By on September 10, 2013

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Two years ago, your humble author had some very nice things to say about the revised, Pentastar-powered Dodge Grand Caravan. Since then, I’ve put a couple thousand more miles on Caravans, including a fairly harrowing trip to Nashville in a low-spec variant, and, to quote Sean Connery, “I haven’t changed my opinion.”.

I never deliberately rent a minivan. Until this past Friday, when I needed one to cover about 580 miles in a single night so I could play an impromptu gig with a hastily assembled group of people who didn’t quite know each other. So I paid Enterprise their rapacious $94/day rate for an on-purpose Friday-to-Saturday minivan rental, and the green “e” came through with a brand-spanking-new, 46-miles-on-the-odometer Chrysler T&C Touring. So. We know the Caravan is brilliant. Is the Chrysler worth the extra money?


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When my brother and I failed to kill each other during and after an ad-hoc rooftop party gig in Charlotte, NC, we decided to try playing in a few more inconvenient venues. First up on the list was a coffee shop in London, KY owned by a friend of ours who mastered and recorded a couple of platinum records before leaving the music business to sleep on top of a massive pile of cash, or something like that. To make things more interesting, I added two members of my current band, The Original Dirigibles, and a jazz drummer from Cincinnati. Then we revised the set to cut the modal stuff a bit and significantly up the John Mayer content. (Yes, we’re playing “Wildfire” even though the album just came out.)

Those you who care about the gig itself (hi, Nena!) can read about it in mind-numbing, PRS-specific detail here, but the important part is that we had to drive 283 miles each way, starting at 2pm, taking the stage at 7pm, and leaving for home around J.J. Cale’s favorite time*. Our packing list was exhaustive but I’ll reproduce it in part here, just to give you an idea of the weight and space required:

  • Me
  • Patrick the bass player
  • Pemm the rhythm guitarist
  • Vodka McBigbra the photographer and official complainer regarding in-van volume
  • A cooler full of, um, spring water
  • My Roland TD-4KX electronic drum kit
  • A Behringer bass wedge
  • My Roland VGA-5 traveling guitar amp
  • A Taylor T-5 acoustic/electric
  • Patrick’s spalted-maple Carvin SB5000
  • A Baby Taylor acoustic
  • A Samson PA
  • Two PRS guitars in their traveling (non-paisley) cases
  • A dozen-plus cables
  • Fakebooks, recording equipment, three Shure mikes, three mike stands
  • Extra clothes for everybody
  • Music stands
  • I’m not even sure that was all of it. But it all fit and the four leather captain’s chairs were fairly open for seating comfort. This being a T&C Touring with a net price after current rebates of $29,700 or so, it had some stuff the Value Package and base Caravans don’t have: power doors, overhead console with DVD player and extra plug-in places, power doors, power rear vents, a uConnect head unit that had no navigation but seemed to have everything else including a storage hard drive, bigger alloy wheels, serious window tinting, deep, sparkly paint, a leather steering wheel, and a few things I’m probably forgetting.

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    Every time I drive a $20,000 Caravan, I think that this is all I need. And then I drive the $30,000 Town and Country and realize that I also want this stuff. Start with the seats. They are a genuine improvement and all four of us had no back pain or discomfort during what ended up being, due to traffic, about nine and a half hours in the van over the course of a single day. The stereo is very good for a minivan and handles “The Love Below” and “Speakerboxx” as well as it does “Pursuance: The Music Of John Coltrane”. The upgraded instrument panel and center stack look like they’re worth some extra money, and the LCD screen between the dials on the IP has several additional features. There’s a separate temperature number for the rear air conditioning so certain females could be banned to the rear seats and enjoy the kind of tropical heat that chicks are known to dig year-round while I stayed frosty up front. Pemm enjoyed his window seat so much he Instagrammed it:

    pemm

    For the record, his wife is smoking and she makes a ton of money. It’s true what they say about holding a guitar, even the guitar is a Baby Taylor and not a PRS Private Stock. It’s also true that practice in the van on the way down, even with a super-tricky iPad holder, is no substitute for learning the songs the week before. Nevertheless, the T&C was quiet enough that we could work on a few vocal things that had eluded us in “rehearsal”, mostly because “rehearsal” is shorthand for “emptying bottles of Ketel One over the course of two hours and arguing about adding ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ to the set.” Is it quieter than the Caravan? I think so but I’m not willing to go on record there. There was a lot of biomass and plenty of sharp edges in the thing to absorb sound.

    As a band, we all appreciated the looks of the Chrysler, particularly the paint quality. The visual difference between this and the Caravan is plainly apparent — but it also costs more. It should be apparent. After many years of the least convincing badge engineering known to man, the company’s finally cracked the code for creating separate and distinct variants of a vehicle. The downside is that the Chrysler and Dodge no longer share a ZIP code, pricing-wise. And it must be said that, hovering right in this same MSRP range, is the Caravan R/T “Man Van”. Do I want the sophistication of the T&C or the aggression of the R/T? How did I get to be old enough that I’m seriously considering the answer to that question?

