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Published: 03/17/2014 - by Mike Magrath, Features Editor
Quick Summary: 2014 is the 30th anniversary of the Chrysler Town and Country. Now the lone choice in minivans from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, it starts at just over $30,000. For that you get class-leading interior functionality, but it falls short in terms of materials, ride quality and quietness compared to its more expensive competition.
What Is It?
The 2014 Chrysler Town and Country 30th Anniversary Edition is a generously equipped minivan featuring a leather-trimmed interior, seven-passenger seating, power-sliding side doors, Stow 'n Go folding seats, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and far, far more. It's a perennial best-seller thanks to its combination of price, features, outstanding functionality and handsome exterior styling.
How Does It Rate in Terms of Interior Comfort and Functionality?
This nearly top-trim Chrysler Town and Country 30th Anniversary Edition is outstandingly well equipped. The seats are covered in leather and have Alcantara accents that not only make them more comfortable, but add a serious sense of durability and grippiness. In our accidental coffee-cup malfunction test, they also seemed quite water-resistant.
As you'd expect from a minivan, space is ample in all rows. Even the third row can accommodate adults for extended trips. Seat adjustability, however, isn't one of the Town and Country's strong suits. Seat bottoms are short and the front chairs don't go low enough for taller drivers. Shorter occupants, however, will find the high seating position a bonus.
Beyond the simple functionality of sitting, the T&C has some neat tricks up its sleeves insofar as the seats are concerned. In a normal minivan or SUV, swapping from passenger to cargo functionality means either taking the seats out (a heavy, annoying process) or folding them down to create a high, lumpy load floor. Chrysler's minivan features the innovative Stow 'n Go system to make this van as functional as possible.
Without much trouble, the second-row seats fold into big cubbies in the van's floor. The third row seats fold down, too, but they're powered and take just about a minute. When all is said and done, there's a large cavern with a low, flat load floor suitable for flat-pack boxes, a mattress or something like 45 dogs by our estimation.
But Wait, There's More!
Beyond the greatness of the seats, this minivan is kitted out with a host of tech and convenience features including blind spot and cross-traffic monitoring, rear parking sensors and camera, power sliding doors, wireless headphones for the rear passengers, three-zone climate control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a power liftgate.
Our test van also came with the eloquently named $1,700 Customer Preferred package 29P. This combines the aforementioned leather/Alcantara seats and power-folding third row, heated first- and second-row seats, keyless entry and power-adjustable pedals. This van's also got a $995 DVD/Blu-ray player with 9-inch screens for the second and third row. This feature could be worth the price on just one long drive, or after one long day.
All these features can be grouped into two important, overlapping categories: making the van easier to use, and making your life easier.
The most obvious and, surprisingly, debated-about nicety on this van is the remote-activated power doors. Certainly this feature adds weight, complexity and cost, but for us, it's well worth it. With the press of a button, the doors open automatically! That's some Star Trek stuff, friend. And the crew of the USS Enterprise never had to juggle a kid, a car seat, a gym bag and a sack of groceries. Though this feature has certainly been around for years, it's one of those things like a butler or a shoe horn that needs to be experienced to be understood.
We were less thrilled, however, with the third row power-folding seats. They're slow, slightly confusing and just plain unnecessary. Look to the Ford Flex to see how to do manual third row seats correctly. Unfortunately, they're lumped in with the heated seats and large display screens, both items that are high our on shopping list in this category.
These features, of course, come at a cost. While you can get into a basic 2014 Chrysler Town and Country for $30,785, this one stickers for $37,855.
How Does It Drive?
You'll never forget you're driving a minivan, that's for sure.
On open stretches of flat, smooth road, the Town and Country is a quiet, complacent cruiser that simply eats up the miles. It's those other times where this Chrysler starts to show its age. When empty, the Town and Country absorbs bumps and potholes very well with the front tires and then, when the rear hits, gets very bouncy as the thunk echoes throughout the cabin. When loaded, the van floats and bounces down the road like a classic American sedan. More suspension damping would fix this problem, likely at the expense of a harsher ride.
The Chrysler's strong, 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 makes merging and accelerating from a stop easy, even if it is a tick slower than its competition. The six-speed automatic transmission is unnoticed day-to-day, but tends to get confused on gradual grades, hunting for gears in an endless quest to provide adequate acceleration and optimal fuel economy.
Steering weight is appropriately heavy and there's no trouble keeping this van in its lane or fitting into a tight parking spot.
During testing, the Town and Country managed an average acceleration time of 8.1 seconds to 60 mph (7.8 seconds with a foot of rollout as on a drag strip). At full throttle, the Town and Country's engine is loud and rough and the steering wheel yanks itself hard to one side. Not pleasant.
Braking, on the other hand, was very good, requiring only 120 feet to stop from 60 mph. That's 16 feet shorter than an Odyssey and 10 feet better than the last Toyota Sienna we tested. Again, the numbers don't tell the whole story, though, as the Chrysler's pedal goes nearly to the floor halfway through a panic stop. It does the trick, but in a rather disconcerting way.
How Safe Is It?
In government crash tests, the Town and Country achieved four out of five stars in overall protection: four stars for overall front impact, five stars for side impact. The IIHS gave the Chrysler Town and Country its best score (Good) for all tests including moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats.
The T&C has a host of safety features including blind spot and cross-traffic monitoring, a back-up camera, electronic stability control, side curtain airbags for all rows, knee airbag for the driver, front seat-mounted side airbags and easy-to-access LATCH anchor points for child seats.
What Kind of Mileage Does It Deliver?
The Chrysler Town and Country is only available in front-wheel drive with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 283 hp. The van is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg combined (17 city/25 highway).
During our time with the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country, we averaged 17 mpg. Our best tank, 21.4 mpg, occurred during our standardized Edmunds evaluation loop.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
This Chrysler Town and Country 30th Anniversary Edition is equipped to nearly the top of the Chrysler minivan price range and thus competes with other full-size minivans offering leather interior, power sliding doors, entertainment systems and other luxuries.
A longtime favorite, the Honda Odyssey offers a more civilized experience with better materials and a smoother, more carlike ride. A similarly equipped Odyssey Touring Elite, however, is $45,280.
The Toyota Sienna is another solid choice with a strong V6, large cargo area and, unique for the segment, all-wheel drive. Like the Odyssey, the Sienna is more expensive than the Chrysler. Similarly equipped, you'll spend $45,000 on the Toyota.
Why Should You Consider This Car
Chrysler invented the minivan category and as such, has an innate knowledge of what buyers in this class need and what they want. The 2014 Town and Country ticks all of the boxes: It's sized right, easy enough to drive and park, loaded with convenience features and, best of all, has an amazingly flexible interior that can bring a baby home from the hospital as easily as it can get a teenager moved into a dorm.
Similarly equipped, the Chrysler also carries a sticker price a few thousand less than some competitors, which will certainly sway more than a few buyers.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car
Chrysler leads the minivan pack in terms of its interior flexibility and pure functionality; however, it falls behind on the niceties. Interior materials aren't up to par anymore, and the layout feels disjointed at best. The ride is louder and less composed than some of its competitors, and the engine and transmission feel a full generation behind the class leaders.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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