A new DVD rear-seat video entertainment system has joined the options list for Chryslers most luxurious minivan, which was redesigned for 2001, along with its less-costly mates. The DVD unit is integrated into the dashboard and includes two wireless headphones. The system is provided by Chryslers Mopar parts division and may be installed after vehicle purchase. A VHS video system remains available, and a new rear-seat audio system includes wireless headphones.
Adjustable pedals with a 2.75-inch range and a memory feature are now standard in the Town & Country Limited. A pressure-based tire monitor is new for 2002 and is part of an Electronic Convenience Group. Using sensors attached to the wheel rims that send signals to a central receiver, it delivers audible and visual warnings of low tire pressure.
Five versions of the Town & Country are available: the value-priced eX and eL, LX, LXi and top-of-the-line Limited. Chrysler introduced the eX model in March 2001 to target the heart of the minivan market and offer ample equipment at an appealing price. Features on the eX include a power liftgate, removable center console, three-zone temperature control, all-disc brakes and a 215-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 engine. The eL model, which comes with a 180-hp, 3.3-liter engine and Quad Command front- and second-row bucket seats, joined the lineup in October 2001 and is billed by Chrysler as a high-value, entry-level model meant to rival the Honda Odyssey LX. Front-wheel drive is standard on all models, and an all-wheel-drive system is available for all models except the eX and eL.
Structurally, the Town & Country is closely related to the Chrysler Voyager, Dodge Caravan and Dodge Grand Caravan. Automotive News reports that during 2001, a year when most minivans saw declining sales, Chrysler sold 142,902 Town & Country minivans; this reflects an increase of 43 percent. The less-expensive Voyager was previously a Plymouth model, but Chrysler has offered the Town & Country since 1990.
Unlike the standard-size Voyager and Caravan, which come in two sizes, the Town & Country is offered only in extended length. It comes with a 119.3-inch wheelbase and a 200.6-inch overall length. The Town & Country model stands 68.9 inches tall and has dual-sliding side doors. The LX and LXi models feature lower-body cladding.
The LXi and Limited models have two power sliding doors, while the eX has a power door only on the passenger side. The base-level LX has manual sliding doors, with power operation available only for the right-side door. The power sliders have an obstacle detection when theyre opening or closing. They also come with a manual override feature that allows them to be opened and closed by hand while the power phase is in operation.
A powered rear liftgate comes standard on eX and Limited minivans and optional on other models. It can be operated either by remote control or interior switches. Sensors will halt its downward movement if an obstacle gets in the way.
All models seat seven occupants, and most have benches for the second and third rows. The Limited has leather upholstery rather than cloth. Its second-row bucket seats - which together with the front buckets comprise Chrysler's Quad Command seating style - are optional in other models. The Limited also includes an auto-dimming inside mirror and a memory feature for the drivers seat position, outside mirrors and radio presets.
Chryslers third-row seat does not fold into the floor like that on the Honda Odyssey and Mazda MPV, but a 50/50 third-row bench splits into two sections that can be removed separately, reclined or folded flat. When fitted with captains chairs, cupholders appear on the outboard sides of the second-row seats, which remain vertical when the seat tilts forward. With the seats removed, cargo capacity is 167.9 cubic feet.
Infrared-sensing, three-zone automatic temperature control is standard in the LXi and Limited models. The Town & Country also has an available in-dash four-CD player, as well as a choice of DVD or videotape backseat entertainment system.
A removable center console with a power outlet is standard in the eX and Limited. It can be mounted between either the front- or second-row seats. An optional rear parcel shelf can be positioned at the floor or midlevel and includes pop-up storage dividers.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available, and both work with a four-speed-automatic transmission. A 3.3-liter V-6 rated at 180 hp is standard in the eL, LX and LXi. The Limited and eX hold a 215-hp, 3.8-liter V-6, which is optional in the LXi. Chrysler announced the possibility of a more powerful 3.5-liter V-6 power plant, but that did not appear.
Antilock brakes, seat belt pretensioners for the front seats and child-safety seat anchors for the second- and third-row seats are standard. Dual-stage inflation is used for the front airbags, and side-impact airbags are standard on the Limited and optional on all other Town & Country models.
Luxury and overall excellence are the bywords for the Town & Country. The 2001 redesign didnt produce as much of a forward leap as the 1996 restyling, and competition has stiffened since then. Even so, all of DaimlerChryslers minivans led by the Town & Country remain the ones to beat.
Though the Town & Country is comparatively expensive, it delivers a lot for the money. Virtues begin with a lovely ride and abundant power from the 3.8-liter V-6 engine, which is eager and energetic and promises safe passing and merging. Acceleration with the smaller, 3.3-liter engine is lively enough from a standstill, and its just a bit less brisk when passing or merging. Chryslers four-speed-automatic transmission works in a practically seamless manner with barely noticeable shifts. AWD adds extra confidence on slick pavement, though the driver may see little evidence of its presence.
The Town & Countrys top-notch handling and stability surpass that of many minivans and are on par with many passenger cars. Steering is easy and pleasant, and it has a good feel. Each minivan feels secure on the highway and is easy to drive. The Town & Country maneuvers adroitly in urban driving in both sunny and nasty weather.
Attractive, nautical-style gauges help augment the sense of elegance. The seats are comfortable and agreeably cushioned. The captains chairs, in particular, yield super comfort even after hours of riding. The mirrors arent the largest, but the view is good in all directions.
These minivans run with satisfying quietness and appear to be well built and nicely refined. Chryslers minivans were once considered suspect because of quality issues, which seem to have been resolved. On the negative side, the parking-brake release lever is a long reach for the driver. One Limited minivan also suffered annoying wind whistle at highway speeds.
Whether the Town & Country is worth the extra money over a plainer, shorter Voyager depends on how much you value those extra comfort and convenience features.