The king is dead … long live the king!
Chrysler announced last week that its “luxury” minivan, the Town & Country, has once again taken the top spot in segment sales leadership and this week came the “better-late-than-never” launch of an all-new version at the North American International Auto Show.
OK, it still looks like a minivan and Chrysler has chosen to stay away from drastic styling upgrades such as brought on by imported competition this year. Toyota, Honda and Nissan all radically redesigned their minivans recently.
For Chrysler it appears about refining what has brought them back to the top of the sales charts. I admit even have been a bit critical in recent years of the Dodge/Chrysler minivans becoming a bit stale despite offering a few new segment innovations. Interior and exterior design and materials were still, well, blah.
So while keeping the shock and awe in check for the 2011 model, Chrysler gets major kudos for delivering it with an all-new powertrain and nicely appointed interior.
The model we tested recently came so nicely dressed that I would not recommend it for the “soccer mom” crowd. No sippy cups and juice boxes allowed in here. Instead, as I did, load it up with (adult) family and friends for when you all want to get together somewhere. We fit six adults in comfort and did not find the new Pentastar V-6 lacking whatsoever when needing to get around in traffic.
While still offering Stow ’n Go second-row seating and a fold-flat third row, the Town & Country delivered comfort and convenience a-plenty. Ours included updated navigation and entertainment package, although we did put any Spongebob videos in the DVD player.
Taking off in the new Chrysler does not mean safety is left behind. The 2011 Town & Country minivan has more than 40 standard safety features, including SafetyTec. The SafetyTec package provides customers peace of mind with industry-leading safety features including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, ParkSense rear park assist, ParkView rear back up camera, rain sensing wipers and Smart Beam headlamps. Additional standard safety features include supplemental all-row side curtain air bags, front-seat-mounted driver and passenger air bags, electronic stability control (ESC) with electronic traction control and brake assist, power-adjustable pedals and power sliding doors with obstacle detection.
The new V-6 I mentioned is the new Pentastar engine found across the model lineup now and produces 283hp from the 3.6-liter engine used in the Town & Country while delivering 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway thanks in part to the six-speed automatic transmission. We even saw better fuel economy than that at times despite carrying a full crew.
The Touring-L model minivan delivered to us rode on 17-inch wheels and tires and included a driver convenience package that added Bluetooth streaming audio, heated steering wheel, remote USB port, Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth, heated second row seats and media center with the nav and DVD and 30GB hard drive. The Town & Country can also be configured as a remote “hot spot” for internet delivery as well as SIRIUS Backseat TV (to keep backseat drivers occupied).
Pricing begins at $32,160 at the Touring level with our tester coming in at $34,475, several thousand less than the loaded Toyota minivan we tested several months back.
The Chrysler Town & Country has retaken the throne of sales leadership in the minivan segment and as this is the automaker’s second-best-selling vehicle in the lineup let us hope its success continues.