By on June 15, 2018

Jon writes:

Hey Sajeev,

My wife and I recently found out that we’re to add a third child to our family. As such, it’s time to trade in my wife’s 2016 Charger SXT and get something with a bit more room. We’ve decided on something used in the $15-23k range.

The obvious and sensible choice is a newer (2015-17) Grand Caravan/Pacifica/Town & Country. There are a plethora available and we could certainly get into something with the same 3.6-liter Pentastar that we have now with under 50k miles on it. I do like the engine and have driven it in minivan form. I would stick with the FCA offerings over the Honda/Toyota vans because I’m fully convinced that I’ll never make up the 25-30 percent price premium the Odyssey/Sienna command on the used market in repair cost savings.

On the other shoulder, the crazy part of me is considering getting the best Mercedes-benz E350 wagon that I can find in our price range.

I believe I can find something decent from 2011-13 range with 60-80k miles. My limited research suggests that the E350s in this range aren’t terrible in terms of reliability and I’ve always felt a flutter whenever I see a Mercedes wagon. The back seat is roomier for three kids and we can even have someone ride in the rear facing seats once in a while. (My kids are currently only one and three.)

We have several trustworthy mechanics in our area that work on German vehicles and I do know that I’ll be spending a bit more on maintenance with the Benz.

Am I crazy for even considering it?

Sajeev answers:

The “crazy part” of you doesn’t want a minivan, eh?

Stop the presses: now I’ve heard everything!

Every Piston Slapper deserves Friday morning fame, yet I’ve largely avoided car purchase advice because:

  • The original mission was to collect knowledge similar to that of make/model specific forums.
    • Unlike my TTAC inbox, such forums aren’t brimming with “our vehicle failed me somehow, what should I buy now?” questions.
  • We tried this shtick with Lang and, in editing, they were stereophonic financial rants stemming from incomplete information: pretty frickin’ unhealthy for both of us.
    • I don’t expect credit rating divulsions, but acknowledging the likelihood of securing top-tier financing would help. As I’m jaded by how many live in blissful ignorance of this metric, I expect the worst: when I open this door, it sometimes gets shut in my face.  HARD. Which depresses the hell outta me.
  • Questioners are secretly hoping for confirmation bias: no worries, we ALL crave it on the Internet. I want every forthcoming comment changing the subject to Medium Brown Metallic Crown Vics, but it ain’t happening. 

Perhaps my dilemma is clear … so on to the query!

With your growing family and $15k-23k budget, the notion of spending “a bit more on maintenance” is short sighted.  Consider the cost of repairs/component failures that’ll creep up on a 5-7 yr old Eurozone Wagon (vis-a-vis Chrysler minivan) and the tragic amount of bespoke bits that your kids shall break, stain, etc. only available at the dealer or junkyard.

Also, pleeeeease fit the stereotype of buying the first example you see: service history, quality of accident repairs, etc. be damned!

That said, you’re not crazy for considering an E 350 Wagon. I often encourage such lunacy!Ford E350 Wagon Passenger Van; Image: Ford

That’s right, Son! Here is your E-350 (Club) Wagon and your boy Sanjeev will even hook you up with a 75-shot and an SCT tune. Imagine all the fun scaring the crap outta your kids and their friends for years to come!

And now to give thanks: Best and Brightest, thanks for keeping my creative outlet slapping on all eight cylinders for 9+ years, I can’t imagine my autojourno career without you. And endless thanks to Anthony Bourdain: his candor, pragmatic button-pushing, bottomless compassion and gonzo journalistic influence shall never leave me. RIP.

