A reader of my column who has two young children with a third on the way recently wrote to me griping that she's "too young to drive a minivan." I know her sentiment well. Us Gen X-ers are growing up and having babies. To many of us, a minivan is what our mothers and our friends' mothers drove when we were children. Heck, my mother-in-law still drives one.
We are too young to drive minivans - or are we? The fact remains that minivans equal function - some more so than others. There comes a point (usually between pregnancy and preschool) when we stop worrying about how others perceive what we drive and start searching for a car that works in this new chapter of our lives called parenthood.
The 2005 Chrysler Town & Country Limited is the poster child of functionality. I'm sure you've all seen the ads and heard of Stow 'n Go seating. It's just as cool in real life as it looks on TV. The in-floor storage compartments are big enough to stash my trusty umbrella stroller, with room to spare for diaper wipes and bottled water from Sam's Club. When I need to make room for a non-budgeted stop at the antique store, just flip, flop and the seats completely disappear. Whoever invented Stow 'n Go is an absolute genius and deserves great things in life (no, I'm not related to them).
The rear seat also moonlights as a tailgating bench. Who would ever use that? Well, on a recent road trip to the top of Mt. Evans (elevation 14,264 feet) this really came in handy. We packed a picnic but forgot the picnic blanket. We backed the car up to a gorgeous view, spread out our spread and ate with our feet dangling out the back. The raised tailgate kept the snow off our heads (yes, snow in July) and we were able to blast the heat enough to keep from turning blue.
Thoughtful features on the Town & Country combine to make life easier for moms (and dads, too). Suede on the top portion of the leather seats keeps my bare shoulders from sticking in the summer heat. Adjustable foot pedals mean I don't have to crank the seat forward to reach the brakes. A flip-out cell phone holder keeps me from fumbling in my purse. A tissue holder proves to be essential while my 1-year-old fights a cold and I hear "Mom! Baby Cade has really big boogers hanging out of her nose!" Removable and customizable cargo nets store everything from diaper bags to beach bags.
With my 4-year-old recently graduating from a car seat to a booster seat, the sturdy and stable seat belt buckle receptors make it easy for her to latch and unlatch herself. The automatic opening side and rear doors lead to a new world of independence for her.
The rear park assist system (standard on the Limited version) aids in both parallel parking and driveway scooter avoidance. The video screen that folds down from the ceiling is appropriately located so it doesn't obstruct my rear view.
I did come across a few minor glitches that I hope Chrysler picks up on. I'm often racing the clock to get my errands done before nap time, but the clock on the digital audio display turns off when the radio is off, leaving me guessing the time. Also, the door locks are those old-fashioned little sticks that pop in and out of the top of the door, making it easy for children (and adults) to accidentally lock themselves in.
*For more information on the Chrysler Town & Country and its safety features, visit Cars.com.