By on November 29, 2013

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Buying a new car is exciting and if you are like me, you spend weeks comparing the possible candidates. You start out by looking at photos and reading road tests. You gather sales brochures, pour over the spec sheets and examine the option packages. You compare prices, build fleets of similarly optioned virtual vehicles at the manufacturers’ websites and eventually head to the dealership. You kick the tires, poke, prod and handle the merchandise. You find things you don’t like and things you do. You take a test drive, go home to think and come back to drive again. Eventually you buy.

Signing the papers on a new car is pure euphoria. It’s an orgasm of consumerism. Your signature spills out the end of the pen and onto the paper in the ultimate release after weeks of delicate maneuvering and pent-up anticipation. It is the point where years of scrimping and saving intersect with the idea that the future is a real place and that you are committed to going there. When the act is completed, you are exhausted but happy. You’ve made your choice, are locked into the relationship and have no choice but to be happy with what you’ve done. You have invested too much to admit to making a mistake.

Three months into the relationship that surge of emotion is long gone and you are living with the results. The cold, hard light of reality shines upon the choice you have made and the real assessment begins. I am there now. It has been almost three months and 1500 miles since I spent my own hard-earned money on a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S. Summer is long gone and autumn is turning to winter, how fares the vehicle?

front

Pretty damn well, actually. With so few miles on the clock, the engine is just beginning to break-in but so far there have been no problems. The mill is smooth, quiet and makes oodles of power. Those ponies drive the car through a slick shifting transmission that has already learned my wife’s driving habits and connect to the road through a well-sorted chassis. As someone who dislikes revving an engine to make a car go, I’m glad that the 3.6 Pentastar piles on the torque early and the van accelerates smoothly all across the rev range. The suspension, which feels plush and compliant on the rough Buffalo roads, keeps the car solidly planted in the curves and allows spirited drivers to silence cranky babies in the back seat through the miracle of lateral G-force induced blackouts. That’s only slightly facetious by the way, this puppy likes the corners.

Mechanically the T&C is a winner but I am also amazed that an amount of thought that went into its interior. I noticed the well thought out controls and good looking instrument cluster on our initial test drives, but it wasn’t until after I purchased the vehicle that I got the opportunity to see what it looked like at night. When the sun goes down and the lights come up, the already beautiful instrument cluster turns into a 1950’s Wurlitzer Juke-Box and the neon theme runs the length of the passenger compartment in the form of dim blue interior lighting that illuminates the cabin from behind the overhead console. There is even a blue LED band that runs around the drink holder in the console between the front seats. To someone more cultured than yours truly that might seem like a trite little add-on, but to me lighting effects are to the new millennium what tail fins are to the 1950s.

inside

Had I purchased one of the lesser models, my inner cheapskate would not have allowed me to check the box that includes all the electronic gizmos that the S package comes with, but they truly add that extra layer of luxury to an already well composed machine. When my family took a day trip to Toronto a week or two ago the in-dash blue ray DVD player and twin overhead flat screens went into instant operation and kept the kids’ attention the entire ride. The navigation, something I have forgone on every vehicle with the exception of the JDM Mazda MPV we owned in Okinawa, usually runs quietly in the background while I drive, but was used extensively during our trip into the maelstrom that is the Toronto area freeway system. With the single exception of the device steering us into the collector lanes for the last part of our trip rather than directing us into the express lanes, the Navi functioned flawlessly.

The best news is that all this technology is easy to use. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but sometime in the last few years the tech aficionado that once occupied my skin turned into a crotchety old man. The days of me sitting down and reading an owner’s manual are long gone. If I can’t learn how something works in less than 5 minutes of trial and error, I’m unhappy. Chrysler’s technology package is simple enough that I was able to learn how it worked on the fly. I will admit that I had to research how to hook the cell phone into the blue tooth system, but even that was accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

Of course there have been a couple of issues, too. The back up sensors my wife wanted installed as a dealer added option are less than satisfactory. The initial install was fraught with problems and the van went to the dealer four times to have the problems resolved. The end result is a system that is far too sensitive for my taste, sounding the alarm at even minor changes in the pavement behind the van as we back up, and with a chirpy warning alarm that is shrill and cheap-sounding in a van that exudes solidity, quiet and comfort. The good news is that the dealer did their best to make things right by giving us free loaner vehicles every time the van visited their shop and by adding a full rust proofing treatment at no cost to me.

Three months and 1500 miles is not a lot of time with a new vehicle, but it is long enough that the rose colored glasses have come off. The euphoria is gone and the hard, cold light of the day after is here. Day to day life with the T&C is smooth and easy and if I was not totally in love when I rolled the dice and took her home, I have learned over the ensuing weeks of our relationship that there is more to her than meets the eye. Pretty to look at, warm, soft and thoughtful when I am in her embrace and with an amazing combination of practicality and unexpected strength she is, I think, a jewel. If she is durable as well, then our love will be one for the ages.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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91 Comments on “The Cold Hard Light Of Reality: Three Months With The Town & Country S...”


  • avatar
    Sweet Fancy Moses

    “…during our trip into the maelstrom that is the Toronto area freeway system. With the single exception of the device steering us into the collector lanes…”

    The T&C can be forgiven. As an Ontario resident, I can vouch for the infuriating mess that is the 400-series highways around the GTA.

