The issue with minivans is not new. While stopped at a light in the 2006 Chrysler Town & Country, a bus passes through the intersection with an ad on it for a burrito joint. The ad says, "There is no such thing as a COOL minivan." Out of professional courtesy, I won't mention my first thought about a bus dogging on a minivan. I pondered this statement, and why it was the focus of a burrito joint ad, when I stumbled onto the bigger question. Yes, we know minivans aren't cool, hip, or hot but, jeez, Chrysler, can you update this minivan's looks a bit? This car looks the same year after year. If I were Chrysler, I might view that burrito ad as fightin' words.
Kathy Graham, spokesperson for Chrysler shed some light on the art of the minivan. They put what they need on the inside to make us happy, and the exterior design isn't the biggest priority. A classic case of form following function, if you will. The interior functionality and flexibility are the key design features, and what drives the consumer to this vehicle (sorry about that pun). The end result is both recognizable and generic at the same time. This coming from a manufacturer that has made some amazing design strides in the last few years (Chrysler 300 and the Pacifica come to mind). I would be thrilled to see what nifty new look they could whip up for their Town & Country as well.
Whatever the case, I'd like it known that I was ready to be converted. Make me a believer, Town & Country! This minivan appeared pretty swanky and I was ready to trade every vitriolic statement I'd ever made about a minivan for a broad letter of apology to the world. I was ready for all the features and practicality to win me over.
I am most impressed with a few features. Stow N' Go is a champ. I can completely fold the second and third rows into the floor without much effort. I also adore the captain's chairs in the second row providing each child with his or her OWN SEAT. Of course, those said kids enjoy the DVD player, even though the screen color is oversaturated and I can't seem to fix it.
My bambinos like to open the doors themselves with the push of a button; it's just too great of a feature for me to argue with. I'm too chicken to test the pinch protection with my own limbs, so with the assistance of a pool noodle, pinch protection passes with flying colors (pink in this case).
What leaves me slightly deflated is having to work so hard to get the driver's seat where I want it. I am confused because this is a vehicle built for moms, this is the TOWN & COUNTRY, man! The biz-omb, if you will. But nothing is conveniently within my reach. The driver's seat is too wide, and the armrests are too far out to use comfortably. I am surprised to find the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. For many of us ladies, that's the best way to achieve a perfect driving position, not to mention good visibility of the gauges.
I am also surprised at the disorganized nature of the storage space provided. Storage consists of a large bin underneath the center console, and a smallish glove box hoarded mostly by the manual and other required reading. While that is not so unusual, it's also not ideal. Big open storage does not always translate to functional. I would prefer varied compartments, shelves, nice little wicker baskets (OK, maybe that's going too far), and cubbies as opposed to a large box. However, the "toy bins" on the floor in front of the captain's chairs win double thumbs-up from all of us. Trust me when I say my son thinks the next car we buy must be a minivan.
Lastly, the curtain airbags are optional, not standard. As a result of market research, Chrysler has determined that customers want options and side curtain airbags are one of them. Personally, I feel safety shouldn't be an option, but rather a prerequisite.
Yes, a whole lotta cargo and seating space is awesome. And automatic entry and tailgates are awesome too. Not really making the vehicle as great as you potentially could for your target market? Not awesome. I challenge Chrysler to step up and prove those burrito folks wrong. I know the results could be fantastic.
*For more information on the Manufacturer Model and its safety features visit Cars.com..
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
LATCH Connectors: 3
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 7
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore ++
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some