A minivan is many things to the families who own one. It's a school bus, playroom, weekend road warrior and living room on wheels — but can it also be stylish? Before you answer no, consider the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S.
The automaker working to turn its image from humdrum to hip with the "Imported from Detroit" slogan and star-studded advertising is also trying to inject some mojo into its minivan. Chrysler gives the Town & Country S a dose of attitude inside and out with a sport suspension, black chrome grille, a black step pad, 17-inch aluminum wheels with black pockets and blacked-out headlights. Inside, it's more black-on-black: leather seats with gray contrast stitching, glossy black plastic trim on the instrument panel and steering wheel, a black headliner and a black center console.
I'm a fan of the Town & Country, but fully admit a minivan is one of the most style-cramping vehicles you can buy. What type of moms and dads would go for a blinged-out, blacked-out version?
"The Town & Country S will appeal to a younger demographic that needs the functionality of a minivan, but who wants some modern style in their vehicle," Chrysler communications spokesperson Patrick Hespen said.
The Town & Country S follows other brands that tried to make minivans cool like the Toyota Sienna SE trim level and it's unique black grille and darkly hued wheels, and Honda's somewhat bizarre rock 'n' roll fantasy TV commercial for its Odyssey when it debuted a new look a few years back.
It makes sense to try to attract a new audience to the class, since sales as a whole are down. Through April, shoppers bought 164,583 new minivans, according to Automotive News. That's down 7.4% versus 2012, and it represents a pretty significant decline in minivan popularity. A year ago, one in 26 new cars sold was a minivan; today it's one in 30. Shoppers clearly prefer large, three-row crossovers, which outsold minivans by more than 3 to 2 through April.
The 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S was introduced last year at the L.A. Auto Show (where else?!) and goes on sale this summer. It will slot between the Touring and Touring-L models in the lineup and start at $32,990, including a $995 destination charge.