What's New for 2009
The base model Town & Country LX gains more standard equipment for 2009, including Stow 'n Go seating. The Touring and Limited gain more optional equipment, including a dedicated iPod interface, rain-sensing wipers, a blind-spot monitoring system and the new Rear Cross Path System.
How things can change in a year. Last year, we were quite high on the Chrysler Town & Country based on our initial impressions of its sister minivan, the Dodge Grand Caravan. We were impressed by these all-new minivans' innovative, family-friendly features, powerful 4.0-liter V6 engine and comfortable interior. Although we thought the cabin materials could be better, we felt we could live with them given the vans' other high points.
But that was based on our typical two-week evaluation period with a new car. Then we received a Dodge Grand Caravan (the Town and Country's corporate twin) as a long-term vehicle and our tune quickly changed. Unless the Town & Country's added wood trim and analog clock somehow make a miraculous difference, both vans have gone from being top choices to segment bottom feeders. In that Grand Caravan, we encountered a host of problems, from a finicky radio and passenger sliding door to constant creaks and rattles. Build quality was terrible -- the "+" marking on the shifter was wiped off by someone's finger, the tan leather quickly showed signs of discoloration and the rear bumper plastic warped to the point where we couldn't open the tailgate. This was all after only six months, and you'll find similar experiences in our consumer reviews.
In other words, the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country is not a quality product. True, it does have some unique and useful features like Swivel 'n Go seating, Stow 'n Go seating, a dual-screen rear entertainment system, Sirius Satellite TV and hard-drive audio storage. It also boasts the usual minivan attributes of abundant passenger and cargo space. But that's not enough to overcome its serious detriments. The Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona/Hyundai Entourage, Toyota Sienna and several full-size crossovers like the Buick Enclave would be much better choices for your family.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is available in three trim levels: LX, Touring and Limited. The base LX comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories (including second-row power windows and third-row power vents), front and rear air-conditioning, cruise control, Stow 'n Go second-row seating, stain-repellent cloth upholstery, a tilt steering wheel, a flip-down kiddie mirror and a CD/MP3 player. The optional Power Convenience Group adds power-sliding doors, a power tailgate and a power driver seat. The LX's optional Entertainment Group comes with a rear seat entertainment system with two wireless headphones, satellite radio and a touchscreen stereo interface with 30GB of digital music storage (known as uconnect Tunes)
The T&C Touring comes standard with the equipment in the Convenience Group as well as a larger V6 engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, foglamps, power-adjustable pedals, overhead storage bins with mood lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and satellite radio. Even more options are available on the Touring, but they're typically bundled in a confusing array of packages. The Family Value Group adds second- and third-row sunshades, a sliding front center console and remote ignition. The Premium Group adds 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-folding third-row seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror and Bluetooth. The Entertainment Group is optional on the Touring, but adds a single-DVD player and a third-row screen (swivels with Swivel 'n Go). Also optional are heated first- and second-row seats and Sirius Backseat TV.
The T&C Limited has the features from the Family Value Group and Premium Group as standard. You'll also get 17-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels, xenon headlights, rear parking assist, driver memory settings, rear climate control and a nine-speaker stereo with uconnect Tunes. The optional Entertainment Group includes Sirius Backseat TV in the Limited.
Optional on all trim levels is Swivel 'n Go seating with a storable table, and if so equipped, second-row integrated child booster seats are optional. A package available on the Touring and Limited trim levels adds various safety equipment along with an auto-dimming mirror (Touring), Bluetooth and an iPod interface. Also optional on the two top trims are a sunroof and a navigation system with real-time traffic that's integrated with uconnect Tunes' touchscreen and hard drive. The power-folding third-row seat is a stand-alone option on the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2009 Chrysler Town & Country can be equipped with one of three V6 engine choices. The base LX trim gets a 3.3-liter V6 good for 175 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy for this engine is disappointing given its meager output at 17 mpg city/24 mpg combined and 19 mpg combined.
The Touring comes with a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 197 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque. The Limited gets a more modern 4.0-liter V6 making 251 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines come with a six-speed automatic. Despite their differing power outputs, they also get the same fuel economy at 16 city/23 highway and 18 combined. The T&C Limited goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is rather quick for a minivan.
The 2009 Town & Country comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and full-length side curtain airbags. Optional on all trims are second-row integrated child booster seats (requires Swivel 'n Go). Optional on all but the LX is the Security Group, which adds rear parking sensors (standard on Limited), a blind spot monitoring system and Rear Cross Path. The latter item aids drivers any time the vehicle is in reverse by warning of cross traffic in both directions to prevent your minivan from being T-boned.
In government crash tests, the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country scored a perfect five stars in all frontal- and side-impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Grand Caravan also scored the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Town & Country's design theme can be described as appropriately plain and utilitarian, although dollops of faux wood trim, chrome accents and an analog clock brighten things up. Audio controls are mounted very high for easy viewing and use (although the optional touchscreen and its menus can be cumbersome). The climate controls are located a little too low and require a downward glance away from the road. As earlier described, the Town & Country's materials quality is worse than all its competitors, while build quality is shoddy at best.
Like all minivans, the Town & Country has its fair share of innovative interior features. The most notable are the various second-row seating choices. Standard Stow 'n Go features a pair of captain's chairs that disappear into the floor (as the third row does) creating a perfectly flat load floor with no hernia-causing seat lifts. Unfortunately, Stow 'n Go's short seatbacks aren't as comfortable as conventional chairs -- like those found in the optional Swivel 'n Go. As the name suggests, these can be spun around to create a trainlike face-to-face traveling experience for second- and third-row passengers. Fittingly, a pole-mounted table can be placed between both rows with Swivel 'n Go. Other innovative features include two rear video screens (one that swivels), power-folding third row, huge under-floor storage, Sirius Satellite TV, ambient cabin lighting, a pop-out cargo-area-mounted flashlight and a driver door umbrella holder. With all the rear seating flat, the T&C can carry up to 140 cubic feet of cargo.
Minivans are not intended to be sports cars, so the T&C's handling is about what you'd expect and midpack for the segment. This Chrysler is easy to drive and park, but the overall driving experience hardly matches the highly refined Honda Odyssey. The interior remains quiet even at highway speed, and the 4.0-liter V6 makes the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country Limited one of the swiftest minivans available. The 3.8-liter V6 delivers adequate, if not spectacular, acceleration. The 3.3-liter engine is a slug and doesn't provide any significant fuel economy benefit.