What's New for 1997
Chrysler's luxury minivans get a few improvements this year, as AWD extended length models are added to the lineup. Also new this year is a sporty SX model, which replaces last year's LX as the regular length Town and Country. Families with kids will love the standard left-side sliding door on this vehicle.
Elegance and expressiveness, grace and grandeur. These are the words that describe Chrysler's posh rendition of the Dodge/Plymouth minivan.
Oh sure, you get the same fresh shape and interior space in a lower-priced Caravan or Voyager, the same car-like ride/handling qualities, the same practical virtues as a people and cargo hauler. What Chrysler adds to that mix is luxury. Plenty of it--and that's enough to attract a fair share of extra customers to the Chrysler end of the minivan spectrum.
Town and Country customers have three distinct choices now: the LX model, an "ultimate" LXi that promises features ordinarily found only on luxury cars--plus a new short-wheelbase (113.3-inch) SX version. (This minivan was badged the LX last year). The SX is Chrysler's sporty minivan. It offers cast aluminum wheels, touring tires, and a very inexpensive touring and handling package. Properly outfitted, the SX transforms into a quick, little sport van capable of embarrassing most sedan owners.
All-wheel drive, being all the rage right now, is optional on the LX and LXi models of the TandC. Since these minivans have only five-and-a-half inches of ground clearance, they aren't meant for serious off-road adventure. They do, however, give drivers the security of knowing that their traction is improved when driving on slippery surfaces. They also make piloting the extended length minivans a little more fun, by evening out the weight distribution and providing some rear-wheel motive power. Chrysler's AWD minivans also replace the standard rear drum brakes with discs.
All three minivans feature seven-passenger seating, with an "Easy-Out" rollaway back seat. A 3.8-liter V6 is standard in the LXi, and optional in its mates, which otherwise come with a 3.3-liter engine. Both engines drive a four-speed automatic transmission, which delivers neat and smooth gearchanges. Minivanners who do lots of highway cruising and Interstate hopping might be happier with the bigger engine, which lets the TandC pass and merge into traffic with greater confidence and briskness.
Extras in the LXi edition include dual-zone control heat/air conditioning, eight-way leather trimmed driver and passenger seats, plus a memory for both the seats and outside mirrors. A roof rack is standard on the LXi, and optional on the others. To further humiliate Ford Motor Company, which had the chance to put a left side passenger door on their Windstar and didn't, Chrysler has made this feature standard on all Town and Country models for 1997. If you want luxury and spaciousness, but you just can't abide the thought of a boxy Volvo wagon or lethargic Audi A6, drop by your local Chrysler store and try the Town and Country on for size.