    Regardless of which variant you pick, you get the same powertrain. This was long overdue. It’s also the practice followed by Honda, Nissan, and Toyota (with the recent discontinuation of the no longer available four-cylinder sad-van LE 2.7.) The Pentastar continues to shine brightly (ooh! I’m ready to write for Autoblog with stuff like that!) in this application no matter what trim level you choose. It’s fast, it’s quiet, and it’s economical enough. We recorded 22.8 miles per gallon running a steady 85mph down to Kentucky and, after pressing the “Econ” leafy button on the way back, 24.8mpg with seemingly no difference in highway performance. The owners forums report that “Econ” significantly degrades in-town performance, however.

    Bass player Patrick swore that the Chrysler had less room in it than his two-generations-back Sienna. This sounded ridiculous to me and when he proved unable to operate the rear Stow N’ Go seat I resolved to ignore everything he said from then on. That resulted in us accidentally playing “Impressions” three measures apart for a harrowing minute or two, during which I’m pretty sure two members of the audience injured themselves trying to get out the back door. For the record, Edmunds scores it 133 cubic feet to 123 in favor of the Chrysler.

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    I’ve devoted a lot of time to the idea that the Chrysler minivan makes sense at the $20,000 and $25,000 level. I think it’s safe to say that it makes sense at the $30,000 level as well. For the extra money, you get a verifiable and usable improvement in day-to-day functionality and comfort. It’s not 50% better than the Value Package Caravan but the IWC Big Pilot isn’t 100% better than the IWC Spitfire either. If you have the money, it’s worth the extra cash.

    The ultimate question is: does the same platform make sense at $40K, at the loaded-Limited level? Is the “one with everything” a reasonable proposition? It’s hard to say, but this T&C Touring does the business and, as with its cheaper siblings, continues to be recommended without reservation.

    * After midnight, duh.

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94 Comments on “Review: 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Touring...”


  • avatar
    Nurburgringer

    I went through the exact same “~$23k brand spanking new Grand Caravan with cloth, basic stereo, $600 power window group and no ~$1500 power door group (we’re not geriatrics)” or “~$23k low mileage 2011 Town&Country with almost all the bells and whistles” question 2 months ago.
    As minor a thing as it sounds we finally settled on a 11k mile T&C Touring-L (which meant leather in 2011, now they all come standard with it) mainly because of the milk-chocolatey brown leather interior (can get a GC with tan cloth but didn’t like the black carpet), while the backup cam, nav, window shades and sat rad have turned out to be very nice to have.
    I’d be lying if I said I never found myself wistfully gazing at 2013 Grand Caravans and admiring their squarer, tougher shape over my somewhat dowdy but classy white T&C, but as they say from behind the wheel you can’t see the sheet metal. Especially since I just had the front windows tinted to match the rest.
    Through turns it does feel every one of it’s top-heavy 4500lbs (something a set of 2013 T&C ‘S’ sway bars may help), and I’m not thrilled with the way the dash vents seem to be either blasting on my face or else somewhere the AC disappears when cranked high to deal with the Houston heat, and I still curse Chrysler for withholding memory seat buttons for the super duper “Limited” model, but it’s so damned roomy, smooth riding and for now at least well screwed together I won’t complain too much.
    Minivans are the Gulfstream jets of the highway, good to see TTAC paying them the respect they deserve!

    • 0 avatar
      Nurburgringer

      follow up: I did some searching for 2011/12/13 suspension parts for various GC/T&C models on wermopar.com for suspension parts, and looks like they all have the same sway bars (fr #4721419AE rear not listed?), just different shocks and maybe springs.
      Until the stock shocks wear out will deal with it, then maybe go for the R/T ones with load leveling.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Jack, I rented one of those for a trip from Chicago to Hilton Head and back, via West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.

    The power sliding door is really nice with two small kids, but from time to time it decided that the track was blocked and re-opened. As far as I could tell there was nothing blocking the door from closing. You have to watch out for this – I have seen plenty of Chrysler minivans with open side doors in parking lots. I think a lot of people just assume it will always close. For that reason I’m not sure I would really want the power door were I to buy one.

    Additionally, I rented a Sienna in Kauai last year and while the new Chrysler minivans drive so much better, the transmission in the Toyota is much better suited to the application. In the interest of fuel economy (I assume), the Chrysler transmission always managed to put itself in the wrong gear heading up hills and mountains.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Chrysler transmission always managed to put itself in the wrong gear heading up hills and mountains.”

      They’ve been fiddling with the programming quite a bit lately. The latest service flash or production version may perform differently.

      • 0 avatar
        Nurburgringer

        I know there was a recall in mid 2012 for a transmission reflash (mine was done accd to an indedenpent dealer in late 2012) but haven’t heard of anything since then. Source for “lately” please?
        Mine seems to shift fine. Eco button delays the shift points which means quite sedate accel unless you stomp on it.

    • 0 avatar

      I gave up on that and hit “O/D off” in such cases.

    • 0 avatar
      Nurburgringer

      I’m also afraid the power doors won’t last all that long, so unless I’m picking someone up and want to impress them by opening the rear door(s) I keep the power door switch off and open/close the side and rear doors manually. Nice to have the option!

