The Town & Country is still the 300C of minivans, boasting unmatched versatility
New York City, NY – At the dawn of Fiat-Chrysler introducing their latest venture into the family segment, the Pacifica, we were offered something a little bit more traditional for a road trip. This year marked our team’s first official visit to the New York International Auto Show, and our friends at Chrysler were kind enough to offer us a 2016 Chrysler Town & Country Limited, fully loaded with the Platinum package, for the drive down. Some might suggest that the Town & Country is obsolete at this point with the Pacifica on the horizon, but Canadians will still be able to buy it, along with the Grand Caravan, for the next little while.
It’s important to note that the Town & Country last received a full redesign for the 2008 model year, along with the Grand Caravan. Over the past 9 model years, the van has received a few subtle refreshes and updates, but has remained fundamentally the same. The biggest change was the implementation of the 3.6L Pentastar V6, which replaced the aging but bulletproof 3.3L V6 in the minivan lineup. Regardless, we were excited to spend some 2,000km behind the wheel of a minivan packing nearly 300 horsepower.
Loaded up with five people on board, luggage and a metric ton of camera gear, the Town & Country’s Stow’N’Go seating came in handy. We have done these trips in the past using large SUVs and crossovers, and the most obvious advantage to the minivan was actual storage space. With the third row seats up and occupied, the cavernous trunk area swallowed five carry-on bags with space to spare. For those traveling with fewer people and more gear, the second row captain’s chairs also fold flat into the floor. Our Town & Country Limited came standard with power-folding third row seats, an excellent convenience to have.
A huge advantage to such a tried and tested platform is space management. There wasn’t a single complaint throughout the entire trip about requiring more room. Such an abundance of storage compartments, cupholders, power outlets and USB ports goes far to earn the minivan a title as a road trip champion. Though the infotainment system is an older UConnect unit, it still has a USB port on it, along with a second one in the small storage compartment above the glovebox. There’s also a small control panel located just behind the rear driver’s side door that has two more USB ports, an HDMI port, and a three-prong 115V power outlet. All of this connectivity went a huge distance in helping us create more editorial content and remain productive while on the road.
Loading and unloading at every point of the trip was effortless. The rear doors and liftgate are power-operated and easily done with the remote. Access to the third row is easy, either through the large open area between the second row captain’s chairs or by quickly pulling a lever to flip one of the second row seats forward and out of the way. Both rear doors also have privacy shades on them, which is a godsend for families that have small children, for sun protection. These shades are too small for the large windows though – the Honda Odyssey (reviewed here) has shades perfectly fitted to the window size.
The base price of a Chrysler Town & Country Limited with the Platinum package is $50,195, quite comparable with a Honda Odyssey Touring or a Toyota Sienna Limited. At this price it comes pretty loaded, with Nappa leather seats, park assist, blind spot monitoring, cross path detection, reverse camera, power adjustable pedals, heated first and second row seats, 506-watt stereo, tri-zone climate control, and ambient surround lighting. Our car also had a few extra options checked off, including the Trailer Tow Group, a rear entertainment system with Blu-Ray capability, power folding third row, premium stereo with Garmin navigation, and a power sunroof. The total sticker for our tester before taxes was $57,485.
So, at nearly $10,000 over the comparable Japanese minivans, the Chrysler should be the cushiest and most comfortable minivan on the road. In interior quality it certainly delivers – there’s attractive wood trim tastefully placed throughout the cabin, including on the rim of the steering wheel. There is an analog clock in the center of the dashboard similar to the 300C, and the ambient lighting surrounding the overhead consoles is tasteful and reminiscent of traveling in business class on the 787 Dreamliner. The seats are quite comfortable and the Nappa leather is trimmed with faux-suede. I particularly liked the fore/aft adjustability on the front headrests.
Ride quality is exceptional, with the suspension doing a stellar job absorbing the imperfections on the concrete throughout the American interstate system. There’s a bit of body roll on cornering as well as on/off-ramps, but that’s part of the package for having such a good ride on long hauls. The steering is slower than that of a performance car, but it’s perfectly competent for a minivan. The turning radius is on the wide side, so U-turns involve a bit of prior planning.
Even the powertrain on the Town & Country is extremely vigorous – it’s almost a sleeper with the amount of power and responsiveness under the hood. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 is the same unit shared with a series of other vehicles under the FCA umbrella, and is the spiritual and literal successor to the Chrysler 3.3L, provided its long-term reliability is someday regarded as highly. In the minivan, it’s rated at 283 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4,400RPM. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with an available manual shift mode.
Throttle response is actually quite good, with the front tires eagerly chirping off the line with little to no effort. For a minivan, the Town & Country is seriously peppy, and the six-speed automatic does an excellent job of making sure shifts are timely and nearly unnoticeable. There is an “Econ” fuel-savings mode enabled by a button on the dashboard, which dulls throttle response slightly and alters the shift points. We didn’t see a huge difference in the two drive modes and opted to leave this mode enabled for a good chunk of our trip.
Chrysler rates the Town & Country at 9.6L/100km on the highway. With a full load of people and gear on board, obeying all speed limits, we were able to slightly beat the rated number and achieve 9.5L/100km on the first leg from Toronto to New York City. The drive home was a bit worse, at 10.0L/100km. The Town & Country can even accept E85 fuel, but all experiences we have had in the past with this blend reflect a significant toll on overall mileage. Our test was with regular-grade 87-octane fuel.
The Town & Country faces challenges in two significant areas. The first is its price point – with the all-new Pacifica starting in the mid-$40,000 range, it becomes pretty hard to justify the older van at nearly $60,000. Granted, the Town & Country will likely be available with considerable savings at the dealer level, but that’s a different discussion altogether. Additionally, a lot of the technology within the van just feels far too dated. The heated seat and steering wheel buttons are built into the climate control panel, and look like an afterthought. The dashboard has a considerable amount of hard plastics, and there are some cheap bits visible throughout the cabin.
The 2016 Chrysler Town & Country Limited is still the 300C of minivans, boasting unmatched versatility, plenty of power under the hood, and interior trimmings that will beat any other van on the market. After basically living in the van for a week, our team came to the conclusion that it still maintains that original charm that came with the van’s introduction for the 1984 model year. We have now seen what the upcoming 2017 Pacifica looks like, and it’s promising enough to be a worthy successor to the legacy left by the Magic Wagons.