What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Chrysler Town & Country gets more standard equipment, as leather seating and a rear-seat entertainment system now come on all trim levels.
Chrysler's Town & Country moniker has been affixed to everything from an elegant 1940s convertible with real wood side panels to a massive 1970s station wagon with fake wood body trim. Starting in the 1990s, it has adorned a luxury minivan -- initially with fake wood paneling, then thankfully without. The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country just might be the most deserving edition of its historic nameplate, as it is equally adept at shuttling business folks around the city as it is taking the family on a cross-country vacation.
Though it's mostly a twin of its Dodge Grand Caravan cousin, the Town & Country has some unique styling features along with a more upscale cabin to set it apart from its more common relative. The T&C has long been known as one of the more satisfying minivans to drive, and last year's major hardware improvements (more power and a recalibrated suspension) make piloting the latest Town & Country a more enjoyable experience. Comfortable seats and a generous roster of practical and luxury features make Chrysler's minivan ideal for most anything from taking a trio of couples out to dinner to getting a dining room table home from the furniture store.
But the Town & Country isn't the only minivan chasing buyers who want all the trimmings of a touring sedan along with versatile cargo-carrying capacity in their spacious people mover. Top trim levels of the recently redesigned Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna are also pretty plush and benefit from more refined powertrains. But the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country's combination of pleasant driving dynamics, strong performance, comfortable ride and available upscale features make it worthy of consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country minivan is offered in three trim levels: Touring, Touring-L and Limited.
The entry-level Touring model comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, a roof rack, power sliding doors, a power tailgate and rear parking sensors. Inside you'll find air-conditioning, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, Stow 'n Go second-row seats, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, full power accessories (including second-row power windows and third-row power vents), a conversation mirror, a back-up camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a 115-volt AC power outlet. Electronic features include a rear-seat entertainment center (second-row screen), Bluetooth, a USB port and a six-speaker CD sound system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and digital music storage.
Moving up to the Touring-L model gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, auto-dimming outside mirrors, remote ignition, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats and second- and third-row window shades. The top-of-the-line Limited model adds xenon headlights, keyless ignition/entry, upgraded leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, Bluetooth, a navigation system, an additional third-row screen for the entertainment system and a nine-speaker premium audio system.
Some of the standard features found on the upper Town & Country trim levels can be added to the lower trims via optional packages. Other major options include a sunroof, a power-folding third-row seat and an upgraded center console.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that puts out 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The engine drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
In Edmunds testing, the Town & Country accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, about a half-second slower than the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
The 2012 Chrysler Town & Country comes with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, active front head restraints, full-length side curtain airbags, front seat side-impact airbags and a driver knee airbag. A blind-spot monitor and a rear cross-path detection system are also standard. In Edmunds brake testing, the Town & Country came to a stop from 60 mph in 128 feet, an average distance for a minivan.
In government crash tests, the T&C received four out of five stars for overall protection, with four stars awarded for overall frontal impact protection and five stars for overall side impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Town & Country earned the highest score of "Good" in that agency's frontal offset and side impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Last year's complete makeover brought with it a nicely trimmed cabin stocked with quality materials and a pleasing design. Positioning the Town & Country as a luxury vehicle means an interior that is downright posh on the top-of-the-line Limited trim level.
Unlike other minivans that require the awkward removal of the middle-row seats to achieve maximum cargo capacity, the Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seats fold flat into the floor. Operating these surprisingly comfortable seats is fairly simple, as only a quick tug of a strap and a few gentle yanks are required to make them disappear into the floor.
The third-row seats are also comfortable, but headroom might be tight for taller folks, while shorter folks may find the aggressive tilt of the seat cushion akin to sitting in a dentist's chair. The 60/40-split third-row seat can be had with a slick power-folding option and can also be flipped backwards to create comfortable seating for tailgate parties and the kids' soccer games. Several Edmunds editors of different heights noticed that the driver seat and pedals are mounted too close together, even when moved to the widest setting offered by the power adjustments.
With all three rows of seats in use, the Town & Country offers a healthy 33 cubic feet of cargo room. Folding down the second- and third-row seats creates a flat load floor with a competitive 143.8 cubic feet of space.
The muscular engine and confident handling on winding roads make the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country a contender. But segment leaders like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna still offer more refinement. The Chrysler's engine, while powerful, sounds and feels rougher, and there's an odd whistling noise under deceleration. The six-speed automatic transmission does an admirable job of keeping power on tap, but gearchanges can sometimes be jarring. The steering effort is slightly heavier and the suspension is a bit less compliant as well. On the highway, we've also noticed some creaks and squeaks, although nothing compared to older models.