A quarter of a century ago, Chrysler introduced the first minivan. The
fifth generation, introduced for the 2008 model year, brings more
innovation to the product segment it invented while continuing to
command more than 40 percent of the minivan market.
Fresh from its rebirth
after government assistance in the 80’s, Chrysler’s forward-looking
executives saw an opportunity and designed the “magic wagon.” Unlike
full size, rear-wheel-drive vans, it had the engine and drivetrain in
front of the driver, creating a flat floor. Chair-high seating was a
plus, along with easy entry and exit. Compact size made it easy to drive
and park. It was a huge hit, reviving the company.
Twelve million minivans
later, today’s Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country have a long
history of innovation and have received more than 260 awards.
The original boxy
minivans became more exuberant and rounded in the 1990s. Today’s models
wear a sleek, sophisticated look, borrowing design elements from
Chrysler’s successful 300 sedans. That means a similar body to glass
proportion, larger wheels, and more expressive faces.
The Town & Country
comes in three levels, LX, Touring and Limited. Each has its own V6
engine, ranging from the LX’s 3.3-liter to the Touring’s 3.8 liter to
the 4.0-liter in the Limited.
4.0-liter V6 in my 2009 Limited test vehicle came with a six-speed
automatic. The 3.3-liter engine makes do with only four gears, but as a
flex-fuel vehicle, it can run on E85 ethanol, if you can find it.
Chrysler claims fuel economy of 17 City, 25 Highway for the 4.0-liter,
but I averaged only 15 mpg in mixed driving.
The EPA gives the
4.0-liter engine a 7 for Air Pollution and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas
scores, pretty good overall for a 4,600-pound vehicle. The 4.0-liter
engine actually has the best fuel economy ratings of the three engines
despite being the largest. Chalk it up to more advanced technology.
The real selling point
of minivans is how well they transport your family and stuff. The 2009
Chryslers have some special features. The Stow ‘n Go seating system lets
you fold the second and third row seats into the floor, creating a
clear, flat load space. This is a huge improvement over earlier systems,
which required you to lift out heavy seats and stash them in your garage
before getting the useful cargo capacity of a van.
But it gets even
better. The new Swivel ‘n Go system lets the second row seats turn 180
degrees and provides a table between them and the third row. So your
family can play games and hang out as you roll down the road. There are
even dual nine-inch overhead DVD screens, so kids can play different
games simultaneously if they so desire.
My Deep Crimson tester
had the Swivel ‘n Go system and I was able to stow the third row in the
floor with the push of a button. I also could set up the third row to
face backwards with the liftgate up, perfect for beach parties, soccer
games or camping. And you can perform these actions on either the left
or right half of the third seat or both.
The ambiance in the
latest Chrysler Town & Country is rich and airy. Metallic accents and
burl wood design feel upscale in the Limited model. Bright white
interior lighting seems like it comes from everywhere. The gauges use an
elegant typeface, something borrowed from the 300 sedans.
If you’re carrying your
family around then safety is a prime concern. The new Town & Country
features all-row side-curtain airbags, but there’s also something
especially innovative, the Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path
accident-avoidance systems. Chrysler’s minivans are the only ones that
The Blind Spot
Monitoring system alerts the driver with a light if there’s a car in the
lane next to you that your mirrors don’t show. If you attempt to change
lanes and a car is in the blind spot, a warning chime sounds. The Rear
Cross Path System warns if any traffic is moving toward the vehicle
whenever the car is in reverse. Both systems utilize dual ultra-wideband
The Town & Country
flows through traffic easily and quietly. Prices, including destination
charges, start at $26,500 for the LX and move up to $37,300 for the
There is really no more
significant domestic competition in this segment, Chrysler’s success has
pushed GM and Ford out of the minivan business.
Go to your local
Chrysler dealer and drive a legend, and see the best & most innovative
minivan you can buy today.
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Minivan Review provided by Tony
Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
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Column Name: The best &
most innovative minivan you can buy today
Topic: The 2009
Chrysler Town & Country Minivan
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2009 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan
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