Quick Spin: 2015 Chrysler Town & Country S

The Dodge Grand Caravan has been a staple for Canadian families for around 30 years now and remains incredibly popular due to its price. With the Canada Value Package trim on lots at under $20,000, it’s the least expensive minivan by a healthy margin. But that price-point is achieved by providing little more than the basics in terms of features. If you’re looking to “ball out” a bit, Chrysler offers the Town & Country.

But the fact of the matter is that the Town & Country S retails for closer to $32,000 with applied incentives.

Designed to compete with the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona, the Town & Country has had a tough time in head-to-head comparisons. One of the main reasons is the MSRP that’s attached. My tester was the “S” trim which has a base of $46,690 but with the list of installed options tops out at $52,200. That price puts it in line with the top trims of the others even though the overall quality is not on par. But the fact of the matter is that the Town & Country S retails for closer to $32,000 with applied incentives. At the “real price,” the package becomes much more compelling and the feature set trumps similarly priced trims from Honda and Toyota and lines up with a similar spec from Kia.

As standard, all Town & Country trims come with the essentials for family life such as power rear doors and liftgate. But what sets it apart from its competitors is that the first row of seating folds into the floor and because they’re captain's chairs, they can be done individually to accommodate both people and large items. It’s the only minivan on the market with this feature and quickly turns your family hauler into a proper utility vehicle with massive cargo space. The downside is that the middle row seats offer little legroom and aren’t as comfortable as the competition, which was a pain in the ass for a couple of chaps I took up to Algonquin for a paddle.

If your kids (or childish adult friends) are “connected,” the Town & Country S comes with both a rear seat Bluray entertainment system and cable inputs to accommodate every shape and size of device. And for the iPad kids, USB ports are accessible to both middle and back rows. And as it turns out, the Spa channel, which is available on the built-in satellite radio, can be used to put unruly passengers to sleep.

The 283-hp, V6 Pentastar engine standard on all trims provides ample power and quiet operation. Even when loaded with five large adults and four days' worth of camping gear and rations, a decent prod of the gas pedal always resulted in equally decent shove. It’s a solid and well-rated engine that should give you solid service well past the warranty. The six-speed automatic is smooth but ever-so-eager to shift into the higher gears in search of fuel economy. This means you need to lay into the throttle to prompt a downshift. My combined city/highway fuel economy for the week was 12.1 L/100 km, which included a lot of highway driving with about 1,500 pounds of food and humans. All-in all, a bit better than I expected from the heaviest vehicle in its class. It’s also the best combined fuel economy of the four minivans, just slightly better than the Honda.

Driving pleasure can be summed up in one word, “comfortable.” This is not a nimble machine even by minivan standards. The torsion bar rear suspension is cheap and durable but its lack of sophistication leads to a bit of tail wagging during aggressive maneuvers. On the plus side, the Town & country has a simple shape and tall windows, which make for good 360-degree visibility.

With 2015 coming to a close and a new Chrysler minivan on the horizon, some good deals are sure to be had on the Town & Country. If you’re looking for proper luxury, opt for the Limited trim, which has more features and high quality leather on the seats. If you’re looking for utility, I’d probably step down to the Grand Caravan and option it to the teeth for less money. But if you can wait… Chrysler has some big changes planned for Town & Country coming down the pipe, which I believe will square it up better with its competitors in overall quality.

Warranty:
3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 3 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

Competitors:
Dodge Grand Caravan
Honda Odyssey
Kia Sedona
Toyota Sienna

Pricing: 2015 Chrysler Town & Country S
Base Price: $46,690
Options: $4,415 (Billet metallic – $195; Blind spot monitoring, park assist, rain-sensing wipers – $1,250; trailer tow package – $700; Remote Start, security alarm – $595; Heated seats, steering wheel and sunshades – $1,200, Navigation – $475)
Destination: $995
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $52,200

The Dodge Grand Caravan has been a staple for Canadian families for around 30 years now and remains incredibly popular due to its price. 11/10/2015 7:22:54 AM