    On a more personal note; I grew up with an ever-evolving Chrysler minivan experience (MY 1988, 1996, 1998, 2001) thanks to my father’s tastes for the practical. They may not be track car exciting, but there was always something appealing about a low floor height, double doors, and acres of space (with seats removed).

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I must say that the beginning of the article (the part before the jump) made it sound like you were less than pleased with your T&C, but I’m glad to see that it’s quite the opposite. Chrysler invented the modern minivan segment, and, thirty years later, Chrysler is still the best at it. I have spent some time in recent Sienna and Odyssey models, and those models just have fewer thoughtful, made-for-America touches, not to mention the fact that the Chrysler minivans wear the best styling, IMO, and have the most-reasonable pricing. As far as your backup-sensor dilemma goes, would it have been easier to install a camera and route it to the Sirius head unit?

    • 0 avatar

      It actually has a really good back up camera already. My wife decided we should have the sensors too and the dealer added them for free in order to seal the deal.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That makes sense. Usually they lump that in with the navigation. I wonder when the minivans will get Uconnect. Chrysler managed to incorporate it into the Grand Cherokee and Durango, which previously had the older Sirius unit, so I’m sure it’s possible for the minivans, too (unlike GM’s Lambda platformers, which apparently weren’t upgraded to handle the full MyLink/IntelliLink, and so use watered-down versions of them)…

        • 0 avatar

          To be honest, I’m not quite sure what U-Connect is, but looking at it on the Chrysler website it looks like the system in my van has everything they are talking about. I haven’t tried to hook it into the home wi-fi network or anything, but it has the hard disc, the blue tooth and all the voice command stuff. I suppose that’s what I get for not bothering to look at the manual.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Uconnect is the newer infotainment interface in Chrysler Group vehicles. The first models to receive it were the all-new Charger and 300 in MY2011, and then the Journey for its 2011 facelift. The RAM received it for MY2013, and so did the all-new Dart and Viper. The Durango and Grand Cherokee got it for MY2014, along with the brand-new Cherokee. So far, the only vehicles not to receive it—I’m fairly certain—are the 200, Avenger, Challenger, and the minivans. I suspect that these vehicles will all be redesigned before they get Uconnect…except for the Challenger, which will have an SRT-branded replacement…

            Uconnect is integrated into the car a little better than the Sirius unit, which belongs to the previous generation of infotainment system. The most significant upgrades it offers is capability to run apps, the Garmin-based navigation (which is also used in Aston Martin products, I think), and the ability to be used as a switchboard for auxiliary functions of the car (such as how seat-heater buttons are apparently in one of the Uconnect menus now).

          • 0 avatar
            bumpy ii

            “But what about the Northstar System?”

            “I don’t even think we use it.”

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            @Kyree, you’re talking about the Uconnect 8.4/8.4N. If Tom’s van has nav, he also has “Uconnect” just an earlier version of it.

            It’s generally used to describe a system that has bluetooth connectivity capability, like Ford’s Sync which may or more not include My Ford Touch.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Kyree, I think you are referring to UConnect 8.4, which is the newer 8.4″ screen system. Even though the name may not be as well deserved and it certainly isn’t as good as the 8.4″ system, the radio in Thomas’ minivan is probably the UConnect 430N since he said he has navigation. They aren’t the latest/greatest, but they aren’t horrible either.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Very nice, the idea of the nearly 300hp minivan makes me smile. Glad you are enjoying yours.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Very encouraging, Thomas, just like Part One.

    This is still high on the shortlist of vehicles for this coming spring/summer to replace our decade+ old cars. With little kids riding around, there’s something unsettling about the wife’s heat randomly crapping out, or questioning whether the central locking will work today. Even people who keep up with all their proactive maintenance still have to face the unexpected, and unfortunately the best alternative is getting something newer.

    I took my driver’s test in an ’88 Caravan and look forward to bringing one back into the fold, either as the T&C, Caravan, or Routan. My retinal sensibilities (and wallet) won’t let me touch the Odyssey or Quest, and Sienna has gotten a lot of mixed-to-bad reviews.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    You just can’t beat a minivan. We have had our 2010 Oddysey for just over four years and have never regretted buying it. My mother is currently on her fifth Grand Caravan and wouldn’t consider owning anything-else.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    I’m looking at a T&C Touring for a future vehicle, possibly this year. Thanks for the write-up.

    The options I want are trailer tow air suspension & Nav. It’s next to impossible to find those two in a package.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    Thank you for the article Thomas, at the beginning it sounded like you were less than thrilled with your purchase, but I’m glad to read that you’re very pleased with it. I’m currently driving an Odyssey, I like it but when it come to trade in time-I might want to consider a Chrysler. My chief concern though is long term reliability-I had a ’95 Voyager which I liked a lot-it ran well until I hit 100k upon which everything started to go south. Please keep us informed periodically about your vehicles’s reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      True story: Recently I was picked up by an Odyssey taxicab. The driver, who just emigrated her from Russia about four years ago and spoke with a considerable accent, told me the cab (painted in the cab company’s full livery colors) was his own, at his expense. He explained passionately that downtime undermined his repeat customers’ faith in him and hurt his business. He said the Odyssey cost more up front, but repaid him on the back end, as he observed what happened to the ChryCo minivans the company uses in much greater numbers: “A lot of things go wrong with them after 100,000 miles, and Chrysler parts aren’t that cheap.”