  • avatar
    mistermau

    That’s “Speakerboxxx”. #ATL4Life

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Nice review. Ultimately though it doesn’t matter how great this class of vehicles is because the women who often control the family purchases simply won’t pick these vehicles because of image. It doesn’t matter that things have gone full circle and its often men who drive the minivans – the stigma is too strong. It’s the same issue with hatchbacks in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      I’m currently helping a woman buy a new vehicle. She wants a mid-sized SUV, for higher seating position and interior space, which is fine. Perfectly good (in my mind) choices like the new Explorer, Edge, Veracruz, Highlander, and Pilot have all been discounted solely because they look too much like a minivan. No other reason. With GM and Nissan out due to bad experience, we’re left with the new Grand Cherokee and the previous gen 4Runner and Grand Cherokee; solely because they look like SUVs and don’t have minivan cues.

      Meanwhile I’m looking at older used wagons and vans (mid 2000′s Taurus wagon, 6 wagon, V70, Mazda 5 etc.) for a schlepping vehicle.

      Times have a changed

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      Ha, that’s pretty funny, but true. My 60 year old father recently bought a Caravan to replace a rusty Tacoma, because he found it to be the most versatile thing for him. It’s great for road trips, camping etc….yet also a fantastic covered work truck. Stow those…uh, stow and gos, and you pretty much have a cargo van. Plus they are stupidly cheap compared to every other van out there. He also doesn’t give a crap about image.

      There should be way more people driving a van today if they weren’t so concerned about their precious image. I always found it funny though that people don’t want to be associated with a van, yet somehow a fuddy duddy crossover is ok? Like anyone cares what a mom is driving anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      So true – my motto is: The larger the SUV the smaller the woman inside. Kind of scary really.

      • 0 avatar
        seanx37

        This is actually true. I have a friend. She is 4’10″. She wanted me to go car shopping with her some years back, as I was also looking. She really wanted an Excursion. She ended up with an Expedition. 6’4″ of me…wanted a Miata. But my feet didn’t fit in it. I ended up with a Maxima.

        • 0 avatar
          FuzzyPlushroom

          I can’t be the only one who wonders what would happen if the power steering in a massive truck/SUV abruptly quit – massive fluid leak, snapped serpentine belt, whatever – as many of them seem to be driven by people I wouldn’t trust to be able to navigate the vehicle in much more than a straight line… same with the power brakes, really, though that’s a less likely point of failure.

          Obviously, it’s not a national epidemic, but it’s a spooky mental image.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I’m just really, really thankful my wife has fond memories of her family’s old Chevy Astro (or more to the point, its ability to swallow a kayak). Neither of us want something that big, but especially after my anti-crossover grouping, I know we’re in agreement that if we need that much space, we’d rather have a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      AoLetsGo

      Image. Yes that is a problem for minivans.
      In my little neck of the woods all the cute, in-shape, “cool” moms drive SUV’s, CUV’s, and Flex’s.
      The two women that drive a minivan (TC, Freestar) are a little nerdy and chunky.
      Tiny sample size I know but what I see everyday.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    You needed a van for your band???

    Pfft…I once hosted three members of a band (plus myself) in an Oldsmobile Alero for a weekend! Not only did we all fit, I also managed to fit luggage (they packed for a week it looked like), three guitars and an amp!

    They managed to write, arrange and perform several songs in said Alero while we traveled up I-75 during a snowstorm. Cars were sliding off the road all around us, but with all our weight, we just cruised right along :)

  • avatar

    My friend who shows Dogs all over North American just purchased a new Caravan for 19,000 Can. dollars including HST and her old 2004 Caravan, so I figure she got a good deal as she only wanted to spend the $19,000 on one, are they almost giving them away? Bye the way, her Gas mileage is not what the Manual says, its far worse.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      I tracked my last Chrysler over its entire life with a spreadsheet. It was one of the last, refreshed Pacificas with a 4.0L and 6-speed autostick. For the uninitiated, that vehicle was built on the minivan chassis, in the same factory as the van. No matter how I drove it, the car delivered roughly 6% (5.9% lifetime, IIRC) less mileage than the vehicle reported it was getting. No variation of driving style, indicator reset, etc. had any affect on this number.

      My favorite fact for you Jack is that highway gas mileage was only down by ~1 MPG with a 21 cubic foot Thule on the roof – unless I was going faster than 75 MPH!

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      My ex GF does agility with her two mutts, and she bought a Caravan last year to replace her Grand Cherokee that was never right after being hit by a drunk in a restaurant parking lot. I drove it, it wasn’t bad at all. She says her gas mileage is almost exactly what it said on the sticker. I’d never buy one again, I had an ’85, and hated it, but I don’t mind driving one once in a while. They’re cheap, drive ok, and have a lot of room..

  • avatar
    steamcorners

    Picked up a ex-Enterprise 2012 T&C in May with 36k on the clock for $20k. Did a similar drive a few times in June–Columbus to Knoxville.

    Lightly loaded (280lb driver, golf clubs, one bag) averaged 29.2mpg for both round trips.

    I’ve put 9k on it since May. The van has seriously changed my thoughts about Chrysler. I love the damned thing.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      To corroborate this pie in the sky mileage (the EPA sticker only says 25mpg hwy), my father and I averaged the same 29 mpg on a 200 mile highway trip to pick up some car parts in his 2012. It was pretty astounding considering dry weight the vehicle is ~4500lbs, is shaped like a brick and can muster 15 second passes in the quarter.

