Reviews

2011 Chrysler Town & Country Walk Around

The Chrysler Town & Country is offered in one long-wheelbase body style, and its size is comparable to several competitors. Cargo room is comparable as well. It comes with two power sliding side doors and a power rear liftgate, all of which are easier to open for moms with armfuls of kids and groceries.

The Town & Country's styling is somewhat boxy, with a pronounced front end that offers a hint of an SUV-like appearance. The roof is wide at the top, also contributing to the boxy look.

The 2011 styling revisions make it look a little better. Up front, the hood is new, as is the grille and front fascia, which adds a chrome strip above the lower air intakes. The grille is more attractive, taking on a new corporate look that also appears on the Chrysler 300 sedan. Along the sides, the Town & Country gets new chrome moldings and available bright polished 17-inch wheels with a different design and painted pockets. At the rear, the glass has more curvature, and there is a standard roof spoiler that aids aerodynamics. The rear also adds LED taillights, a new shape for the fascia, a bright metal step pad, and a chrome trim to strip echo the front end.

For 2011, Town & Country comes with a roof rack with crossbars that stow in place to aid aerodynamics when not in use.

Interior

Town & Country's competitive advantage can be found on the inside, where it has many thoughtful features. Thanks to the 2011 update, the quality of the interior is improved as well.

Hard plastic still makes up much of the dashboard, but that's the case with almost all vehicles in the class. The dash loses its sharper edges and gets nicer graining. It has a more integrated, flowing look due to a more elegant design and the fact that the dash is made of fewer pieces. The door tops are now padded, and the materials have a richer look and feel.

The gauges are larger in the 2011 models, and are easy to read. They use black faces with white numbers and chrome trim (replacing the previous aqua blue-lit white faces). The 2011 instrument panel adds a larger trip computer between the tachometer and speedometer. It's a better, more useful design.

The radio/entertainment/navigation system is set high on the center of the dash for easy access. With any of the three systems, the controls are easy to use, but those on the right side are a bit of a reach for the driver. The CD/DVD changer is set low, making it a possible distraction to use while driving. The gearshift is easily accessed without taking up room as it is mounted between the radio and instrument panel.

All radios come with a 30-gigabyte hard drive to hold music files plus GraceNotes music identification. The base radio can hold about 6700 songs, and the two higher-end radios can hold about 4250 songs because some of the space is devoted to navigation map information. The first step-up navigation system is an integrated Garmin unit, and the high-end nav system has voice recognition, Sirius Travel Link and Sirius Traffic. Songs can be ripped from CDs, and music and pictures can also be downloaded from thumb drives via a standard USB port.

New for 2011 is the steering wheel. It has controls for the trip computer, phone, audio system, cruise control, and, when ordered, navigation system. The trip computer controls are especially welcome because the last model had them inaccessibly placed behind the steering wheel on the left. The wheel now telescopes as well, making it easier to find an ideal seating position. You can even order a heated wheel, which is welcome on cold winter mornings.

The center console is now integral instead of removable. It has a deep storage area, a pair of cupholders and a covered shallow tray. A higher-end version has a tray that can be opened from the rear, allowing parents to pass items back to kids. There are also bottleholders in each front door.

Front-seat room and comfort are typical for a minivan. The front captain's chairs afford an upright driving position with an SUV-like view of the road. There is plenty of head room, and leg room will only be lacking for the tallest drivers.

The second row is more comfortable on the 2011 Town & Country. To allow them to fit into the bins in the floor, the previous seats were notoriously flat, offering little support. For 2011, Chrysler added more padding and made the seats taller and wider. They're still not as comfortable as the buckets in most competitors, but the 2011 changes are a welcome improvement.

The second-row bucket seats don't slide forward and back, but the back folds forward and the seat tips up to allow access to the third row, all with the pull of a lever. Open the bins and you can then push the seats into them using the same procedure.

This system is now called Super Stow 'n Go. It's a simple but ingenious invention, allowing for useful seating, plenty of storage, and an easy way to switch between the two.

(The Swivel 'n Go seating option has been discontinued. It offered second-row seats that rotated 180 degrees to face a stowable table that fit between the second and third rows. It was nice for long road trips, keeping the kids busy with games and coloring books, but Chrysler says many who chose it never used it.)

The third-row seat will fit three kids or two adults with room that's par for the class. The third-row folds into a well behind it, either manually or by power, to create a flat load floor. With the seat up, the well provides great storage for groceries, with 33 cubic feet of space. Overall interior and cargo volume is class competitive. With all the seats down, it has a spacious 143.8 cubic feet of cargo volume and can accommodate a 4×8 sheet of plywood. There is still 83.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded, about as much as a Ford Explorer.

Finally, the Town & Country has a number of entertainment features in addition to the radios. It offers single and dual rear DVD entertainment options. The single screen is located in the second row. The dual-screen version adds a screen for the third row. Both are available with Sirius Backseat TV with three kids' channels, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. Four sets of headphones are provided, and with the dual-screen system, one screen can be tuned to TV while the other can play a DVD or video game. Front passengers can listen to the radio while rear occupants watch a DVD or TV, and with the van in Park, front passengers can watch TV or a DVD on the dashboard screen. (FloTV, which was offered last year, is no longer available as the company that provided it has gone out of business.) For additional connectivity, Chrysler offers Uconnect Web, a mobile wi-fi router, as a Mopar accessory.

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