      I, too, hope Thomas has better luck with his new chariot. It’s certainly desirable when new.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Up until recently the Odyssey’s have had there issues too starting with the infamous grenade 5 speed automatic transmission from which I understand is better now. My neighbor has had 2 transmissions in her 2005, she plain gave up on the power doors, the A/C quit working years ago and various electrical gremlins persist starting with a seat belt light that refuses to go out despite the sensor being replaced and the wiring checked. The original battery also died but 3 years after new.
        Another neighbor has a 2011 that keeps giving a low batt error that the dealer has tried several times to remedy plus the interior has more rattles than any caravan I have ever driven. I would also be curious at the difference in Chrsyler parts versus Honda parts.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    I love my T&C. Had I known that a minivan could be so practical and yet so fun I would have purchased one long ago. I get 27MPG with a very heavy foot and it carries everything. I which they offered cooler exterior colors and something like an expresso type interior package like Mercedes does but other than that I have had 21K of trouble free miles.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey win the compros, but the Chrysler Corp vans win the sales race because you have more options in equipment, and because, comparably equipped, the Dodge/Chryslers cost less than the Hondas and Toyotas — price after incentives, anyway. I think that Chrysler is making a mistake by deciding on only one brand. They are trying to fix something that isn’t broken. The Dodge and the Chrysler differ primarily on interior trim, a fairly cheap differentiation, but it allows them to keep from sullying the Chrysler name with a plebeian van.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I love these minivans. I hope that Chryslers quality holds up. You can’t beat the thoughfullness and versatility that Chrysler designs into these. They have clearly made sure that the segment they invented is the one they still know best. My Aunt just bought one to replace her Grand Marquis on my recommendation (and after spending a week with one as a rental), and aside from having to overcome the minivan driver stigma and the unfortunate barrage of less than approving questions from her family and friends (seriously…people are saying “you bought a what?!? why would you get one of those?), she, her husband, and their grandchildren absolutely love it. You just can’t be it’s usefulness.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’ve noticed this too, it’s like minivans have becom fashion poison. It’s too bad cause these latest ones are seriously nice vehicles. My father has a 2012 Grand Caravan R/T and I’m very impressed with it as is he. A year and a half in, he still loves his as well.

      To get the same feature content in a less practical CUV, you end up paying quite a bit more money over one of these vans. People can laugh all they want, a good deal is a good deal.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    LOL! The article reads like an ad for Chrysler minivans. Now, I own a 2012 Grand Cherokee which by extension is also a Fiatsler product, and it has been a great vehicle for us. In fact, as good as our 2008 Made-in-Japan Highlander still is.

    But in all honesty, and not discounting the fact that Chrysler vehicles have come a long way, the minivans to buy, if someone wants to maximize retained value and enjoy a great ownership experience, would be either the Odyssey or the Sienna. The downside is, these cost a lot more!

    I realize that gets down to personal preference, but I have experience with both the longevity and retained value of both the Odyssey and the Sienna because two members of my family own them or have owned them. Yep, they cost more, but they kept their value better as well.

    The new Odyssey that my daughter had was beat to death over the 5 years she drove it and aside from regular oil changes, tires, timing belt and normal maintenance, lasted her through more than 150K miles. And she even got real money for it when she bought a brand new 2013 Odyssey!

    The new Sienna that my daughter-in-law bought and drove for six years also had well north of 140K miles on it and was still worth some real money when she traded it for a new Tacoma 4dr 4X4.

    Tom should revisit this article in 3-5 years to see how well the minivan held up and what it is worth when he decides to trade it, or pass it down.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      This message brought to you by JAMA.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Don’t forget that JAMA was responsible for the Mass Exodus and Great Migration “away” from the Detroit 3, and that the Detroit 3 were responsible for driving the new car buyers into the waiting open arms of the JAMA dealers. That caused two Detroit car makers to go belly-up in 2009. And the rest is history.

        Until 2008 all I had ever owned was Detroit iron. My eyes were opened and I saw the light after buying my first Japanese-built vehicle, that 2008 Highlander.

        I may stray and buy the occasional Detroit vehicle like my wife’s 2012 Grand Cherokee, but I won’t keep them beyond the warranty period. I don’t want to be stuck fixing them, and the past is prologue with Detroit. Been there and done that!

        I also said I would trade off the 2008 Highlander, but it has been such a great vehicle I decided to keep it and make it my grand daughter’s daily ride. It is currently serving her very well.

        JAMA, indeed! Let’s see how well these post-Daimler Chrysler minivans hold up.

        • 0 avatar
          Sam P

          My parents have faired very well with their DaimlerChrysler era Liberty CRD: purchased new in 2006, now out of warranty. That’s been a solid little truck. The only thing that has broken was the “overdrive off” button on the transmission shifter which was fixed under warranty.

          The VM Motori four cylinder diesel is a powerful tough unit that returns 30 mpg on the highway at 65-70 mph in a 4000 pound Jeep with the aerodynamics of a slightly rounded brick.

          But if you’re intent on dumping your Grand Cherokee once the warranty expires because of some imagined fear of how nasty American cars can be out of warranty, go ahead. It’s not like you own an soon to be out of warranty Audi.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Sam P, I used to repair and maintain all my cars myself but I’m too old for that now.

