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Chrysler: Minivan King Maker with a Town & Country

By Sue Mead, June 30th, 2012

We have seen many automakers let the minivan fall by the wayside in favor of the more popular crossover vehicle recent years. Now we now learn Chrysler, the inventor of the minivan, will say good-bye to the Town & Country.

Manufacturer photo: The latest round of minivan firsts include a heated steering wheel, Stow 'n Place roof rack system that allows roof bows to be stored in the rails when not in use, an integrated super center console for first- and second-row passengers, and a fuel economizer mode that helps the driver maximize fuel efficiency
Manufacturer photo: The latest round of minivan firsts include a heated steering wheel, Stow 'n Place roof rack system that allows roof bows to be stored in the rails when not in use, an integrated super center console for first- and second-row passengers, and a fuel economizer mode that helps the driver maximize fuel efficiency

As Automobile Magazine reports in its current July issue, Chrysler likely will replace the Town & Country minivan with a crossover that could resemble the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. We wonder if a reinvented Pacifica is on its way back.

In Texas, where trucks rule, the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country was recently named "Minivan of Texas" and "Family Car of Texas." The award comes from the Texas Auto Writers Association, but they aren't the only ones who call the Town & Country a winner. Sales of the upscale minivan were higher by 22 percent in April, outselling the segment's top competitors, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

Completely revised last year, Chrysler's minivan seats up to seven, sports a sleek exterior and has even more family-friendly inside than the model it replaced. Even the most anti-minivan motorheads will notice Town & Country's athletic, almost stocky front end, with big trapezoidal headlamps and a wide grille. Dual-power sliding doors are standard on all versions, as are power and heated folding side mirrors.

Starting at $30,995, the 2012 Town & Country's three trim levels are Touring, Touring-L, and Limited. Under the hood of this front-wheel drive minivan is a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that makes 283 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque; it is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Manufacturer photo: The latest round of minivan firsts include a heated steering wheel, Stow 'n Place roof rack system that allows roof bows to be stored in the rails when not in use, an integrated super center console for first- and second-row passengers, and a fuel economizer mode that helps the driver maximize fuel efficiency

Chrysler says this Pentastar engine gets best-in-class horsepower and fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway. A new Fuel Economizer mode allows drivers to choose between standard and fuel-saving shift calibrations.

We test-drove this minivan during its introduction last year and again recently in Texas. Chrysler's engineers tuned the suspension and other drive features for responsive handling while motoring has been made quieter in a comfortable cabin with good visibility. Once at the wheel, it's easy to see why this engine was awarded as one of Ward's "10 Best Engines" as its on-tap horsepower and torque brings safety for passing and accident-avoidance maneuvers.

Our 2012 Town & Country Limited tester came with second-row captain's seating. Notable interior features are great ergonomics, the use of updated, premium materials and the available "super center console" that has clever functionality and storage for CDs, DVDs, notepad and wallet and integrated power outlets, as well as easy driver/passenger access with a pass-through storage space for larger items, such as a big pocketbook.

Among the innovative design cues are trim rings in the console that glow an ambient blue-green color, allowing drivers and passengers to find the items they are looking for at night. Trim and color upgrades for 2012 include new Sapphire Blue interior lighting scheme and a combination leather/wood steering wheel for Limited models. There are also three new exterior colors for 2012: True Blue, Cashmere Pearl, and Crystal Blue.

Inside, nifty features include front and rear overhead consoles with an observation mirror and sunglasses holder for front driver and passengers, plus storage bins in the rear. There's also a removable sliding floor storage bin with cupholders and a power outlet.

Manufacturer photo: The latest round of minivan firsts include a heated steering wheel, Stow 'n Place roof rack system that allows roof bows to be stored in the rails when not in use, an integrated super center console for first- and second-row passengers, and a fuel economizer mode that helps the driver maximize fuel efficiency

Town & Country is the only minivan with standard DVD and leather seating, which is new for 2012, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wheel-mounted audio controls; a segment-first heated steering wheel is optional, as is an integrated stowage system for the minivan's roof rails. The new roof rails reduce drag and bring better fuel efficiency to the minivan when not in use.

The family hauler's rear seats are reconfigurable, foldable and also removable. There are improvements to the ground-breaking Stow 'n Go seating and storage system -- which are still only offered by Chrysler Group. It has upgraded seat comfort and a one-touch fold down feature for easier access to the third row and the segment-first Stow 'n Place roof rack.

Chrysler holds claim to inventing the modern minivan in 1983 with the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager and bringing us the first luxury minivan, the Town & Country, to market in 1989. Seventy-five "minivan-first" innovations and 13 million minivan sales later, the automaker remains master of the minivan formula.

Specifications

Base price $39,300 (as tested: $40,235)
Curb weight 4,652 lbs.
Displacement 3.6-liter
Engine type 24-valve V-6 w/SMPFI
Epa mileage rating 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 20.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 283 at 6400 rpm
Overall length 202.8 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 260 at 4400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7-passenger FWD minivan
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