the air. The glass also has a sunscreen feature that lets light in, but keeps some of the Sun's heat out.
There is plenty of storage space both on and in the Town & Country, Limited Edition. The Limited Edition comes with a body-colored roof rack, for tying things down outside of the vehicle. The rear bench and intermediate seats are also easily removable for those times when you have a really big load to carry. Removing these seats will give you just a bit under 168 cubic feet of usable storage space, which is really quite amazing when you think about it.
It was now time for the ultimate part of any vehicles inspection, the Road Test. The engine turned over very easily, and purred with a quiet strength. Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen a number of Minivans resting on their sides, looking like beached whales, which was the result of a roll-over accident, possibly due to someone jamming on their breaks, or when trying to execute a sharp turn a bit too quickly. This is never a pretty sight. Given that my cousin and her three young children were going to potentially be driving this vehicle, or one very much like it, I wished to test out just how anything this big could handle a sudden stop. I got the vehicle up to 30 mph, uttered a silent prayer, warned my cousin what I was about to do, and jammed on the breaks. The power assisted Antilock Breaking System gripped cleanly and smoothly, and thanks to the AWD, which provides additional directional stability and control, the vehicle remained straight, with no discernable evidence of fishtailing or pulling to one side. I breathed a sigh of relief. The only damage that I sustained was the result of my cousin punching me in the ribs for putting her through this experience. But then again, this is a small price to pay, and it is just one of the many risks that a scientist must take in the pursuit of the advancement of research, knowledge, and understanding. Well, at least that's what I tried to explain to my cousin as I was attempting to catch the breath that she had knocked out of me with her sucker punch.
I decided to see how the Town & Country handled entering the nearby Interstate Highway. I was very pleased to see that it had very powerful and quick acceleration, and the transmission was smooth and seamless as it shifted gears. In many respects, I felt like I was driving a luxury car, and yet, a quick glance in the rearview mirror reminded me that I was in fact driving a Minivan. But it was a Minivan like no other. I was becoming more and more impressed by the grace and manageability of the 2001 Town & Country.
On the way back to the dealership, and with considerable risk of again being punched by my dear cousin, I purposely decided to go down a road that I knew to be riddled with pot holes and bumps. The front suspension was firm, and yet supple, and the load leveling rear suspension system automatically adjusted to the bumps and holes in the road, which improved the handling and added to my confidence in this vehicle. Even over these bumpy surfaces, the ride was surprisingly smooth and manageable. By the way, my cousin did not physically hit me this time, but I was subjected to an undeserved tongue lashing for my efforts.
If I am not mistaken, I believe that it was the introduction of the Minivan which helped to save the Chrysler Corporation from extinction. Although the new DaimlerChrysler Corporation is losing money big time, and the value of the stock has plummeted, the company may yet once again be rescued by the brilliant American engineers who helped to develop the 2001 Chrysler Town & Country, Limited Edition.
My cousin and I will be looking at more Minivans shortly, as to make a buying decision based on one test drive would not be a prudent thing to do. However, from what I have just seen, the competition has a lot to be worried about. Good luck, and best wishes.