November of 2015 marks the 32nd anniversary of the minivan, with the 1984 Dodge Caravan appearing in showrooms for the first time. I was an extremely mature six years of age (I could tuck myself in, dress myself and mostly feed myself, although my parents will tell you different). Chrysler took a car, truck, station wagon, put them in a beige Oster blender (probably the same model my mother still uses), hit the “blend” button and out came a vehicle full of near-90 degree angles with the aerodynamics of a brick. But boy oh boy, was that first minivan ever functional. It catapulted to stardom for its usefulness and practicality as well as spawning a plethora of competitors over the following years.
Yup, even my dad picked up a 1994 Plymouth Voyager and got seven solid years out of it. There were at least a few on every street in my neighborhood, let alone what you saw in mall parking lots.
The minivan was a huge hit with families and rightfully so. It did everything a family needed and did it well. In the early 2000’s when the SUV craze took over, minivan sales began their decline and recently, Chrysler announced that the Grand Caravan will cease production in 2016. Fear not, though. The Town & Country (TC) via FCA will carry the torch forward, at least that’s the hope. And after spending a week in a 2015 TC, I think they may be on to something.
With a market sprawling with SUV/CUV/Crossovers, the minivan needs to offer consumers something competitive and the TC does just that. Starting with the 3.6 V6 Pentastar VVT engine that cranks out 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque, the TC has class leading power to haul you, your passengers and all sorts of belongings, including towing up to 3,500 lbs.
The smartest thing Chrysler did with the minivan was introducing those absolutely innovative “Stow N’ Go” seats. They’re so easy to use, they’re clever, and they’re functional!
My co-branding idea would be to have Ikea and Chrysler hold a “Jam the Van” contest to see how much boxed furniture can fit inside a TC with the seats fully “stowed”. If that idea ever goes anywhere, I need royalties of about 15%.
With the seats up, there’s lots of cargo capacity in the seat bays. With all the seats down, there’s a whopping 4,072 litres of space. According to Chrysler, there’s 81 different seat configurations. Ask your kids to draw up all the combinations…that should keep them quiet on those long road trips!
Regardless of what you’re transporting (within reason, of course), chances are the TC will accommodate you nicely.
Chrysler states the TC is Canada’s ultimate luxury minivan and the S model I tested is definitely full of luxury. Seeing as the S base price being $46,690, you definitely get what you pay for. With dual Blu-ray/DVD entertainment system, uber comfortable Torino leather faced seats to chrome trim, a leather wrapped steering wheel, an available “super console” with an abundance of storage space and many others, you’d be forgiven if you forgot you were driving a minivan instead of, well, not a minivan.
Even the quarter windows tilt open with the touch of a button, which is nice to get airflow into the vehicle on those temperamental autumn and spring days. Not like my dad’s van where you had to climb to the rear seats and do it manually.
Behind the wheel sees a very comfortable ride with a standard 8-way power seat with a 2-way lumbar adjustment system, a cleanly laid out dashboard that’s easy to navigate and a steering wheel full of audio/Bluetooth/Cruise control buttons.
Also, the gas pedal is angled a few degrees to the right, which is where most drivers lean their right foot. It caught me off guard the first time and I missed the top half of the pedal as I tend to keep my right foot straight when using it. So there was an immediate “where’s all the power?” moment which was rectified by seeing the ergonomic design Chrysler implemented.
If you’re considering a minivan, you’ll know (hopefully) that life behind the wheel is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, there’s ample power to get you on the highway and out of dangerous situations and that if you fill the van, you’ll still be propelled forward at a decent rate. But keep in mind that if you’re moving up from a sedan to a minivan, gone are the days where you whip around corners or take on-ramps like you’re a race car driver. I know, I know, thanks Jay “Captain Obvious” Kana. But I’ve been told first hand that getting used to having a higher center of gravity doesn’t happen in a day. Or few.
Also, fuel economy for a heavier vehicle is reflected in their 14.1L/100km city and 9.5L/100km highway ratings.
Ok, PSA completed.
The centre console offers a 6.5” touchscreen via Chrysler’s Uconnect 430 multimedia centre. I’d like to have seen something a bit bigger given the long width of the cabin…it just seems a bit undersized for this larger sized people mover. Nothing outlandish but perhaps another 2.5 of inches would do it, which would match the 9” dual DVD screens for rear passengers.
Overall, it does the job it’s tasked with quite well.
The sporty S model comes with 17” Hyper Black aluminum wheels, an attractive black chrome grill and performance suspension to improve ride quality. So while there’s no magic way to make a minivan look as sleek as an SUV/CUV/Crossover, Chrysler definitely offers some nice and attractive flairs to boost the appearance.
Before I forget…in the sunglasses compartment, if you only open the hatch halfway, you’ll find a convex mirror that gives you visual access to what’s going on behind you. I call it the “big brother” mirror. Parents will call it the “stop hitting your brother/sister!” mirror. Very smart, Chrysler.
The available Safety Tec package offers blind spot and cross path detection, park assist, rain sensitive wipers, auto high beams and a tire pressure monitor.
Standard features include power lift gate and rear doors and an army of airbags, six speakers, trailer sway damping, a back-up camera along with a long list of other items.
As I notice I’ve already exceeded my word count (I hope I didn’t keep you too long from reading my other articles), I’ll wrap up by saying that in terms of practicality and functionality for rear passengers, the minivan will reign supreme for one reason: sliding doors. Even if you get sandwiched between two jerks who are colorblind to yellow, line-shaped road paint, you’ll be the only one cursing as you get in the front door while the rear passengers nicely slide in through dual sliding doors.
Chrysler’s 31 year old breakthrough may be losing ground to rounder, sleeker people movers but giving customers an viable alternative bathed in luxury, practicality and the ability to haul nearly anything from sports gear to instruments to furniture and most things in between, the TC is a solid, luxurious choice.
Town & Country S $46,690
$195 Billet metallic paint
$1,250 Safety Tec package
$700 Trailer tow group
$595 Security group
$1,200 Driver convenience group
$475 Uconnect 430N
$100 AC Excise tax
Visit www.chrysler.ca for full pricing on the Town & Country
Yay: Fucntional, practical, great fit and finish, Stow N’ Go seats, cargo space, sporty feel for a people mover
Nay: Could do with a larger Uconnect infotainment screen, always an up hill battle against SUV/CUV/Crossovers