2016 Chrysler Town & Country Limited Platinum Review
I feel like I’m writing a eulogy to an old friend rather than a car review, the 2016 Town & Country in its final season of availability after 27 years of playing second fiddle to the Dodge Grand Caravan in sales, yet concertmaster when it comes to upscale class and luxury. Still, while the name will disappear a Chrysler minivan replacement is already touring auto shows to rave reviews, the new Pacifica pulling its name from the Pentastar brand’s luxury crossover past in order to bridge the gap between ever-popular mid-size sport utilities and the diehard family hauler with sliding side doors.
While I’m tempted to wax strong on the new Pacifica, because I really like what I see and was impressed when poking around inside at Chrysler’s auto show stand, the outgoing Town & Country deserves my full attention out of respect alone. After all, few nameplates can lay claim to nearly 30 years of constant production, although it should be noted the previous Town & Country station wagon was produced for 43 years, from 1945 to 1988. Still, in today’s world car models come and go as quickly as the latest styles and trends (sometimes even faster), so the T&C’s market resilience is unusually impressive.
In fact the T&C hasn’t only enjoyed strong staying power, its sales have remained extremely strong up until last year when it slipped to 93,848 units from 138,040 the year before. That was its best year since 2007 when it managed 138,151 deliveries, while before that sales were even higher. The T&C’s platform sharing Dodge Grand Caravan fared even better with 97,141 sales last year, although it’s popularity has seen similar decline compared to its 134,152 total the year prior. It’s certainly not the heyday for minivans, but a quick search of seven-passenger crossover SUV sales numbers provides proof that minivans are still worthy challengers.
While still a moneymaker for Chrysler, the Town & Country remains an excellent option in the minivan space, space being the most fitting word. It not only offers up a nice classy design, with my top-line Limited Platinum tester boasting Chrysler’s upscale chromed grille and chrome-trimmed lower engine vent with fogs below, chrome detailing down each side including the mirror caps, door handles, body-side moldings and roof rails, plus a chromed tailgate garnish in back and bumper protector plate just below, all matching twinned five-spoke 17-inch alloys on comfort-oriented 225/65R17 Yokohama rubber at each corner, the metal brightwork made all the nicer thanks to rich looking Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint. Yes there’s nothing wrong with the way the T&C looks, it’s just not the newest kid on the block.
As you no doubt already know, the Town & Country sits above the Grand Caravan in prestige and price point. Base LX trim starts at $29,995 plus freight and dealer fees (much pricier than the Grand Caravan that currently can be had for just $22,095), while its other models are priced as follows: Touring trim at $31,875, S trim at $34,175, the Touring-L for $35,845, the Anniversary Edition at $37,345, Limited at $38,445, and this model’s Limited Platinum trim at $40,645.
For just over $40k you get a beautifully finished minivan for thousands less than an equivalently outfitted seven-place crossover SUV (Journey aside), my tester filled with features such as auto on/off HID headlamps with auto high beams, remote start, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition (with a start button that was strangely bent and twisted on my tester), overhead ambient surround lighting, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, a 3.5-inch multi-information display set within an absolutely stunning chrome trimmed primary gauge package, a heatable steering wheel, heatable front and second-row seats, eight-way powered front seats with driver-side memory, power-adjustable pedals with memory, dark and medium beige Nappa leather upholstery, power-sliding side doors, a powered liftgate, tri-zone auto HVAC with rear controls, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a rearview camera, superb TomTom navigation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, two USB ports, a 506-watt AM/FM/CD/hard-drive equipped audio system with satellite radio and nine speakers plus a sub, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, a powered sunroof, a DVD/Blu-ray rear entertainment that houses two nine-inch screens at the second- and third-row positions of the full-length overhead console plus full audio/video plugs, an HDMI jack, a remote control and wireless headphones, a chromed Stow ‘n Place roof rack system, trailer sway control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection, tire pressure monitoring, active head restraints, and all the usual airbags including one for the driver’s knees.
Most importantly you get second- and third-row Stow ‘n Go seats, with tailgate seating no less. The latter hardly matters to me because it’s more of a gimmick that I’d probably never use (I don’t get invited to many tailgate parties, although I’m open to offers from Vikings fans), but a set of second-row seats that effortlessly fold flat below the load floor is the number one reason to choose a Chrysler or Dodge minivan over any rival. After all, isn’t convenience key for choosing a minivan in the first place? And as far as removing rear seats to access all available load space, nothing is more convenient than Stow ‘n Go. All you need to do is power the front seats all the way forward, slide the second-row seats rearward, remove the fitted floor mats from ahead of those seats, open the hatch exposing two large bins that can otherwise be used for storage, flip the seats into the waiting compartment, and recover the folded seats with the aforementioned hatch. On top of that, literally, I always place the floor mats back on the hatch lids so they don’t get scratched with whatever I’m loading in. Chrysler also included powered third-row seats with my tester, an added convenience that I appreciated, although from experience the third row is plenty easy to stow away or pop back into place without electromechanical assistance.
