What's New for 2006
Starting with December 2005 production, the 2006 Chrysler Town & Country receives a strengthened roof and side structure and updated side curtain airbags to improve its performance in side-impact crashes.
Introduced in 1990 as an upscale version of the Grand Caravan, the Chrysler Town & Country is now in its third generation after being redesigned for the 2001 model year. After taking heat from the media and consumers alike for its lack of a fold-flat third-row seat, Chrysler equipped long-wheelbase models with what it calls the Stow 'n Go seating and storage system for 2005. This system enables owners to quickly and easily fold the second- and third-row seats into the floor. When the seats are in use by passengers, these in-floor compartments double as storage areas. Also, the third-row split bench may be flipped completely rearward to provide tailgate seating.
The Town and Country offers peppy performance and carlike ride and handling qualities. These minivans have been Chrysler's biggest success story of the last two decades and have always been at or near the top on the segment's sales charts. But these corporate darlings have had their share of problems, as various mechanical woes have tarnished their reliability reputation. Although quality has improved greatly in the last five years, the current generation has had its share of repair issues, and an extended warranty would not be a bad idea if you're planning to keep the van beyond its basic 3-year/36,000-mile warranty period.
Apart from its fold-flat seating and enjoyable driving demeanor, this Chrysler minivan has many charms, among them a comfortable interior, clean styling and an available power liftgate. Depending on what trim level and options are selected, driver and passengers can be ensconced in soft, gathered-leather seats, while triple-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortably cool or warm. In spite of the Town & Country's strengths, competiting imports offer something else that Chrysler won't be able to simply bolt on: a long-standing reputation for exemplary reliability and build quality. Still, plenty of buyers will be won over by the Town and Country's combination of agile handling, comfy ride, expansive interior, stylish sheet metal and iconic presence in the minivan segment.
How do you decide whether to go with the Chrysler minivan or the Dodge version? Basically, there are two considerations -- price and style. The lower-level Grand Caravans have lower base prices, so if you simply need a larger van with minimal features, the Dodge would be the way to go. If you're more flexible on price, the Town & Country offers a slightly more upscale feel. On the subject of style, some buyers are likely to prefer the classy 2006 Chrysler Town & Country, whose front fascia features a 1930s-era winged Chrysler emblem, as opposed to the DGC, whose sportier mug greets you with a head-on shot of a Ram.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Chrysler Town & Country offers four trim levels -- base, LX, Touring and Limited. The base model is the only standard-wheelbase T&C; the other three are extended wheelbase. Base models are equipped with basic amenities like cruise control, tilt steering, air conditioning, power windows and locks, an AM/FM/CD stereo and a 3.3-liter V6 engine. Moving up to the LX model adds Stow 'n Go fold-flat seating in the second and third rows and power mirrors. The Touring adds dual power-sliding doors, a power liftgate, a power driver seat and a 3.8-liter V6 engine. The top-of-the-line Limited model is further upgraded with three-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, a DVD-based navigation system, rear park assist, three-row side curtain airbags and an Infinity audio system. A rear DVD entertainment system is optional on Touring and Limited models.
Powertrains and Performance
A 3.3-liter, 180-horsepower V6 comes standard on base and LX models. Standard on Touring and Limited models is a 215-hp, 3.8-liter V6. A four-speed automatic is the sole transmission. A Town & Country with the 3.8-liter V6 is a sprightly performer, with crisp response down low and through the midrange. Towing capacity maxes out at 3,800 pounds with the optional towing package.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all except the base model, which comes with front discs/rear drums and has ABS as an option. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional on base, LX and Touring models, and standard on the Limited. All Chrysler Town & Country models include a new driver knee airbag. Long-wheelbase models earned a full five stars in NHTSA frontal- and side-impact crash tests. The short-wheelbase model posted perfect scores in all categories, except for a four-star rating for side impacts involving front occupants. Frontal-offset crash testing produced an overall "Acceptable" rating (the second highest on a scale of four). When equipped with side curtain airbags, the Town & Country also rated "Acceptable" in IIHS side-impact testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The star of the show is definitely the Stow 'n Go fold-flat seating and storage system, but the cabin also sports a number of other neat optional features, such as a movable center console equipped with power points and a power rear liftgate. The seats are generally comfortable, and drivers will find most controls within easy reach. Extended versions have 26 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the 60/40-split third-row seats, and a maximum of 168 cubes with all second- and third-row seats folded into the floor.
The Chrysler Town & Country's most endearing qualities continue to be its agile handling and supple ride characteristics. We suspect that this minivan will surprise and win over a lot of folks who expect the minivan driving experience to be an exercise in lethargic vehicle dynamics. The 3.3-liter V6 engine provides adequate acceleration, but larger families and those who tow a trailer will prefer the added power of the 3.8-liter V6.