Chrysler Town & Country Performance
The aging base 3.3L engine in the Town & Country receives very mixed reviews from test drivers, with many noting it to be inadequate for a vehicle of this size. At the same time, most find that the upscale 3.8L engine performs adequately. Almost universally, the ride of the T&C is seen as one of its best features; Automobile Magazine claims that "the Town & Country is as serene as a clubroom, yet it corners with aplomb and never makes driving a chore."
While there is general agreement that the Town & Country sports an aging, somewhat underpowered engine lineup versus competition, most critics still enjoy the ride. Automotive.com declares, "All in all, driving the Chrysler Town & Country is pleasant and enjoyable," and About.com adds, "If I were off on a road trip with a family, I'd certainly relish the opportunity to pilot the T&C down the highway."
Acceleration and Power
The base engine in the T&C minivan is a 3.3-liter V6, sporting 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque; it is standard in the base T&C and LX upgrade. The Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. With the not-so-mini minivan weighing in at around 4,000 pounds, this base engine is seen by many as barely adequate to move the standard T&C, and not up to the task of making the extended-length LX model get up and go. Consumer Guide calls the 3.3L engine "adequate in the regular-length model," but adds that it "feels overmatched in extendeds for anything but light-duty work." Autoweb observes that "immediate acceleration is rough and passing from a slow speed is dicey." Perhaps one of the more critical testers was Edmunds, who notes that the "engines run out of steam on the highway," and "no matter which V6 you choose, the T&C feels underpowered relative to others in its class." And adding to the pile-on, NewCars.com stabs, "The typical minivan van has no lessons to learn regarding torque from the Town and Country." Ouch.
On the other hand, an equally large number of test drivers such as Automotive.com take a completely opposing stand, noting that the base 3.3L engine delivers "lively acceleration" and that it has "plenty of motor to jackrabbit away from standstills or pull off that big pass." The agrees, claiming that the T&C has "plenty of power," but then adds, "The engine is smooth and quiet when cruising, although it makes itself known under full-throttle acceleration." Lastly, MSN wisely observes how the choice of body style makes a difference, stating that the 3.3L has "sufficient acceleration to provide decent performance in the regular-length version [base T&C], which is lighter than the larger version [LX]."
The upscale engine in the Town & Country is a 3.8-liter V6 that delivers 200 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque; it is standard in the Touring and Limited models and optional on the LX. The EPA rates it at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. The extra power provided by this larger engine is enough to bring almost universal approval from test drivers. While seen as technologically dated, the 3.8L still can "move the big, heavy minivan -- even hill climbs and freeway merges were accomplished without noticeable exertion," according to Kelley Blue Book. MSN agrees, noting that the 3.8L "provides strong acceleration" and has "good get up and go." However, at the same time, the driver notes that the T&C engines are underpowered compared to most of the key competition, most notably the well-regarded Honda Odyssey, which delivers 244 horsepower. Yet while underpowered in its class, the T&C 3.8L is still enough, according to Automotive.com, "to exercise domination on busy freeways in Los Angeles."
The T&C is only available with a four-speed automatic transmission when rivals such as the Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest all offer five-speed automatics. However, while seen as dated by most, the T&C transmission generally receives good marks from test drivers. MSN calls it "smooth" and "responsive," while Cars.com finds the shifts "prompt and easy." Probably the biggest drawback of a four-speed versus a five-speed (besides fuel economy) is noted by more than a few critics -- the tendency of the car to hunt for the right gear. Edmunds observes the transmission "tends to hunt when faced with highway inclines," and after driving in the mountains, About.com notes, "having an extra gear or two would have prevented excessive shifting during our ascent."
Handling and Braking
Perhaps the most universally admired aspect of the Town & Country driving experience is its smooth, predictable ride. MSN even calls it "a comfortable, car-like feel," adding that, "The extended version has an especially smooth ride, thanks partly to its [longer] wheelbase." On the highway is where the road manners of the T&C really stand out. Kelley Blue Book notes that there, "the Town & Country rides smoothly and quietly," though at the same time, Edmunds calls the ride "soft and wallowy," implying that the T&C should not be considered to be a sporty vehicle by any means.
A number of test drivers also compare the T&C to the popular SUV format, and most find it to be a much better ride. Perhaps About.com says it best, noting, "I was pleasantly surprised by the T&C's handling, especially compared to my everyday SUV," then adding, "Dare I say 'nimble'? Because the minivan has a low center of gravity, it never feels like it's going to tip over around the curves, even when pushed fairly hard." The critic then continues, "It handles speed bumps better than most cars, smoothing out the bumps and delivering a jolt-free ride." Perhaps Automotive.com notes the most important feature of the T&C ride: "Drinking a hot cappuccino while driving can be done without fear."
The steering of the T&C also gets broad praise from test drivers, delivering almost "carlike stability in turns, fine around-town maneuverability," according to Consumer Guide. Likewise, Kelley Blue Book is "surprised at how agile the tall, multi-ton vehicle was around town and in parking lots." On the negative side, a few critics like MSN felt that the vehicle felt "tippy" in corners, particularly when heavily loaded. The turning diameter of the base model is 37.6 feet, and for all other extended-length models it is relatively large compared to the competition at 39.4 feet.
The Town & Country brakes generally get mixed reviews. In the positive camp are those like Kelley Blue Book, which calls the braking "sure and smooth;" MSN, which notes the brakes to be "strong, with good pedal feel," and Consumer Guide, which claims, "Good...braking power, and pedal modulation, though noticeable nosedive in sudden stops." On the opposite side are critics like Edmunds, which calls the brakes "weak."
Anti-lock brakes are standard on all T&C models except the base T&C, where they are available as an option. Traction control is standard on the Touring and Limited modelsand not available on the Base and LX models.
The T&C delivers competent towing, especially compared with many others in its class. The base T&C is rated to tow a relatively meager 2,000 pounds, but the LX, Touring and Limited are rated to tow a respectable 3,600 pounds.
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