Editor's note: This review was written in April 2013 about the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2014, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
I hadn't spent any quality time in the Chrysler Town & Country since I became a mom in 2010. I liked the minivan before, and now that it's even more relevant for my family, this living-room-on-wheels really delivered.
If you can get past its unrefined drivetrain, the 2013 Chrysler Town & Country impresses with outstanding amounts of space and comfort for all the people and baggage families carry.
For 2013, the Town & Country gained some new entertainment features, including an HDMI input for the standard rear-entertainment system, along with two rear USB ports for charging mobile devices. A separate Blu-ray-compatible, dual-screen entertainment system is a new option. See the features and specs compared with the 2012 version here.
The Town & Country competes against minivans like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, as well as its Dodge Grand Caravan twin. Compare all four here. Shoppers looking for non-van options are also likely to cross-shop large crossovers like the Ford Flex and Honda Pilot; compare them here.
Let's just get this out of the way: The Town & Country is not cool — get over it. It looks like a minivan, drives like a minivan and offends my sense of personal style like a minivan. But — like a shunned pair of maternity jeans — the minivan really is the most comfortable option to fit a growing family. All it took was one look inside its cavernous cabin and one touch of its power-sliding-door button to convert me.
The Town & Country has room for seven occupants in three rows of seats, with ample head- and legroom in all three. In front, the standard leather seats are long-trip comfortable. The second-row's standard Stow 'n Go Seats are also leather, but not as cushy. I can forgive this, however, because they're amazing. When not needed, they fold completely into the floor in one fluid motion. Upright, they expose two under-floor storage wells in front of the seats — useful for stashing kid gear. Traditional second-row bucket seats are optional, resulting in even larger subfloor storage.
The third row's bench is the firmest of the bunch, but that's only one of its problems. Though the standard power-sliding doors and a low step-in height make it easy to get into the third row, you won't want to stay there long. The backrest angle is awkward; one of my passengers said it was like sitting on a really stiff La-Z-Boy. On the upside, the bench sits on a platform so your knees aren't raised to your chest like they would be in a lot of third rows.
If you're cross-shopping minivans against full-size SUVs, head- and legroom in all three rows is comparable, but the crossovers can't beat the Town & Country's cargo space (see chart below). With both rows folded, there's more than 143 cubic feet of room. Seats up, there's 33 cubic feet thanks to a deep well behind the third row. The Ford Flex has just 20 cubic feet of space behind the third row, and the Honda Pilot boasts only 18.
|Minivan & Large Crossover Dimensions|
|2013 Chrysler Town & Country||2013 Toyota Sienna||2013 Honda Odyssey||2013 Honda Pilot||2013 Ford Flex|
|Front headroom (in.)||39.8||41||39.7||40||41.8|
|Front legroom (in.)||40.7||40.5||40.9||41.4||40.8|
|Rear headroom (in.)||39.3||39.7||39.5||39.8||40.5|
|Rear legroom (in.)||36.5||37.6||40.9||38.5||44.3|
|Max. cargo volume (cu. ft.)||143.8||150||148.5||87||83.2|
|Cargo room behind 3rd row (cu. ft.)||33||39.1||38.4||18||20|
Much of my test weekend was spent carting people around, but the van easily pulled double-duty for a home-improvement project. After smoothly folding the third row (where power-folding functionality is optional) and one of the Stow 'n Go seats, I easily loaded two 90-inch-by-20-inch plywood panels.
The Town & Country also offers plenty of clever, small storage spaces. In front, there's a two-tier glove box and ingenious center console; the latter opens to offer several cubbies, small and large, plus four cupholders (there are another two in front of the console). And the best part is that it extends backward to reach the second row.
The van's roominess is impressive, but so too are all the goodies that make it comfortable and convenient.
My top-of-the-line Limited version was equipped with several Chicago-weather-busting features that allowed me to jump from a warm house to an even warmer vehicle. Standard features on the Limited include heated first- and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and remote start. All these are optional on lower trims.
These features keep mom happy, but there's plenty for the kids, too. All Town & Country minivans have a standard single-screen DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and a remote for the rear rows. The Limited ups that to two 9-inch screens. There are also several 12-volt and 115-volt outlets and USB charging ports throughout the cabin for charging devices.
