Chrysler Town & Country Review: 30 Years Young and Getting Better All the Time

A Girls Guide To Cars | Chrysler Town &Amp; Country Review: 30 Years Young And Getting Better All The Time - Ctc 2014
Chrysler revolutionized family travel 30 years ago by inventing the minivan; the 2014 Town & Country is a leader in comfort, entertainment and storage

The Van That Revolutionized Passenger Comfort Keeps Improving Its Game

When my brother totaled our Pontiac station wagon, my parents did something they’d never done before: They bought a brand new, first of its kind, innovative new car: the Dodge Caravan minivan. The minivan had just been introduced with great fanfare and there were broad hopes that it would save Chrysler from bankruptcy. That was in 1984.

My parents, like all of America, had been hearing about this revolutionary new car, and they liked its promise: Seating for eight, a car-like ride, a comfortable cabin, lots of head room for all passengers, seats that could be removed to accommodate extra cargo, and best of all, loading things into it didn’t involve bending (like the station wagon did) making it a back-saver.

The mini-van did the job of saving Chrysler, but it also revolutionized passenger cars forever. Finally, large families (those with three or more children, anyway) had fight-free seating, room to spread out and room for cargo. The minivan was as easy to drive and maneuver as a large sedan or station wagon, and it didn’t have the rumble-tumble feel of a utility van outfitted with bench seats.

The minivan was such a hit that it inspired competitors from nearly all automakers, and competing models hit the market within a year or two (to be fair, the Toyota minivan was introduced the same year but not to the same celebration or hope as the Dodge minivan).

The Original: The Dodge Caravan, Wood Panel Siding And All, Reversed Chrysler'S Fortunes

The original: The Dodge Caravan, just like the one my parents bought, wood panel siding and all; this car reversed Chrysler’s fortunes

Celebrating Its 30th Anniversary—and Getting Better With Age

Chrysler rose to the challenge of being a sector leader, and continued to evolve the minivan over the next 30 years: their minivans soon came with in-car entertainment systems, flip down screens, electronic sliding doors, climate controls for rear passengers, stow-n-go seats that store in the floor and second row captains chairs. And most importantly, seating is ample enough to fit three or four child car seats comfortably, something no sedan could do, ever.

And then came the caricatures, assumptions and mockery: that any woman driving a minivan, or a ‘mom-van,’ had given over her identity and womanhood to the needs of her charges; that she was as utilitarian as the van itself.

Oh those silly assumers. What little they know. 

The 1995 Chrysler Town &Amp; Country—My Parents Owned This One Too— Continued To Innovate With Drivers Side Sliding Passenger Doors

The 1995 Chrysler Town & Country—my parents owned this one too— continued to innovate the minivan, with additions such as a drivers side sliding passenger door

Next time you pass a minivan, especially a newer model, look at the driver. I did this the week I drove the Town & Country and I was surprised: I saw well-coifed, pretty, chic women behind the wheel. They looked confident, happy and in charge.

So I asked a few friends who drive minivans what they think about their cars. Turns out, they are devotees. They would, and have, purchased this car again. They love all the amenities and luxuries at a comparatively great price. They love having the power of utility: their ability to go, haul, and accommodate passengers isn’t limited by their vehicle, and in fact, they are empowered by it.

These drivers have become masterful at maneuvering and parking (the minivan is large and takes some practice to park). During our test drive I was wary at first, but soon mastered parking lots of all sizes, even a cramped underground garage (I was grateful for the sliding doors that made getting in and out of the back seat easy).

Still, its size is a consideration. One day I pulled into a parking garage in Manhattan and was told I’d have to pay the oversize vehicle rate. I declined and found a parking spot on the street; with park assist and the rear view camera it was a breeze to parallel park.

The only gripe the drivers I surveyed expressed is about the fuel mileage, which is SUV-like, but that complaint comes far below all the things on the ‘love’ list.