            Initially, my wife and I decided to trade every new vehicle we bought before the factory or extended warranty expires, starting with the 2008 Japan-built Highlander Limited.

            When push came to shove and we bought that 2012 Grand Cherokee, I saw the lust for the Highlander the Jeep sales manager had in his eyes. He was just too damn eager to get that Highlander in trade — kept offering more for it.

            So I decided to keep the Highlander and use it for my 16-yo grand daughter’s daily ride.

            The Jeep dealership was very disappointed in me not trading, but the Highlander has not let us down with over 85K miles on the clock. It isn’t exactly my granddaughter’s choice but it beats walking or taking the bus to school.

            And while my wife’s Grand Cherokee has been just as good as the Highlander, I’m not going to risk it. And that decision is based on my decades-long experience with Jeep and other Detroit products.

            The Highlander was the first brand-new Japanese vehicle I ever bought in my lifetime. Drove Detroit up to that point.

            Based on my experience with the Highlander and my trouble-free 2011 Tundra 5.7, I’m a convert. Yet I’ll be trading off my Tundra for a 2015 or 2016 model, just to be on the safe side.

            My new philosophy for this final driving stage in my life is to let the repairs be someone else’s problem.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Yep, they cost more, but they kept their value better as well.”

      So you’re saying it’s a wash?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        danio3834, it ‘could’ be a wash. It depends on a person’s financial position in life and how much of a risk taker he/she is.

        TK said he intended to keep the T&C-S until the wheels fell off and he said he would give us periodic updates. If, after the factory warranty expires, he continues to enjoy a great, problem-free ownership experience, so much the better (for him).

        But what if he isn’t that fortunate? One has only to read up on the 2014 Grand Cherokee problems and recall (on Kicking Tires) to see that there are problems with first-rate Chrysler products out there.

        Automotive history is rife with Chrysler crap cars, decade after decade, until….. Daimler did the R&D on them and spliced Mercedes-Benz tech into the crappy Chrysler products.

        Chrysler messed up a good thing when they “tweaked” the 2014 GC and now they are in denial. But the buyers aren’t. They’re stuck with the problems, and one lady wrote that she had not even made her first car payment yet but her 2014 GC had already been back to her dealership four times. And still no fix.

        It is always a possibility that someone may get a Built-in-America Sienna or Odyssey that is a Lemon, but more often than not, Sienna and Odyssey buyers are happy campers.

        I listed MY personal experience with the Sienna and Odyssey owned by two people I love and cherish dearly. Would I like to see them take a chance on a Chrysler product? Not outside of the warranty period!

        My wife’s three sisters usually buy cars based on OUR great experience with them, but even they got stuck with lemons, recalls and trips to the dealers when they bought their American-built Highlanders, and now their 2014 Grand Cherokees. You can read about their experiences on Kicking Tires in GC Recalls.

        Instead of a wash it is more like a crapshoot. Still, the odds are in your favor if you buy Sienna or Odyssey, because their track record is long and established.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Funny, my experience with the Odyssey always involves a grenaded transmission. I realize newer models are likely better, but since we’re going on about anecdotal evidence, my cousin’s transmission shop repairs more Odyssey transmission than Chrysler minivan transmissions now.

          So no, their reputation isn’t bulletproof, but some people’s belief in them does seem to be.

          Yes, sometimes cars have recalls. The ones on the ’14 JGC shouldn’t be a big deal, they’re basically for updates to module programming. Honda and Toyota certainly aren’t immune to this. I recall Toyota actually has the recent high score or something. The 2014 JGC is a stellar product, and much improved over the ’11-’13.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            danio3834, Yes, I’m sure it happens all the time which actually underscores the justification to trade off a new car at the end of its factory warranty period and let the repair expenses be someone else’s problem.

            I think more people (who can) are latching on to that idea and owner-mentality, even if it means leasing.

            The downside with leasing is the high insurance costs. When you buy the car outright you can just buy the absolutely minimum liability insurance requirement for your state, which is what I do. Saves tons of money every six months.

            We own a 2012 Grand Cherokee Overland Summit and it has been problem free and just as good as our 2008 Highlander continues to be. But I don’t want to chance it with the GC beyond the factory/extended warranty period.

            For the people affected by the glitches in the 2014 GC, it really is a big deal. I would not buy one again.

            One of the irritants I experienced is that the 2014 GC with the Pentastar doesn’t have enough oomph to stay in top gear unless you’re driving on a road that has a downhill slope, with the wind in your back.

            In the mountains or over hilly terrain that transmission is as busy as a one-armed paper hanger, hunting for a gear to match the torque curve. Try it sometime to see what I mean.

            Chrysler may have come a long way since the pre-Daimler days but as has been said before, if you’re at the bottom there ain’t but one way to go, and that is up.

            I hope TK has a good ownership experience with his T&C-S, especially in view of them going abroad and all. Maybe the Fiatsler dealers abroad are more responsive than their dealers in America.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            For the record, earlier Odysseys did have a fragile transmission. They fixed it a few years ago by substituting an entirely different and tougher tranny. Used buyers of older ones, yes, should beware.