    • 0 avatar
      Nurburgringer

      nice buy!
      I drove a couple 2012 ex rental T&Cs w ~30k miles but both were a bit worn down so decided to spend another $4k for a privately owned ’11. Close decision though esp since the dealers were throwing in extended warrantees.
      I’ve never averaged over 26mpg combined (usually closer to 22 with mostly stop and go) but during the 1200 mile drive from Milwaukee to Houston found that it makes a significant difference if you cruise at 65 or 75. Aerodynamics really start taking a toll above 70 or so.
      good luck with yours!

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin

      I’ll also corroborate this mileage, as I put about 500 miles on a Routan (badge engineered TC) with the 3.6 and averaged 29.5 with just me, and 27 loaded down with one other person and a bevy of crap in the back.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    Are the Stow N Go seats removable? It’s great that they get out of the way, but not having to haul a couple hundred pounds of seat with me when I don’t need it is a choice I like having.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m sure they are removable with a wrench but they don’t pop out.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My father the empty nester has a Caravan R/T, which follows a long line of successive Chrysler minivans. He much prefers the Stow N Go to actually removing the seats, which can hurt the back and takes a good amount of time and storage. One can literally fold all of the Stow N Go seats in about a minute to expose equal cargo space.

      • 0 avatar
        Nurburgringer

        in fairness, it takes a bit more than a minute to stow the seats since you have to slide the front seats ALL the way forward. Would be quick if the seats are manual (or if you’ve got a Limited with memory to assign one number to “full forward”) but with the regular power seats it takes at least 30 seconds holding the button forward for each front seat.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      They are removable, albeit with tools as Jack mentions (socket wrench/impact gun and Phillips screwdriver). In my 2010 Routan, I permanently removed the rearmost Stow-N-Go seats and designed and built a false floor with a hinged lid that fits over the rear floor. I never used the rear seats, and I now have access to a concealed cargo well while still having a flat, usable floor.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Do you think you were over the payload capacity? Did the van stay level or was it sagging?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Van was totally level.

      I’m guessing 880 pounds of people (helps when the fourth passenger barely cracks 105 on a scale) and perhaps 300 pounds of equipment.

      No worse than having six adults in there.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        Some versions of the T&C have the auto-leveling feature, if the van has either the Luxury or Performance Package.

        I’ve been thinking about pulling the trigger on buying either the T&C/Caravan for awhile now. I’ve rented both from Hertz and agree with the review. Thanks Jack!

  • avatar

    I’m glad Chrysler has the minivan market on lockdown. I hope they’ll bring back the PACIFICA with the Pentastar and 8 Speed. They truly need another vehicle as they’ve had nothing new at Chrysler since the 300 (or the Aspen).

    Hopefully they’ll have Uconnect touch optional soon and make the minivan the technological equivalent of the 300 in its highest trim:

    Heated/cooled seats, heated/cooled cup holders, panoramic roof…

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Great suggestion and I think it matches the reality that these “mini”vans are proving to be the main competition for 4-dr pickups as people haulers for affluent families. I believe the market does and will support 40K+ minivans when they do everything as well as the GC/TC.

      Stow-N-Go is a minor miracle. Plus, it gets the gott-damned headrests out of the way so you can enjoy the great visibility in these when you don’t have to haul bipeds around.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Great suggestion and I think it matches the reality that these “mini”vans are proving to be the main competition for 4-dr pickups as people haulers for affluent families.”

        For the most part. The differentiator being what is intended to be hauled behind it. These minivans can competently tow a reasonably sized double axle camper trailer when properly equipped, so to justify a truck one must have something bigger or be willing to pay extra for the style.

        I have a crew cab pickup to haul a car trailer. I tried it with a minivan, but it was scary. I briefly considered a Town Car for this duty, but the 4.6L 2v just felt too weak, I would have to add a blower to make it adequate and at that point, the pickup made more sense.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The Caravan or T&C works great for towing Jet-Skis, a Hobie Cat, or other lighter watercraft. I wasn’t comfortable towing a 19′ Four Winns with it though, even though its just under the tow rating.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          True. I never haul anything so that didn’t occur to me.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I don’t know how many people that buy super cab trucks tow anything either. Heck, its rare that I tow anything. Once everything is in the water up north, Northern Michigan for those not mitten biased, I’m pretty much done towing. I’m sure a T&C could handle the few flat miles to the county boat launch. Style and the Ecoboost V6 probably were my decision makers more than sheer practicality.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            It helps the case of the crew cab truck that they’re really nice vehicles to drive now. The style is in at the moment, so one can look cool, hauling or not.

            I judge ye not, I commute in my own truck sometimes.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Very nice review, Jack.

    I stated in an earlier post that our need for a minivan ended about 20 years ago. Nevertheless, for a people-and-cargo mover, a minivan can’t be beat, and if our need aver again rises, I’d have to consider one.

    I wonder about Chrysler’s long-term reliability/durability. Too many people were burned by their lousy products not all that long ago, so I’m hoping they have improved. Due to the fact I see lots of them – far more than Hondas and Toyotas – perhaps they have.