Stow ‘n Go allows the ability to drop the kids off at school, head straight to the building supply store and pick up four-by-eight sheets of building material before heading home, without having to first go home to drop off the middle row of seats, which, if you’ve never tried, is a cumbersome if not backbreaking experience with all competitors. If Home Depot isn’t your thing, it could be the convenience of nabbing the awesome sofa you’ve always wanted that’s finally on sale, or the ability to take advantage of something large from a garage sale or Craigslist ad. You get the point, without Stow ‘n Go seats your minivan isn’t even as instantly functional as a crossover SUV, other than the convenience of side sliders and the extra room for rear passengers.
By the numbers, the T&C allows for 33.0 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row, 83.3 cubic feet behind the second row, and 143.8 cubic feet behind the front row, which makes it roomier than some and not as commodious as others, but we’re really splitting hairs as the size differences are minor and the benefits of Stow ‘n Go major.
If you’ve ever owned a minivan and somehow lost your way by purchasing something less useful, like I did after years of Caravan ownership, roominess is something you never take for granted again. No crossover and none of the large SUVs offer the passenger comfort available in a Town & Country with Limited Platinum trim, while Chrysler went just a bit further with my loaner by including a $995 Trailer Tow group that adds a Class II hitch receiver, load-leveling and height control, plus a wiring harness, making the T&C good for a 3,500-lb trailer. Altogether my T&C retailed for $40,645 plus freight and dealer fees, which once again is much lower than most equivalently upgraded SUVs.
Some yet unmentioned interior details that set the Town & Country apart include attractive gloss hardwood trim across the instrument panel, all the door panels, and atop the steering wheel rim. Additionally the door uppers get the soft-touch treatment while each armrest is covered in stitched and padded leatherette, but really that’s about it as far as pliable plastics go, par for the course with the majority of minivans (although Pacifica improves on such touchy-feely quality). At least Chrysler finished the seats in upscale Nappa leather with Ultrasuede inserts, these boasting a rich crinkled look, while the brand’s classy analog clock rests at dash central.
As noted the TomTom navigation system is one of the best in the biz, not telling me I was in the depths of a suburban river 20 miles away while parking a Porsche Cayenne in my downtown underground, as previously experienced, or taking me way out off course and therefore delaying my trip twice, as the most current Honda Odyssey’s hopelessly hapless navigation did. I can therefore put up with its somewhat slow response, but on the other hand it’s filled with intuitive prompts for much easier use than most others available. I could go on and on talking about T&C Limited Platinum features, but I should probably allot more attention to how this minivan drives.
First off, Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is an absolutely wonderful engine. It’s so quiet and smooth, yet when pushed it makes sonorous noises that’ll put a grin on a performance fan’s face, while its well-proven six-speed automatic with manual mode is totally up to the task of matching the power unit. Certainly I’ll be interested to see how the Pacifica’s new nine-speed autobox performs, controlled by a rotating dial gear selector that’s similar to the one used in the Ram 1500 pickup, but for now this six-speed unit is plenty smooth and quite reliable. The engine makes 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is more than any rival, while the T&C delivers superb ride quality too. Is it the best handling van in its segment? Probably not, but let’s get real for a moment, who buys a minivan for canyon carving? It more than holds its own through corners, actually surprising me with its agility when pushed hard, and it’s ultimately stable on the freeway, the T&C certainly fulfilling my performance needs and more, at least when it comes to family transport. Truly, it would be difficult to find a more comfortable vehicle than Town & Country.
As for fuel economy, none of today’s minivans are particularly mini and therefore their substantive weight (the base T&C weighs in at 4,652 lbs) and standard V6 engines suck back petroleum with a near SUV-like thirst, the T&C good for an EPA rating of 17 mpg city, 25 highway and 20 combined. If you think that sounds low it’s only a fraction worse than its competitors, an expense I’d be willing to pay to get the Town & Country’s many more convenience and luxury features, although it makes sense that Chrysler will be endowing the yet more efficient Pacifica with a plug-in hybrid option, hopefully not at the expense of Stow ‘n Go.
If I sound like a broken record after repeating Stow ‘n Go so many times, I make no apology. After all, people who read minivan reviews are either seriously considering purchasing one or emotionally supporting a recent purchase, and for those who bought a Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan I can honestly say you made the right choice for an active lifestyle. If you’re not the type to ever fully load up your van with whatever comes your way, or in other words if you could never see a reason to remove the second-row seats, then by all means check out every competitive van on the market, but if you, like me, regularly use your van as it was intended, there’s only one way to go, Stow ‘n Go. For those who want more luxury with their ultimate convenience, the Town & Country is an ideal choice that can likely be had with a bigger discount than the future Pacifica will allow when fully loaded, and even though I’ve already been up close and comfortable with the Pacifica I can still recommend a T&C as it’s an extremely well-proven entity with what should be considerable financial advantages in the way of heavy discounts. Either way, I doubt you’ll be sorry about your purchase after spending time with the many benefits of any Chrysler van.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.