    • 0 avatar
      Reicher

      Thats good the Odyssey is better then they used to be. I know a couple people who work at one of the Honda plants and they said that the vans (around 2000 model styling)had a flaw. The transmission would die at about 140000km. Both of them had the vans and both had to replace transmissions. Couldn’t even fix the old ones :(

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        We are relatively recent converts to Honda and Toyota products and do not have experience with the earlier versions.

        But I cannot imagine the foreigners being worse than the domestic brand vehicles of the same era.

        If that had been the case, the Mass Exodus and Great Migration to the foreigners would never have happened.

  • avatar
    Atum

    These are cool in S form, but the Sienna SE is a much better buy if you’re wanting a sporty van. It’s cheaper, has nice wheels, and is much more reliable. That’s just me. Does it have a sunroof?

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Great mini-review Thomas. My new car went in service at the end of July, and I already have 8k miles on it! How’s your gas mileage been?

    There’s nothing like that first drive home in a new car. Until the payment book comes for those of us who need to finance…

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I have driven all of the sibling T and Cs under their different brands.

    I did not find them as exciting as you stated. We used them for work to move us from hotels to the job and take the guys on day trips/clubs/bars/restaurants, etc. We also had the Kia alterantives.

    The T and C had enough power when lightly loaded, when you had at least 6+ adults in it the weight became very noticeable as did the extra fuel consumption.

    From a driving perspective I found the T and Cs quite uninspiring. Tramp the accelerator and you have steering torque which wasn’t as well managed as it could have been. Getting the power down to the road efficiently wasn’t good.

    In all honesty the Super Duty we had was more entertaining to drive. I had more fun in France in the Yaris diesel. I like to feel a part of the action when driving.

    The T and C is like any other people mover (Kia), an uninspiring drive that is a necessity to own to move your tribe with.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Interesting. This is the diametric opposite view espoused by Jack Baruth.

      He loved the 2011 and later Chrysler van, and a couple of days ago laid out the shortcomings of the Yaris, which the addition of a diesel is unlikely to overcome.

      I’ve driven both as well, as rental units, and agree with him. In particular, I was highly unimpressed with the Yaris, what a nasty little bag of ….

      If you drove the 2010 or earlier Chrysler minivan with the new body, before the 2011 suspension changes and the old V6 before the Pentastar, I’d agree. A pal of mine had one and hated it, got rid of the thing within 18 months.

      But, that is not the model under discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        I have a buddy who bought a 2009 van with a 3.8L during cash for clunkers. I implored him to find one with a 4.0-liter since that engine was light years better than the 3.8L from a driveability/refinement perspective, but he didn’t think it really mattered.

        He traded his 2009 in late last year for a 2013 with eht updated interior and Pentastar engine. Light years different from the “old” van. The new one clearly has a lot more sound deadening in it.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @wmba
        That is my impression of those vehicles, sorry.

        I did not think they were a ‘drivers’ car. Maybe nice to drive the family around in, but not so good in performance.

        That’s my view. If Jack Baruth sees it differently that’s his view. Remember this stuff is subjective.

        We are talking about a van.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve driven the Dodge Caravans several times, first as week-long rentals, then as a test drive before buying this and then three or four times as loaners while they were trying to sort out the back-up sensors. They were all nice people movers, but were nowhere near as luxurious as the T&C and I didn’t think they rode as well as either.

          I’ve also spent quite a bit of time in the previous generation of T&C, the last body style not the newer squared off one, and they really reminded me of my 300M. They were plenty luxurious inside but always felt nose heavy to me and the back tires would flat shriek if you tried to push the van hard through a corner. I guess they were fine for the time and easy to drive because you could feel the limits approach, but this new van is nothing like that at all. I don’t feel like I have come anywhere near its handling limits – let’s hope it isn’t one of those that doesn’t give you any warning before it breaks loose…

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @Thomas Kreutzer
            I drove all, Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler. We had quite a few (12+) in all trim levels on a couple business trips.

            I found driving each one to be very, very similar. There was no differentiation.

            The front end was too loose when under harder acceleration. That was my biggest grip. As for handling, the suspension is way too soft and that was felt when you had more than four adults on board.

            The vehicle felt to me slightly unrefined and ‘rougher’ than needed to be. It wasn’t a clean enough drive.

            The suspension can do with some aftermarket work to make it acceptable. Better shockies would be a cheap start.

            They had enough power with a couple of people. I think this also helped by delivering power through the front wheels better.

            They were relatively easy to drive at highway speeds. Very boring in my eyes.

            That’s my take on the vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            Thomas, that last sentence is an excellent example of the unpretentious writing style that makes you so enjoyable to read. Don’t ever change. :.)

        • 0 avatar
          probert

          We’re actually talking about a roomy space built on a car chassis. The implications for handling and safety (both for the passengers and other vehicles) are huge.

          Roger Penske used to strip his dodge mini vans down and drive the heck out of them – they handle really well and are quick. The new ones are a little luxo for me but the driveabilty of these things is underestimated.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    My Father moved to Hawaii in the mid 1980′s and used a Hertz Caravan , it impressed him so much he bought a brandy new one and even brought it to the Mainland when he moved back years later .

