Redesigned front-wheel-drive minivans from DaimlerChrysler may look similar to their predecessors, but the differences inside take precedence. More than 15 new features appear on 2005 models; the most notable is the “Stow ’n Go” fold-flat-into-the-floor configuration for the second- and third-row seats. These models are the first minivans to have both seats fold into the floor. They can be folded down with one hand in as little as 30 seconds.
Built on an all-new platform, the Chrysler Town & Country comes in two sizes. Stow ’n Go seating is standard in the long-wheelbase LX, Touring and Limited models. Side curtain-type airbags protect outboard occupants in all three rows of seats, and the driver gets an inflatable knee blocker.
Developers claim the 2005 minivans are 16 percent quieter than their predecessors. Rear parking assist with an audible warning and a rear overhead display is available.
Sales of the 2005 minivans began early in 2004. The Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan are similar but not as posh as the Town & Country. DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group invented the minivan more than 20 years ago and has sold more than 10 million. Today’s minivan market share for Chrysler and Dodge models is 38 percent.
The styling of the new Town & Country is similar to the previous version, but the 2005 models have an entirely new underbody. Trevor Creed, Chrysler Group senior vice president of design, refers to the process as “designing our minivans from the inside out.” Standard-length models ride a 113.3-inch wheelbase, while extended-length minivans have a 119.3-inch wheelbase.
A winged Chrysler badge spans the full width of the grille, which has four chrome horizontal bars. Sculpted headlights and a new front fascia that contains round fog lamps are installed. Limited models have chromed fascia inserts. Town & Country minivans get a roof rack. Touring and Limited models have 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels, and other versions ride on 15-inch steel wheels.
All Town & Country minivans seat seven occupants. DaimlerChrysler claims that the new models offer as many as 256 possible seating configurations. Bucket seats are installed in the second row, and the third row features a 60/40-split bench seat that can be folded partially or completely.
With Stow ’n Go seating, the headrests do not need to be removed in order to fold down the seats. When the second-row seats are upright, two storage bins with integrated lids provide an additional 12 cubic feet of storage space. Standard cargo net bags adjust to fit each storage bin. Outboard breakaway cupholders remain intact when the second-row seats are folded. Split-bench tailgate seating is possible by flipping the third-row seat rearward, and the liftgate can provide protection against the elements.
Super High Density Foam cushions, developed for astronauts by NASA, are used in Chrysler’s minivan seats. The second-row seats move fore and aft with 100 mm of travel, recline up to 40 degrees and have 13 positions. The third-row seatbacks recline up to 39 degrees and feature 12 positions. By pulling a single strap, the second-row seat tumbles out of the way for entry to the third row.
Three adjustable and removable bins fit into an overhead rail system, and one can hold an optional DVD entertainment system’s screen. A navigation system with a 4.2-inch screen is also available. Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 15.3 cubic feet for standard-length models and 26.4 cubic feet for extended-wheelbase minivans. With all of the seats removed, the longer minivan offers 167.7 cubic feet of cargo area.
New Sycamore wood goes on the center stack bezel and is complemented by satin-silver accents. Touring models have a satin-silver look on the bezel.
Under the Hood
Standard-length models and the extended-wheelbase LX version use a 180-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine. Touring and Limited extended-length models get a 3.8-liter V-6 that generates 215 hp and 245 pounds-feet of torque. All minivans are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard. Side curtain-type airbags protect occupants in all three rows of seats. An inflatable knee blocker helps protect the driver. Multistage front airbags and a BeltAlert reminder are standard. LATCH child-safety seat anchors are installed in the second row of all Town & Country models and in the third row of minivans equipped with Stow ’n Go seating. A door-alert system that indicates when the sliding door is moving will be added during the 2005 model year.