Pros: Lots of standard luxuries; responsive steering and handling; handy 1-touch folding seats; good value relative to other fancy minivans
Cons: Less spacious than primary competitors; flat third-row seats; mechanically identical Dodge Grand Caravan is far cheaper; optional touchscreen is becoming dated
What's New: Sporty S model added to lineup; sharper resolution DVD player standard on all models; available Blu-Ray DVD player with HDMI input
The 2013 Chrysler Town & Country may look a lot like the one Chrylser has been selling for the last six years. But back in 2011 the Town & Country received a thorough rejuvenation, including a fresh interior and a new V6, which made it one of best driving and best equipped minivans ever. It was finally the well-rounded product that it should have been from the beginning.
Compared to its mechanical twin, the very similar, bargain-priced Dodge Grand Caravan, the Town & Country is pricier. However, it also comes with a tremendous amount of standard features, including a DVD entertainment system and leather upholstery. Available in the summer of 2013 is the S model, which is predicted to be somewhat sporty to appeal to more male buyers, and brings a more agile suspension, an upgraded interior and more aggressive exterior styling.
There's clearly a market for luxurious minivans. Particularly when loaded with options, the T&C undercuts comparably equipped Japanese-brand competitors by thousands of dollars without feeling the least bit cheap inside. In fact, the dressy interior delivers quite a sense of occasion.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Chrysler Town & Country is offered in four trim levels: Touring, Touring L, Limited and S. Even the base Touring ($20,395) is chock-full of niceties, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, power-adjustable pedals, 3-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, first- and second-row leather upholstery (cloth is a no-cost option), fold-flat rear seats, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a 6-speaker audio system and a 6.5-in touchscreen interface with a rearview camera, USB/Bluetooth connectivity and 30 gigabytes of digital music storage. Adding navigation for $895 also includes a backup camera.
The Touring L ($33,395) receives standard rear parking sensors, automatic high beam headlamps, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross path detection, second- and third-row window shades and eligibility for a variety of upgrades, including extra-luxurious second-row captain's chairs, dual rear entertainment screens and a power-folding third-row seat with power recline.
The Limited ($40,395) has polished wheels, HID headlamps, leather-and-suede upholstery, a Blu-Ray DVD player with dual 9-in screens, knickknacks like keyless entry with push-button ignition, a leather-and-wood steering wheel, navigation and an exclusive 9-speaker, 506-watt audio system. Note that many of the fancier models' features are optional on lesser T&C models.
The new-for-2013 S model (cost to be determined) features sporty body accents like darkened headlamp bezels, black chrome grille, 17-in polished alloy wheels with painted pockets and more. The S model's interior is rendered in all-black with Torino leather seats with the letter S embroidered on the seatbacks, as well as contrast stitching, piano black trim and a black headliner. It comes with a performance suspension. It is also available only in black, white, dark red or dark silver exterior colors.
The Town & Country's leather-trimmed front seats are a pleasant surprise in a minivan and deliver firm, well-shaped support. The dashboard is a classy design with a padded dashtop and lots of chrome accents, giving it a very upscale appearance. As usual, the Town & Country's elegant, clock-like gauges are easy to read at a glance, and its controls are ergonomically sound -- except for the touchscreen, more on which is below.
Second-row comfort is excellent, especially with the optional captain's chairs, which are like having an extra set of front seats in the middle row. If you need to stick some adults in the third row, don't worry. There's a decent amount of room back there, though the hard, flat seatback and cushion make the first two rows the best places to sit.
Cargo capacity, facilitated by the signature Stow 'n Go fold-flat seats, measures 33 cu ft behind the third row, 83.3 cu ft behind the second row and 143.8 cu ft behind the first row -- about average for a minivan, and ridiculously huge for anything else. Interestingly, the third row powers down over the bumper and doubles as a bench for tailgate parties.
We appreciate all the standard technology items in the Town & Country, including USB/Bluetooth connectivity and the 6.5-in touchscreen. That touchscreen, however, is past its prime and guilty of rudimentary graphics and sometimes unintuitive operation. Don't take our word for it -- Chrysler has begun to phase this system out in vehicles like the 300 sedan, where it's been replaced by a stellar 8.4-in touchscreen that's more like an iPad. Due to packaging constraints, the Town & Country's older interior couldn't accommodate the new display, so it soldiers on with the 6.5-incher. On the bright side, this smaller touchscreen includes tons of hard drive space for your digital music.
We should also mention that the Town & Country's standard rear seat DVD player now features a higher-resolution 9-in screen. New for 2013 is a Blu-Ray DVD rear seat entertainment system that comes standard on the Limited and S models and is optional on the Touring L, which features HDMI input for high-definition video games to play on the new higher definition monitors, complimented by wireless headphones.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The Town & Country is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that's rated at 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Manual shifts are eas, thanks to a separate gate for the dashboard-mounted shift lever. It is only available with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy is about average for the class at 17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway.
The 2013 Chrysler Town & Country comes with standard stability control, anti-lock disc brakes and seven airbags (front, front side, full-length, side curtain, driver knee), a rear backup camera and a trailer sway control system.
In government crash testing, the Town & Country received an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts and four stars in the rollover test. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deemed the Grand Caravan Good -- the highest possible rating -- in every category.
Furthermore, the Town & Country is available with the SafetyTec package (standard on Touring L and Limited models) which includes rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, SmartBeam headlamps, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection.
The Town & Country has plenty of power under the hood and delivers quick manual shifts, too, with the automatic's shifter in AutoStick mode. We love the hushed, smooth highway ride as well. Full loads rarely present a problem, though you may notice that the V6 is a bit soft at low engine speeds if you're a speed demon.
Anyone who expects that minivans are nothing more than porky, tippy kid shuttles will be pleasantly surprised with the Town & Country's handing, with its excellent body control and crisp steering. This gives the Town & Country a sense of maneuverability that's absent from some vans. The S model gets even better, thanks to its retuned suspension.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Odyssey - The Honda Odyssey ($28,675) boasts an impressive technology suite and comfy accommodations, but its dull dynamics and odd styling are question marks. Few minivans, however, offer the sort of interior flexibility and ergonomic usefulness that characterize the Odyssey.
Nissan Quest - Based on a Japanese-market van, the Nissan Quest ($25,990) is taller and narrower than the rest, but it also has the nicest interior design, delightful seats and an eager V6. Too bad about its droning continuously variable transmission and high load floor.
Toyota Sienna - The Toyota Sienna ($26,300) dropped its 4-cylinder engine option for 2013, leaving Toyota's 3.5-liter V6 as the standard engine. Huge inside but rather devoid of character compared to the Town & Country, the Sienna also offers a novel split-screen entertainment system that allows two kids to do their own thing simultaneously.
The available second-row captain's chairs are very nice, but we'd rather pick up an entry-level Touring for its $30,000-ish base price. Did you see all those standard features? It's a lot of minivan for the money, even with the much cheaper Grand Caravan likely right next door on the dealer lot. If your kids want to pretend they're secret agents every time they get in and out, however, the S model is the one to get.
What do you think about the new Town & Country? Let us know in the comments below.