    I was visiting him in Washington State in 2010 or so when he finally decided to sell it off , I cleaned it up and got it ready for resale , drove it a few days and was really impressed with it’s utility and good design ~ all those years of dragging kids around Hawaii and across America fully loaded a few times to boot and it still ran nice and was rattle free , very comfy to drive , had good ventilation , so on and so forth .

    I don’t want a Mini Van but , they’re very good at what they’re designed for .

    Glad to hear Thomas is well pleased as he’s married to it now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    I agree entirely with your torque love, Thomas. I feel exactly the same. Of course I grew up during the long-stroke period, of which torque is a byproduct. I will take torque across a wide band over high horsepower from a blender motor any day!

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    If I only drove 500 miles a month , I’d buy used . Actually drive about three times that , and I still buy used .

  • avatar
    Rday

    Owned at 2004 GC minivan. Sold it two years later with 80K on it for about half of what a comparable equipped/mileage Odyssey was selling for. These minivans are incredibly expensive to own when you consider resale value. Bought a 2010 Sienna and it has been exceptional. There is a reason Toyota is number one and you can see it in their products.

    The T&C should be much cheaper to buy if you consider what it will be worth when you trade.

    • 0 avatar

      The plan is to keep it as long as possible and drive it into the ground. The reason we bought new is that we will be moving abroad soon, at least that’s the plan and the van will come with us. Last time this happened our Golf had about eight years on it by the time we got it back stateside so it makes sense for us to go ahead and buy new.

      Since we never really know where we will end up, we might have it for 4 years and the sell it overseas where the markets are different. We might get as much as we paid for a car when it was new or nothing at all no matter who made it. It just depends… We may also end up keeping it the entire time we are overseas, but not really using it much, in which case we will have it for 20 years. Right now, I’m OK with that prospect.

      I’ll keep doing regular updates on the vehicle as time passes and our situation changes. They should be fun. The main point of this article, really, is to talk about buyer’s remorse and those little things g I missed when I bought the van but found later. I wouldn’t really expect major problems with a car that is still so new and that has seen so few miles. If it happens though, TTAC readers will be hear about it right after I ream out some poor S.O.B. at Chrysler…

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Part of the lower resale is also the sheer supply. Don’t forget that the Chrysler twins have handily outsold all the other minivans out there, especially back in 2004. The Toyota is not as superior as you think it is – it is just blessed with the “appearance of superiory” which makes lemmings overpay for used examples.

  • avatar
    bikephil

    Minivans to me represent an “I give up” on life decision. Dull, ugly, as much fun to drive as a Corolla or worse. Anyone other than a family of 6 should throw in the towel on life if they ever buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      With dog, we are six. Good enough or shall I go open a vein now?

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      FFS, minivans drive a hell of a lot better than SUVs. They’re practical and get good fuel mileage for their passenger capacity.

      A Camry is a “give up on life” choice. Better choices exist like the Honda Accord. The Camry offers nothing over the Accord. Flat unsupportive seats, lazy transmission, and an 4 cylinder engine that hates being revved over 4000 rpm.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I would be interested to know your age demographic. I am a devout gear head, car nut what have you. But their are times in ones life, stations as they say, a mini van is the optimum vehicle of choice. My wife drove one for well over five years, MY 05′ T&C and loved it.
      Yes, the resale is wretched, it is on most minivans. Why? I have found toddlers don’t share the same enthusiasm as I or you do for taking care of a car. The Toy vs Honda vs T&C is laughable; if you time it right with the end of the year cash on the hood and C/J/D dealer propensity to want to move product the reality is you need to like the Toy 10k times better as that is the upfront price difference, at least that is what was when I bought ours. So yes the Toy has more resale.
      I rent from Hetz weekly across the mid US and always try to get a T&C. They ride great, easy Bluetooth setup and extremely comfortable, usually with heated seats. Great cars that fill a large need, efficient, affordable, people movers with tons of convenience. I have learned to overlook the lack of a MT…….

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      One weekend last summer, I invited my father to the drag strip and encouraged him to run his 2012 Grand Caravan in the trophy street class for fun. He beat some kid in Civic SiR and a guy in a Taurus SHO (not the turbo one) heads up. Laughing the entire time, in his minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      That describes the dull plain looking current Sienna which is as fun to drive as a Lincoln Town Car. I’ll take the Town & Country please.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Stow ‘n Go rocks.

    The lack of a 4-cyl. option does not rock.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I doubt a 4-cyl (unless turbocharged) would be able to move this thing with the authority that Americans expect and demand.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Ugh, why not just full Flintstone instead…it’ll at least be quieter.

      The problem with 4 bangers on something like this is the mileage still sucks because of the weight you’re hauling around, so you’ve gotta stomp on it to get out of its own way… Which subsequently trashes the mileage.

      A good v6 is much more liveable.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        No.

        The way I drive a 4-cyl makes perfect sense. Otherwise, why do other bloated “mini” vans still offer them?

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The only minivan that offers a four is the smaller Mazda5. You are probably thinking of the Sienna, but its four was discontinued for 2013.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            You’re right.

            Oh, how that sucks. Further proof that these have gotten too damn huge.

            If only the Mazda 5 weren’t a cartoonish road-vac with no ground clearance and tacky Asian styling.

          • 0 avatar
            MK

            Exactly. The market for thrashy four bangers has been dramatically reduced with the concomitant increase in bulk.