One small, easy-to-overlook item is the wide-angle conversation mirror. It pops down from the ceiling near the rearview mirror and is a quick way to check up on the kids without turning around. Two other small but useful features are the sliding sun visors in the front row and the pull-up sunshades in the second- and third-row windows.
All these are great, but one big miss is the in-dash multimedia system. Standard with navigation on higher trims and optional on lower ones, it needs an update. Like several aging Chrysler vehicles, it uses a small, outdated touch-screen rather than Chrysler's wonderfully simple, large-screened Uconnect system. Chrysler just added the newer interface to the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, so maybe there's hope for its minivans. The automaker's vans are scheduled for a 2015 redesign.
Going & Stopping
Handling is probably low on minivan shoppers' lists, and that's evident here: If piloting a vehicle full of kids already makes you feel like a hired driver, the Town & Country will have you singing "The Wheels on the Bus." Like a typical minivan, it handles like a cereal box. There's a lot of body lean, and maneuverability isn't great; this minivan has one of the largest turning circles of any minivan or large crossover.
It's likely that performance is also low on shoppers' lists, but everybody likes a little refinement, right? You won't find much in the Town & Country. The 3.6-liter V-6 is never quiet and offers only OK power. The six-speed automatic transmission is its biggest problem. Shifts sound and feel loud and clunky, especially when downshifting on the highway, where it has an unsettling habit of roughly thumping into gear. The Town & Country is EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg city/highway — pretty typical of the minivan class. The Honda Odyssey returns the best numbers, with an EPA rating of 19/28 mpg, but that's with an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Standard on the Town & Country is an Econ mode, which Chrysler says alters the transmission's shift points to conserve fuel. I didn't notice a difference, except that it disabled the optional remote start system — a no-no in February.
Segment Sticker Shock
The strength of this minivan lies in its features, but you'll pay for them. The Town & Country comes in Touring, Touring L and Limited trim levels, and the van I tested cost more than $41,000. Base models start at $31,525 (all prices include destination).
Sticker shock isn't a Town & Country-specific problem, however. That may sound like a lot for a minivan, but not when you look at its competition in both classes. Top-of-the-line versions of the Toyota Sienna start at $42,320, and the Odyssey can climb past $44,000. The Pilot and Flex also get expensive in a hurry: Base models of the Honda start at $30,350 and top out at $42,100. Ford's boxy people-mover starts higher, at $31,795, and climbs to $44,715.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Town & Country earned the top score, Good, in frontal, side-impact, rear-impact and roof-strength tests. The Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna also received Good scores in all those tests. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, the 2013 Town & Country earned an overall score of four out of five stars.
The 2013 Town & Country offers plenty of standard safety features, like a full complement of airbags (including a driver's knee airbag and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows), power-adjustable pedals and a backup camera with rear parking sensors. Options include a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-path warning system. The latter alerts the driver when a car is approaching from the side, which is handy when backing out of parking spots. Click here for a full list of features.
Wide seats and accessible Latch anchors make installing child-safety seats easy. The Town & Country offers the added bonus of one set of Latch anchors and one tether anchor for the third row — often found in minivans, but an uncommon combination in the large-crossover class. Click here for our Car Seat Check on the related 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan.
In the Market
There are several strong sellers in the minivan class — including Chrysler's very own Dodge Grand Caravan — but the T&C's biggest enemy just may be itself. In an informal poll, most of my friends with kids said they'd prefer a crossover to a minivan because of style and image concerns. Many people may shun the van, but sales figures tell another story; someone is buying a lot of them. Around 493,900 Chrysler T&Cs, Dodge Grand Caravans, Honda Odysseys and Toyota Siennas were purchased in 2012, and all models reported a gain over 2011 sales. The Town & Country itself is a strong seller, with 111,744 sold in 2012, up from more than 94,000 in 2011.
I suspect shoppers are as conflicted as I am: The Town & Country is nothing to look at, and when you add in an unrefined powertrain and annoyingly outdated multimedia system, I'd avoid it, too — strictly from a driver's perspective. As a mom, however, I was ready to move right into this ultimate family mobile.