    I do admit that the newer generations of Chrysler’s vans appear much better than the earlier ones.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I’ve had two pentastar rental van experiences in the past 2 years, and all I’ve been able to come away from both of them with was wow.unloaded, the pentastar is legitimately fast for a vehicle of that size, and it is never at a loss for power loaded either.

    The first time we had a T&C, it was due to a car in the shop and it being all enterprise had. It handled a large home depot run that I was going to borrow a buddy’s pickup for splendidly, and schlepped a bunch of childless ~30 year-olds to the bar.

    The second time we rented one (grand Caravan) it to get 3 adults, a full back full of cargo and 2 dogs from FL to MD then NY. With a full load of stuff and all but 3 seats stowed, we returned 25-26 up 95 the whole way.

    My wife hates the way they look, but has *agreed* whenever our kid count hits 2 (since you’re always schlepping their friends too) that we’ll probably get one. The utility especially compared to a 3-row crossover is just too high

    • 0 avatar
      bill h.

      My son is a recently hired engineer at ChryCo, and he and some of his fellow newbies were treated to a day at the company’s proving grounds trying the different vehicles. The ones that made the biggest impression on him while driven hard (vs. their stereotypes) were the vans.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    Jack,

    Would you consider the “Limited” to be worth the extra $11,000 (sticker) compared to the Touring or even the “S”?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’m hoping to find a Limited and see…

    • 0 avatar
      beanbear

      We just bought the exact ’13 “S” that TK reviewed here (http://bit.ly/1fVQNxV), but also looked at the “L” and Limited. We liked the heated seats and HIDs in the Limited, but even if cost was no object, we’d take the blacked out interior and slightly sharper handling of the “S”. Even without the suspension and visual upgrades, the S might be the option/bundling sweet spot and – at least in suburban NYC last week – there was very little OTD price difference between the T&C S and GC R/T, even though the T&C S had more content.

      We just took ours up to Saratoga last weekend (~200mi each way) with our kid. It was nearly dead quiet, handled and rode like a smaller premium sedan at 70mph, and averaged 27.5mpg on the highway (maybe it’ll match others’ observed 29mpg after a little more break-in).

      Bonus surprise: the 430N nav/stereo paired easily with my Galaxy Nexus and the steering wheel controls worked for Doggcatcher (podcasts), Pandora, and Spotify.

  • avatar
    flameded

    Funny , that photo of the Band gear in the mini van reminds me of the 89 caravan my father left me when he died..the only thing he left.(after being quite the well known multi family property owner in town, and then letting the drugs ruin it all.)

    Anyway, almost all of the bands equipment could fit in that lil sucker.(except drums and some extras)..they make good band vehicles even tho mine was old and smoked like a chimney,leaked every fluid that you could put in a vehicle..even a few that didn’t belong there I think.
    I still sold it for 200 beans.

    Still in the band too, but we hire pro sound these days.

    Yes, the story had almost nothing to do with yours,(other than being a chrysler mini van of sorts) but thanks for the trip down memory lane.
    ;)

  • avatar
    MattPete

    My wife ultimately chose an Odyssey, because it has three across-seating in the second row (we have 3 young ones), whereas the T&C does not. Personally, I thought the T&C was a better vehicle in almost every way, and this impression was reinforced a few months ago when I took her Odyssey in for a service recall and was given a T&C for a loaner. It drove better, road better, and floated less than the Odyssey.

    However, I was not enamored with the stow-and-go seating. It seems great on paper, but I found the seats to be a little thin (not really an issue of your are using child seats back there). I also found the headroom to be lacking. Personally, I’d rather have conventional seats and a lower floor than stow-and-go, especially if those captains chairs can snap together with the center console to form a three-across bench, as in the Odyssey.

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Rented one in FL recently. Liked it alot. Had this weird experience while driving W on US98 leaving Destin heading for Ft Walton Beach:
    Speed limit is 35.
    Cruise “on” set to ~44mph.
    Speed limit increases to 45.
    Begin tapping on the “Res +” button at @ 90tpm.
    Van is nearly to 54mph when…
    Speed limit increases to 55.
    Continue tapping on the “Res +” button at the same rate.
    Stopped tapping when the van was going ~61mph.
    (note: I believe I was in 6th gear the whole time. The reason for tapping instead of holding the button was to have a slower/smoother rate of acceleration. In other cars such as Hondas, Audis, Volvos, Nissans, etc when I’ve done this they continue to accelerate at the same rate for another 3-4mph. This is what I expected/wanted.)
    Van continued to accelerate to ~70mph at the medium rate in 6th gear.
    The van THEN downshifted and increated it’s rate of acceleration and continued on up to ~80mph. It felt like it was WOT.
    That is when I pressed the “Cruise” button to turn the system off.
    I coasted down into the 60s, turned the Cruise Control system back on, pressed the accelerator to get to my desired speed and then Set the Cruise… all was then as it should be.

    So, Chrysler can take this sequence of events and test it or ignore me because I’m some crack-pot on a car blog web site who can’t seem to obey speed limits.

    Oh if you want to complain about my speeding don’t forget that I probably ran over 3 retirees, one baby, and a manatee during this sequence of events.