            The US appetite for four bangers in minivans is approximately as big as that for brown diesel station wagons with manuals.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The difference in fuel economy between say, the 2.4L World egine 4 cylinder and the 3.6L would be negligible, but the difference in power woulnd’t be. These things have no problem getting up to 30 mpg on the highway with the V6, so no one really saw the benefit of installing the 4 banger.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Why would you ever buy one of these large 4000 LB plus vans with a 4 cylinder unless it was a turbo? The V6 2013 caravan I rented to pickup a washer and dryer averaged over 27 on the open road and plenty of power to spare. I seriously doubt a 4 banger would achieve that working to keep the mass moving at 72-75 MPH!

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Stow ‘n Go bites.

      My wife ultimately went with an Odyssey because it has 3-across seating. In fact, because we’ll have child seat strapped in for the next 7-10 years, stow-n-go would be useless for us.

      What *would* be useful would be more headroom in the 2nd row. I’m only 5’8, and I instantly recognized that getting rid of stow-n-go would have lowered the floor, hence lowering the seats and giving more head room. A 3-across bench, or two captains chairs that can be merged into a bench (ala the current Odyssey) would be much more useful.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Since the original minivan was 176 inches long and 70 inches wide, while the current T&C is over two feet longer and 9 inches wider, maybe Chrysler should have come up with a different label by now. It’s basically a tall SUV, if you can get beyond current SUV styling, and about the same size as the 300. Chrysler may need to give it a new nomenclature before “minivan” becomes as dirty a term as “station wagon”. I just hope they don’t lower the roof and jack up the suspension when sales droop.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Thomas, I agree completely with you…. on the Pentastar engine.

    How do I know? I now own a ’12 Jeep Wrangler Sport S with it. Though it’s automatic, that 3.6 makes this little ‘JK’ stupid fast. 285 hp in a little Wrangler is no joke. I owned a ’06 Mustang GT, now I’m not going to say the Wrangler would beat it- it wont, but it would have pissed me off in the Mustang. The engine never seems distressed at all. Yes it’s got torque, obviously geared for 4 wheelin’, but it always has power to move when I need and it doesn’t take much revs to do it. This is in stark contrast to the ’06 Fusion V6 I was using, I had to thrash that engine to get power. Very annoying… and the trans really didn’t help. Liked the Fusion, but it’s powertrain drove me nuts. Another cool thing with the Jeep is that they even made it somewhat sound like the 4.0 L inline 6 from the previous generation ‘TJ’ Wrangler.

    This was a leap of faith for me as my family was the victim of the “old” Chrysler…. specifically a ’99 Chrysler Concorde LXi that was the biggest POS we had ever had the displeasure of driving. I have mentioned this car in previous posts…. pure junk. It soured my dad on Chrysler products… he liked the 300 Hemi when it came out, but didn’t even consider it thanks to the Concorde.

    I think though, I’ll be happy with this Jeep. It seems very well put together and I like how I can see things bolted together inside- no plastic clips holding everything together, something that irks me with modern cars. Plus its so nimble and easy to park that it’s very ideal for living in San Diego.

    Did I mention I liked the engine?

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “pour over the spec sheets”

    Now we all know roughly 57% of the human body is water, but don’t you think this is a bit of an exaggeration? Or perhaps you were anointing the spec sheets with milk or coffee in a fit of rage when they were found wanting?

    Or perhaps you meant ‘pore over’?

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    I’ve mentioned it before in previous posts about Chrysler minivans–they make fantastic burning man transports. We got three bikes, five people and a weeks’ worth of camping equipment into one of these things and it gave us a quiet smooth ride, and 23mpg over the Sierras with enough torque to lug us up and down the hills. If I were ever to need a very practical vehicle, to go snowboarding or what-not, a T&C would actually top my list. I found it a generally easier and better experience than the Sienna XLE I ended up with another time.

  • avatar
    motormouth

    Glad to hear that the quality’s there. I think one of the few positives to come out of the DaimlerChrysler era was that the Germans pushed Chrysler to deliver better fit-and-finish, etc., and the results of this redirection are still playing out across the brands and models.

    Yet for all that, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s just not very good looking, is it?

    • 0 avatar

      The previous model looked slick and bore a strong resemblance to the company’s LH sedans (cars I really liked) but that design language is gone now and the cars that replaced them are bigger, squarer and more “American.”

      I was unsure about the new look when I first saw it, but now I see it as Chrysler returning to their roots. The current design is upright, practical and, I think, handsome.

      • 0 avatar
        motormouth

        It’a a case of form following function and I’m sure your T&C is very easy to load up with passengers and stuff. But I agree, the Pacifica was a minivan (if an R-Class clone can be called that) and was far better looking. Always wondered why the S-MAX never made it to the US, as it’s a decent looking MPV with good handling – probably a bit too small, though.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          Short answer is, no one’s ever had a ton of luck selling small minivans in this country — to wit, the Villager/Quest, Mazda’s MPV and Mazda5, or the first-gen Odyssey, to name a few. And the minivan market is much smaller than it once was. I think Ford and GM are both content to sit out the segment rather than risk losing money by overcrowding it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      If anything, fit, finish and quality decreased during the Daimler years due to extreme cost cutting. Notice the difference in the products that occurred immediately after Daimler handed over the reins.

