If you've read about the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, the only significant differences you'll find in this report are the photos. As always, the Chrysler Town & Country shares the Grand Caravan's equipment and features, though the exterior is distinguished more than ever. That said, you can see the relation clearly. The main difference is in the brand image; the Town & Country is more focused on comfort and amenities than on sport. It comes in three trim levels: the LX, Touring and Limited. The LX will almost certainly be priced at least a bit higher than the base Grand Caravan, and the Limited above that of the top-level Dodge.
The 2008's wheelbase and overall length are about 2 inches longer, but the van is narrower by a couple of inches. It's instantly recognizable as a Chrysler, as its nose resembles that of its Aspen, Pacifica and Sebring siblings. They didn't go overboard trying to make it look like something other than a minivan — yet its higher hood, squared-off rear end and the most stealthy sliding side doors we've seen all combine in a presence that's not too far from what passes as a crossover SUV nowadays. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard; 17-inch alloy rims are optional.
Likely buyers aren't too concerned with how a minivan looks on the outside. It's the inside that counts, particularly the seating. The Town & Country's standard and maximum occupant count is seven, which is probably the only truly comfortable and workable number even in vans and SUVs with eight positions. The seating flexibility and innovation don't disappoint. Having succeeded, in part, on the strength of its Stow 'n Go second-row seats — which fold into the floor — Chrysler now brings you optional Swivel 'n Go: second-row captain's chairs that rotate 180 degrees to face the third row.
Rearward-facing seats are long overdue. They allow passengers to face each other, and because the two seats rotate independently and slide fore and aft, even second-row passengers can face each other and talk or play patty-cake ... or whatever it is that family types do. Sitting backward is actually safer in a front-end collision, so as long as the seats face fully forward or fully back, there's no great safety concern. More in question, however, is the included table that can be positioned between the rows — mainly because it might induce people to take off their seat belts.
For the first time, the Town & Country offers power-folding 60/40-split third-row seats with one-touch operation, up or down. There's also optional seat heaters for the front and second-row seats, both in stain-resistant cloth and leather. As in the past, Chrysler has integrated a child seat into the second-row bench. A new optional integrated booster, for larger kids, is offered in Swivel 'n Go. Neither comes with Stow 'n Go.
The seats come in three configurations: The standard second-row bench seat with a manual 60/40-split folding third row (with the bench, the same bins in the floor that would accept folded Stow 'n Go seats, were they installed, provide covered storage); Stow 'n Go second-row captain's chairs with the manual folding third row; or Swivel 'n Go rearward-facing second-row seats with the manual third row. The swivel chairs don't fold into the floor, so the bins are free for covered storage. The powered third-row seat is likely to be offered only in option packages on lower trim levels; it's standard on the highest trim level.
Naturally, the Town & Country also has power windows — in the sliding doors, too — with power sliding doors and liftgate optional. There are more storage nooks, pockets and bins than ever, including a dual glove compartment. The floor console between the front seats has removable, dishwasher-safe cupholders. An optional console has many sliding drawers that can open individually or together, including from the backseat. It contains a 12-volt outlet and is compatible with earlier vans, so current owners can buy it through Mopar.
Under the Hood
The new six-speed automatic transmission is a first in a minivan, and should provide both good acceleration and gas mileage, though figures aren't yet available. It comes with the two optional engines: a 197-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 and a 251-hp, 4.0-liter V-6. Standard is a flexible-fuel 3.3-liter V-6 that can run on gasoline, E85 ethanol or any combination of the two. Aside from being the least powerful engine — 175 hp when burning gas — it comes with a four-speed automatic, surely making the base trim level the pokiest van.
One feature that's sure to spark controversy is the gear selector, which looks like a center-console shifter but is located high on the dashboard, to the right of the gauges. It attempts to combine the benefits of a console shifter with those of a steering column-mounted type. For the optional AutoStick manual shifting mode, it's not a bad location.
Standard safety features include side curtain airbags for all three seat rows, which also deploy in a rollover. There's also standard antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system.
There are two options to ease backing up and parking: a sonar ParkSense audible system and the ParkView rearview camera.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Kelsey Mays||Cars.com National||September 25, 2007|
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||April 18, 2007|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||March 29, 2008|
|Sara Lacey||Mother Proof||October 23, 2007|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||October 17, 2007|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||September 23, 2007|
|G. Chambers Williams III||Star-Telegram.com||August 31, 2007|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||August 19, 2007|
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