    • 0 avatar
      eamiller

      Each tap should get you 1-2mph, so you should only have to tap 10 times max for each speed limit increase. Sounds like you tapped way more than that and the software just slewed the acceleration rate to avoid downshifting until you had queued up a ton of taps.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        Correct. Most cruise control systems bump the speed up 1-2mph with each tap. If you keep tapping the computer thinks you want to bump up the speed an additional 1-2mph with each tap, and soon you are going much faster than you wanted to.

        When in doubt, RTFM.

    • 0 avatar
      Nurburgringer

      huh, never had that happen with the cruise control on mine.

      The T&C does not, however, do a very good job at maintaining a set speed when a big hill is encountered. i.e. with it set at 70, after you start going up a hill it may slow down to 67 or even 65 before sufficient throttle is fed in to get it back up to 70.
      Acts like there is a couple second gap between the cruise control’s speed input and the actual speed.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      As eamiller noted that is not the proper way to work the system. Holding it down does nothing but add 1 mph. So you added way more taps than your desired speed and the system eventually responded. It may not be an exact 1 MPH per push so in reality you may need to hit it say 16 or 14 times if you want the speed to increase or decrease 15 MPH.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    My father had a stripper Dodge Caravan back in the mid 1990s. He used it primarily for carrying boxes and light but bulky items for his store so the rear two rows were removed most of the time. It was a four-cylinder, auto with crank windows. He drove the piss out of that thing and showed it little love but never had any mechanical problems at all much to his and my surprise. When he sold it the rear two benches popped back in and looked like new… since they had just been sitting in the garage the whole time.

    Anyway, I haven’t owned other Chryslers but from what I’ve seen they seem mechanically robust but in the past they seem to look old quickly… paint, trim, interiors, etc. just seem to deteriorate. Is there any truth to this (admittedly non-scientific) observation?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Love the van, Man…

    “particularly the paint quality. The visual difference between this and the Caravan is plainly apparent — but it also costs more. It should be apparent.”

    Wish more manufactures would figure that out. Buying a Buick over a Chevy should bring a noticeable upgrade in the quality of materials. Buying an Infiniti over a Nissan should be the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Dan, you are correct as usual. But let’s hope the manufacturers don’t address this the way at least one recently bankrupt manufacturer did: by making its entry level vehicles inferior in virtually all respects. The baseline needs to be ‘competitive or better’, with the upper tiers adding surprise and joy. When I had to shop a [marque censored] just to get soundproofing, I lost all faith in the manufacturer’s entire line.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Growing up I have fond memories of the second Gerneration Caravan that often took my family and I across trips, surviving a spin out in the snow as well. Good reliable van that was well made, save for the under front seat compartment that cracked from my 4 year old tantrums.

    My Grandfather owned what I beleive was a fourth generation model that basically took him around the country several times, no problems other than an aging AC and at the tail end a bad parking gear. Gave it to a relative.

    Now he owns a Generation 5 (like this very TnC), intially it was neat but the transmission leaked (and happened to be sealed for life, go figure) and one of the power brake things went out on a trip to California. Luckily everythings been fixed, but both him and I think that the older Caravan was better.

    Between that and the panel-gap heavy rental Avenger I experienced, I’m beginning to doubt Chryslers current build quality.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    So my understanding is (based on this article and other stuff I’ve read)
    Chrysler – reasonably fun to drive and practical, nice inside, lagging in reliability still
    Toyota – crap plastics on the inside, better transmission

    But you didn’t even discuss the Odyssey which is kind of important in this market.

    • 0 avatar
      Nurburgringer

      Who says Chrysler is “lagging in reliability still?”

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      The Chrysler stuff, at least as far as powertrain goes, has not been around long enough to make a call on the reliability, though the odyssey does not exactly have a stellar record with the auto 5-speed it’s had over most of the last decade. And if you haul any sort of cargo with frequency, I’d go with either of the Chrysler products over the japanese competition just for the stow & go seating.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      The Chryslers have no better interiors than the Toyotas. They also don’t hold up as well as the Sienna.

      • 0 avatar
        Nurburgringer

        What part(s) of the 2011+ interiors “don’t hold up”?

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Carpet that comes apart, cloth seats in the Caravans that tears easily and has holes, dashboard squeaks and rattles, plastics that fade and warp, Stow N’ Go seats that fail to flip up when you lift the lever. Getting any reasonable amount of dirt or hair/lint in them will make them a permanent addition the van, as the materials used for the carpet and seats will simply hold onto it forever and never let it go.

          • 0 avatar
            Nurburgringer

            How do you use these for work? Carrying heavy loads, rough roads, etc? About how many miles/year?
            It would bug me if the dash starts rattling/squeaking.

            My ’11 T&C isn’t showing any undo wear yet but then again only has 13k miles. Have only vacuumed the carpets once but seemed to clean up as well as any other car rugs.
            The sto-and-go seats aren’t supposed to “flip up”, they only “flip down”. Have to manually pull them out of their wells, lock them into the floor then pull up the seat backs. Maybe you mean flip down? The system is going on 8 years old I believe so surprised I hadn’t heard of any issues about it.
            The leather in my T&C isn’t top of the line but seems tough enough, time will tell. Probably should clear/treat them every year or so.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            Funny I have not seen one 2011 on up with any of these issues so I say bull.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          whichever parts someone called “84Cressida” can dream up.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      My brother and sister-in-law have a 2009 Oddy EX, which my SIL chose over the Sienna because of its more “cockpit-like” driver’s area.

      Yes, those vans have had some problems, especially the VCM implementation in this generation (which Honda’s vastly improved, and for which my new 2013 Accord Touring can vouch), and the power sliding doors; however, my SIL’s Oddy has been completely bug-free (including the doors), and aside from a rattle or two in the cargo area (which I presume is a common occurrence on any van), is as tight as the day they drove it home, and handles the chores of hauling around my niece and nephew with aplomb.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    It’s refreshing to read a review and entire discussion without a single mention of cup holders.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I drive these wretched things at work all the time. They’re still some of the biggest piles of garbage on the road. They do nothing but re-inforce my opinion that Chrysler should rot in the firey pits of hell for foisting this garbage on us.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Specifics would be nice.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      As do I , and I do not share your opinion, cetainly not for the refreshed 2011 and later models. 2008-2010, yeah, they felt cheap, especially the interiors, but they held up well. I manage a transit system in a mid-sized city, and I have a fleet of 5 DGCs for supervisory and patrol work (2009-2013). The interior volume is brilliant for our application. The supervisors have never complained about interior comfort or amenities (we buy Crew models). From a reliability/durability perspective, they have held up well, and these particular vans spend much of their time idling and doing urban patrol work. Only one transmission replacement, and the vans are generally cheap to repair. Brakes, especially fronts, are disposable junk, but otherwise, they are great vehicles. My personal vehicle is a Routan, so I spend a lot of time in Chryco vans and their badge-engineered cousins.

      • 0 avatar
        Nurburgringer

        Good info T. Was the one that needed a new trans the older 5-sp or latest 6-sp? Did you find out what in particular broke?
        As I understand it, since 2011 ALL GC/T&Cs come with a transmission cooler not only those with the tow package.
        I believe the same basic trans is also put in heavier trucks (can anyone confirm?) so the days of transmissions designed for cars and not suitable for long term use in heavier minivans appears to be over.

        Can you elaborate on the brake issues? I’m quite happy with the braking feel and power in our 13k mile 2011 T&C, do the rotors/pads just not last very long or is there something else more serious?

        • 0 avatar
          dude500

          For brake issues, every 2011+ GC/T&C I’ve rented that’s had more than 30k miles has brake judder. I’m not sure whether the pads are overpowered or there needs to be more rotor, but heat seems to get to them eventually. Brake power was still strong and reliable even with the judder, however.

          • 0 avatar
            Nurburgringer

            funny, my ’99 E39 528i BMW had the same exact issue. Most people diagnose this as “warped rotors” but in reality it’s uneven build up of pad material. Seems to happen with some pads more than others, and my current rotors (always replace as they’re only ~$60 from tirerack) are smooth as silk after 40k miles with low-dust pads.
            If the worse thing about the T&C is having to replace (or skim, I suppose) the rotors every 30k that’s not too bad. Much better than catching on fire like my pop’s 04 T&C did :O

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          The 62TE is for FWD applications only. No relation to the 545RFE…ect.

        • 0 avatar
          TCragg

          The failed transmission was on a 2009 model with the 3.3L engine and the older 41TE 4-speed auto, and I can’t really blame the transmission. The van had 160,000 km on it at the time, and it suffered from a lot of rough use. apparently it lost 2nd and 3rd, and we swapped a spare 41TE from another 2008 DGC that was scrapped. No issues so far with the 6-speeds in the 2011-and newer models.

          As for the brakes,they feel great as soon as the new rotors are installed. But in a matter of months, they start to shudder (vibration through steering wheel). We are doing front brake rotor replacements twice per year on average. Our vans average 50,000 km/year, so we are getting half that out of a set of brakes. But rotors are cheap. We get NAPA premium rotors for around $36.00 each (we obviously buy in volume), and pads are about the same for a set, so it’s not costly to replace them.

        • 0 avatar

          Note that the 2013 and up minivans with 17″ wheels have new *much* larger and better brakes than the old weak brakes. Quite appreciated. Best braking minivan on the road now to go with best accelerating minivan, I tested them all before buying my 2014 T&C.

    • 0 avatar
      shelvis

      Damning expert testimony from someone that loves Cressidas and works at Enterprise…….

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    If ONLY they were still MINI…maybe just a little less Van and more mini and they would still be in my driveway.
    Just to enormous anymore.

  • avatar
    shelvis

    Bro rockers take note. The T&C can handle your Taylors, PRS, Mackie PA, as well as brewskies and several of your flip flopped friends. Truly a supreme mnode of conveyance to your next upscale winery gig.

  • avatar
    dmchyla

    You pretty much reviewed my rig, except mine is a 2013. I have a Touring, the only option is the factory Towing Package.

    It’s true that Chrysler does a great job of making the T&C upscale. We were shopping for a replacement for our 2006 Freestyle Limited, which was just a little too small for a 3-kid family.

    I liked the Caravan R/T and was thinking that we would look in the fall of this year. Our local auto show was this past March, so my wife and I went there to compare. My wife turned her nose up at the Caravan that they had on the floor (admittedly, it was a lower-spec model, I don’t think it was a Crew, maybe an American Value package). When we went to the Billet Grey T&C on the floor, it was a different story. Nice leather interior, LED and halo interior lighting, Billie Holiday playing on XM radio, 3-row climate control, and enough chrome winking from the dashboard to make you think you were off to the Country Club instead of the Old Country Buffet. Amazingly, all of this was in the “base” Touring model. This got us talking to the dealer sales rep that was on the floor.

    After a quick search, they had a Billet Grey Touring in their inventory, with the factory Towing Package. Once we started talking price is when it really sold me. The $32K sticker, after incentives, dropped to $26.5K and we had not talked about any trade-in at that point. By the end of the week, we had the rig in our driveway.

    6000 miles later and I think your review is accurate. I have not used it for any band gigs, but then again, I play in an 18-piece jazz band, don’t have to take anyone else’s instrument, and my bari sax fits in my Cruze just fine. This van is a great highway cruiser with plenty of room for family, gear, and luggage.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Jack you are the reason I even looked at a Chrysler product let alone a minivan. After 14K and various trips I am still in love. Cheap to maintain, good interior bits, and my sons love it. I traded my 09 CTS V for it and the only time I miss the V is the sheer joy of having that much power all the time at every speed. I want them to put a bit more attention on the interior bits but I wouldn’t change much about this vehicle.

  • avatar
    Jim123

    Outkast.
    Yes.

  • avatar
    daneli

    After 15 years of minivan ownership I can certainly relate to what is being said here about how comfortable and practical these vehicles can be. Even our 1996 Odyssey – small by today’s standards – was super comfortable on family vacations and with the third row folded flat and the middle seats removed we could haul tons of stuff. But reading these positive reviews and comments is bringing out the curmudgeon in me. What is missing in what is being said here is a recognition of how completely sick and tired of these vehicles one becomes over time. A large proportion of the car buying public is in a constant state of minivan revulsion, “I don’t want another mini van!” is an oft heard refrain – an anthem for many car buyers. Indeed, after long periods of ownership, many people reach a state where they can barely stand the sight of them. I owned a sports car for nearly 20 years, and after it was sold…I wanted another sports car. I never said, “Man I’m sick of those fast two seat convertibles. I never want to own another one.” But when we sold the last of our minivans, I was relieved and determined never to have another one. Minivan hatred is a sociological phenomenon, and once one is its grip even a thousand positive T&C reviews won’t shake it lose.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Excellent review. I am an unabashed fan of minivans and recall well your review of the new MoPar van when the Pentastar engine finally replaced the old 3.8.

    I bought a new basic minivan 2 years ago (when a 99 T&C ate its transmission at 207K). I thought long and hard about one of these, but was stopped by the brand new engine. Had the Chrysler van still been using the 3.8, I may well have taken my chance. However, in view of Chrysler’s hit and miss record with new engines in modern times, I elected to stay away, and bought a base Kia Sedona instead.

    Having lived with the Sedona for 2 years, I generally like it, but still wonder if I would have liked the Chrysler (or more likely, Dodge) better. I suspect I would, and with the hindsight gained from 2 years of what seems to be good experience with the Pentastar, I might make a different decision today.

    BTW, have you noticed that the Sedona is back as a 2014 model, virtually unchanged after being cancelled for 2013? I suspect that most people have missed this.

  • avatar
    replica

    You didn’t actually use the Big Baby Taylor for the show did you? It’s a fine little guitar for drinking beers, but eh.

  • avatar
    Nurburgringer

    Funny story: last weekend the wife and I drove our 2011 T&C (bought last summer with 11k, now has 26k) to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, and while getting back and forth to our hotel in the Garden District from French Quarter/Canal St rode in 3 different Caravan/T&C taxis. Asked the two taxi drivers who spoke english what they thought of their vans.
    First one said “honestly, it’s a piece of crap”. Really? What’s the year and mileage? “2012, 125k.” Original transmission? “Yes, working great (knock on wood)”. How about the motor, anything go wrong with it? “No, that’s going strong, bit week with 7 passengers though”. Ever break down on you? “No.”. Original shocks? “Yeah, they’re bad aren’t they?”. I didn’t think so; couldn’t hear any bad noises and rode quite smoothly over the quite bad NO streets…. So what’s wrong with it? “Well, for a family it’s probably fine but it’s not as well built as a Honda or Toyota… and I just put a new set of tires on it and the guy who did the last brake job messed up and they squeak. Plus I’ve had to replace the driver’s window switches.” Hm, well on my wife’s E39 with the same miles I just had to replace the driver’s window MOTOR…
    OK, so after 125k HARD miles it’s needed almost nothing but regular maintenance, is probably due for a new set of shocks soon like any taxi would be, looks pretty damn good inside and out (Nawlin taxi customers are some of the cleanest around, right?), rode smoothly and quietly, has never left you stranded and cost ~$7k less then a similarly equipped Odyssey or Sienna…. what a POS!
    The second one (medium spec Caravan) had 90k and the driver also expressed disappointment though not as vehemently, and also had NO PROBLEMS with the vehicle.
    Strange!!!


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