      • 0 avatar
        motormouth

        Don’t agree with that at all. Fit and finish went down the pan after Daimler left the party, case in point the first-gen Journey, which was surely a victim of underfunding. As I’ve pointed out to a few friends, Daimler helped to improve the quality of Chrysler products no end. Take for example the Grand Cherokee, which had approx 3,500 weld points the gen before Daimler intervention and approx. 5,500 welds after Daimler insisted on bringing the chassis up to scratch. This, together with better F&F is why the GC is selling in decent numbers outside NA, as it’s no longer a flexing monster but a viable alternative to the Touareg et al.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          The Journey was developed under Daimler; it was revealed in Frankfurt within a month of the sale to Cerberus.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          You’ve got your timelines completely mixed up as dtremit correctly points out.

          Your opinion is especially confusing because you blame Cerberus for the finished product of the 2008 Journey when it was introduced at about the same time Cerberus took over the company from Daimler, yet give Daimler credit for the 2011+ Grand Cherokee who’s development was almost entirely done after that time under Cerberus and the New Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      I think this is demonstrably untrue.

      Bob Eaton laughingly pointed out that everyone was telling him Mercedes ownership was going to fix Chrysler quality. All the while, he had daily access to quality stats that shows Mercedes vehicles had more defects than Chryslers.

      The leeches at Cerberus get all the blame for horrors like the Caliber and last-edition Sebring — some of the worst cars foisted in the American public in the last decade or more — but Mercedes didn’t sell the company until 2007, which means most of the new Chrysler products that came out during the Cerberus era were developed under Mercedes’ stewardship. They were cheaped-out and disastrous.

  • avatar
    beanbear

    From what I understand, Chrysler could turnaround that big slew of refreshes because many of the mid-cycle “improvements” had long been waiting in the wings (but cost-cut by Daimler). The irony is that Daimler effectively paid for the improvements out the divorce settlement. Cerebrus claims its main interest was Chrysler Financial and didn’t put any new money into the OEM.

    We have an identical T&C as Thomas’ (minus ParkSense), and around 1300mi so far. Very happy with it. And the stock 430N sounds worlds better once you swap out all 6 speakers (a pretty easy $150 DIY job).

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Glad to hear it’s been a good ride so far. Shootout between this, the Honda and Toyota. I really like the new Chryslers and think the T&C in any trim offers a great value. I’m not quite sure about Hondas transmission, the Toyota is a bit bland even for a minivan. So I really want to like the Chrysler, even though I never liked them before. But experiences with rental Chrysler 300 and minivans since 2011 have changed my mind. I’m about 6 months away, keep the info coming!

  • avatar
    Reicher

    I love these Vans!! Driving my moms 2000 Caravan through 4 ft high of snow(literally) at 17 was so fun. Never slowed it down. They got rid of it at 340000km (211266 miles). Not a mechanically thing wrong with it other then burning a bit of oil. The 2002 Caravan they got next felt so natural to drive coming from the 2000. They still have it and its at 230000km (142915 miles) so far. They are now looking at the 2011 style Caravan or 2011 style Journey. My mom can’t wait lol

  • avatar
    MattPete

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: last year when we went looking for a minivan to replace our now too-small Mazda 5 (1 kid, with twins on the way), the Chrysler Town & Country won hands down.

    Handling: The T&C had a firm (but not nearly as bone jarring as the 5) and taught suspension. Comfortable, and with no float. Very predictable and tossable (a BMW 3-series my daily driver). Hefty, manly steering.

    The Odyssey, on the other hand rode smoother–sorta. Frankly, the Odyssey (2012) is underdamped, which lead it to feeling smoother on some roads, but have uncontrolled jiggling on other roads. It might have had an IRS, but the uncontrolled jiggling gave me flashback to live rear axles. Handling-wise, well, it’s floaty. I don’t care what the other reviews say, it floats like a boat. The steering is feather-light (and disconnected), which my wife liked.

    Quality and design: I would rate everything in Odyssey a “B”. Nothing higher, nothing lower. The Town and Country is a mishmash of A+ and C-grade parts. Luckily, the “A+” parts are where you encounter them the most (e.g. front dash layout and materials, ergonomics of controls that I can actually reach and do not slope away from me).

    Ultimately, we bought the Odyssey, because it was my wife’s decision and daily driver, and she wanted 3-across seating in the second row.

    Fast-forward a year, and I needed to take my wife’s Odyssey in for warranty work. The loaner they gave me was a …. Caravan (2013)! OK, the Caravan had a nasty, cheap interior compared to the T&C and Odyssey, but compared to the Odyssey I had just driven to the dealership, it felt like a go-kart (must have the same suspension tuning as the T&C).

    Mazda 5: the Miata of minivans
    T&C: BMW 3-series of minivans
    Odyssey: Grandpa’s Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      As a fellow 5 owner also looking for a larger van (the 5 becomes mine now) I’m glad to read this. We are looking to lease and not buy. I’m willing to lease a Chrysler to see how it goes. If it goes well, I’ll buy the next one (maybe our lease) if it works out.

      Caravan too cheap to me and I’d rather have leather with kids (standard in Chrysler now), which can’t be had unless moving up to EX-L Oddy or XLE Toyota. Not digging the suede inserts on the Toyota Sienna SE, though I like that van a lot ( though not 19 inch wheels).


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