What Really Matters: You and your crew

The Roomy Cabin Is Comfortable—With A Small Crew Or A Large One

The roomy cabin is comfortable—with a small crew or a large one

The best part of the Town & Country is that it’s the ultimate cab for your crew. Everyone fits–kids, adults, grandparents, friends. Everyone is comfortable. Everyone wants to be in your car. Everyone is entertained. Not everyone has to listen to the same music (oh, yeaaahhhhhh). It’s more than perfect for tailgating, road tripping and date night. It holds lots of shopping bags and furniture. And when they want, everyone can sleep: all its seats recline, even the third row (and still leaves A LOT of room for cargo). It’s so loaded with technology that front and back seat passengers can have a hand in commanding the ship.

Time with your favorite people is what time in the car becomes. That’s pretty sweet.

The Ultimate Handbag Storage Spot(s)

This might be the Town & Country’s best feature: the handbag storage spot. Or spots. Minivans are known for having an ample space between the front seats, enough for a handbag, a tote bag or even a roll-aboard suitcase. In my parents 10 year old van (and yes, they’ve been driving a Chrysler minivan since 1984) the space between the seats is so large there’s a cargo net to hold things so they won’t roll around.

The 2014 Town & Country has a refined answer for a smarter use of this space: there is an optional console with cup holders on the front and back, a center storage space and cigarette charge ports. In front of it in that little no-man’s land between the seats and the dash is a good spot for an handbag on the floor, but it’s not perfect; a bag can still roll around and spill while you’re driving. But, the console slides back toward the second row so passengers can reach the cup holders. Slide the console back and voila, a perfect handbag spot is revealed securely between the seats; plop your bag right there, it’s accessible and protected from the indignities of car travel.


And Lots of Other Storage Spots, Too

Reclining Third Row Seats Still Leave Plenty Of Space For Luggage, Groceries Or Snowboards

Reclining third row seats still leave plenty of space for luggage, groceries or snowboards

Chrysler has carved out every possible spot to put stuff and made them all accessible and practical. There are storage bays under the floors in the center row (the seats fit in there, too); there is a deep bay in the rear cargo area (again, where Stow-n-Go third row seats are stored) that can hold a lot of luggage, groceries, equipment, whatever, even when the third row seats are up and reclined. And if that isn’t enough, the roof rails can hold up to 150 pounds of secured cargo or luggage in a car top carrier, and the rails retract when you don’t need them.

All in all, our week in the Town & Country was a fun one; yes, I loved the convenient and smart place to put my purse. Yes, the kids loved (LOVED) popping on the wireless headphones and listening to the satellite radio while I listened to NPR. And yes, they wish we’d road tripped in it so they could sleep in the reclining seats. But what we all loved most was that whatever we did that week, we did together, and comfortably and happily.

Usb, Plugs And Auxiliary Plugs Let Second And Third Row Passengers Take Command Of The Ship (Well, The Ship'S Media, Anyway)

USB, plugs and auxiliary plugs let second and third row passengers take command of the ship (well, the ship’s media, anyway)

What We Loved 

Pretty much every luxury you can think of for $45K

Adaptive headlights and cruise control

Headed front and second row seats

Second row captains seats

Stow-n-Go third row seats

Push button folding second row seats

Second row seats passed the one-hand test: they can be pushed back into place with one hand

Keyless entry and remote start (doors unlock when key is on your person!)

Entertainment system has second row AND third row screens

Wireless headphones for the entertainment system

Entertainment system allows separate feed for headphones and speakers (you don’t have to listen to Jungle Book yet again!)

Power sliding doors and power liftgate

Chrysler Uconnect system including navigation, hands free Bluetooth and more

That awesome sliding console that creates a handbag bay

Buttons In The Cargo Area Let You Stow The Third Row Flat Or

Buttons in the cargo area let you stow the third row flat or restore them to the upright position; a button on the seat lets passengers recline


What You Need To Know

Rear view is obstructed when video screens are in use

Blind spot detection, rear view camera and safety features are a MUST(and standard!), as blind spots make it difficult to see

Fuel mileage is 17MPG city/25MPG highway; we averaged 18 mpg during our two-tank test

Tire inflator kit has replaced a spare tire (a compact spare is available as an option)

5 year or 100,000 power train warranty

3 year or 36,000 mile basic warranty

5 year or 100,000 mile roadside assistance coverage

Base price: $41,295; price of the model we drove $45,230, including luxury package option


Disclosure: Chrysler provided the Town & Country for our review; opinions expressed are all our own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss