By PETER COUTURE and LYRA SOLOCHEK
Times Staff Writers
The Town & Country Limited is Chrysler's flagship minivan, and it's obvious the automaker has upgraded its feature-laden people mover. With the competition having upped the ante — hello, Swagger Wagons — the T&C was in danger of falling behind. Chrysler is banking on families falling for the T&C's luxury and features.
Appearance: For 2011, the Town & Country's exterior changes are subtle. The hood is more contoured, and it has Chrysler's new wavy-slat grille, which it shares with the 200 and 300 sedans. There is silver molding and brighter wheels for accent, and our tester came with chrome exterior mirrors for added pop.
Performance: As with many of its Chrysler counterparts, the T&C has the new Pentastar V-6. The 3.6-liter engine puts out 283 horsepower and, unlike past Chrysler six-cylinders, isn't anemic — providing adequate acceleration for the 4,500-pound minivan. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly. Chrysler says it has upgraded the suspension from the last-generation T&C and it does have a better feel; it corners without as much of a top-heavy feeling. The steering, however, feels a bit heavy. Peter drove the van to Orlando in a heavy summer downpour, and the ride always felt stable.
Interior: This is the T&C's strong point, with its practical Stow-N-Go seating and the two C's that parents love: cup holders (13!) and cargo space. The second- and third-row seats fold into the floor, so there is no back-breaking removal necessary. Our van even had power seat stowing for the third row, which is another great feature. That 60-40 split third row also can be set up for tailgating, with the seat facing backward. As for cargo space, we found it roomy, but not as much space as its competition. Here are the numbers: 32.3 cubic feet with all seats up, 82.7 with third row down, and 143.8 with second and third rows down. For the driver, there are lots of perks: tilt and telescoping steering wheel, pedal adjustment (a Lyra favorite) and an "observation" mirror to check on the kiddies in the back. Our tester also was loaded with safety gadgets: backup camera, blind-spot warning, cross-path detection and park assist. For passengers, there are plenty of entertainment options: a video screen for each row, satellite TV with Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, wireless headphones, remote control and AV jacks in the back so your kids can plug in their gaming system. Oh, and we love the 110-volt plugs so you can use regular power cords.
The bottom line: It's an improvement, but can clever seating configurations help the Town & Country outclass its competition? One of our worries with all manufacturers: Top-of-the-line minivans are approaching luxury car prices.
Our 3 favorites
51, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle schooler.
Fit and finish: Chrysler is definitely putting in more effort.
Features: A lot of nice touches, like the angled dash gauges and shades for the rear side windows.
Remotes: Start for the engine, and opening for the side doors and rear lift gate.
45, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with a 8-year-old and college student.
Power-folding third-row seats: Easy on your back, and less hassle.
Cargo space: Big enough for a shopping trip to Ikea.
Entertainment: Satellite TV, two screens, AV jacks to hook up a gaming system.
Photos by LYRA SOLOCHEK/Times
The entertainment system includes a screen for both second and third rows.
A storage nook under the center console is perfect for a bag or purse.
Third-row seat stowing is controlled electronically with the push of buttons.
2011 Chrysler Town & Country Limited
Price: $30,260 Touring; $32,660 Touring-L; $39,825 Limited, $41,380 as tested
Powertrain: 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 283 at 6,400 rpm
Torque: 260 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm
Curb weight: 4,510 pounds
Dimensions in inches: Wheelbase, 121.2 Length, 202.8 Width, 78.7
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Safety features: Blind-spot monitoring, parking assist, SmartBeam headlamps, backup camera, electronic stability control, front airbags, curtain airbags all rows, ABS with 4-wheel disc brakes