[Image: Blake Z. Rong/TTAC, Ford]

Send your queries to [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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73 Comments on “Piston Slap: Car Purchase Advice? Pointless!...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    “I’ve largely avoided car purchase advice because:”

    I got sick of being asked for advice only to have the person ignore it and buy something completely different, yet still act like it’s my fault when they don’t like it or something goes wrong with it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Same here. I’ve been asked for advice and then found out later “they” were pissed off at me for not agreeing with their prefered choice. My ex’s best friend had asked for advice and all I did was find 3 different tests on mid-sized SUV’s, durability and mpg ratings on that segment and sent it to her. That still backfired because she got in an argument with her husband over her choice and said, ” well, Lou said it was the best.” Fook me!!!! All I said was, “Here is the data. You decide.”

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      JimZ

      I agree.

      I think Jack B said it best and said it here 3-6 months ago.

      People ask you for car advice TO VERIFY THEIR DECISION.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      100% of the time when someone asks for my advice, this is what happens…
      1. They describe what they’re looking for.
      2. I carefully analyze and make some recommendations.
      3. They buy something that doesn’t resemble what they said they were looking for.

      Once, they didn’t ask for advice, they knew what they wanted. I found the exact vehicle at one of our dealerships, at an incredible price. They went elsewhere and paid thousands more. Why? Because they “didn’t think I was serious”.

      Why bother?

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    My only advice would be to buy something – ANYTHING – with a warranty.
    3 kids? You don’t need any big repair expenses.

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      the (arguable) rule of thumb for insurance/warranty is only buy it if you can’t afford the hit of the expense if you are unlucky enough to hit those long odds.

      Home insurance for when a tree falls down on your garage = yes.
      Cell phone insurance = no, unless you’re a 16 y.o. who got an iPhone X.

      aftermarket warranty = (a debatable) no, and that’s not even considering the possible hassles of arguing with the company over whether your claim is valid.

      your mileage may vary.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I’ve had no issues with extended warranty and with my trucks that saw extensive off-road/back country use, it was worth every penny.

        I know a guy with a small forestry consulting company who buys maintenance agreements for his trucks. He did the math and it was more economical and easier to amortize than pay as you go. With the Fords he had, it also added a year to the warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      CaptainObvious

      I bought an extended warranty on a used car I purchased from a dealership – and it turned out to be a good decision.

      Not only did it pay for the repairs (minus the $100 deductible) – but I also got a free loaner while it was being fixed.

      Three kids? Who wants to be without a car?

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      “My only advice would be to buy something – ANYTHING – with a warranty. 3 kids? You don’t need any big repair expenses.”

      My only advice is get the Toyota/Honda van. Knowing the repair costs are covered by a warranty is small consolation when your FCA piece of crap leaves you stranded somewhere with 3 small kids in tow.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    When asked what was the most disgusting thing he had ever eaten, Anthony Bourdain replied, “A Chicken McNugget”. RIP

  • avatar
    seth1065

    While I love the E class wagon, the fact is you would be better w a mini van, yes you can put three in the back seat , maybe depending on car seats. And you can more than likely get a double stroller in the back and the diaper bags … but it would be a PITA. a minivan will be so much easier, e class wagons hold their value very very well vs almost any other MB so you will not get a break there. They are not cheap t maintain and if your getting one with 60K your looking at some service around that time. It will drive much better and look much better but when your trying to get three kids out the door with everything 3 kids bring with them, a mini van or SUV makes it so much easier to do.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    In what world would an E-class have a larger back seat, and be more durable/reliable, than a Charger whose service history you know well?

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah but the E-class has a rear facing third row (optional and rare, IIRC) and you’re supposed to want one because you’re a Car Guy with a family.

      • 0 avatar
        IBx1

        That jumpseat will be good for about 2-3 years, then the car has to be replaced for another model.

        • 0 avatar

          Those details are something you should never consider when buying a car. :)

          • 0 avatar
            IBx1

            Thankfully I never will; a 3rd kid means no time or money for anything else. 2 max and then it’s condoms, good cars, and neat vacations.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Statistically the failure rate of condoms is 3.3 – 19.1%.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            That’s one hell of a statistic.

          • 0 avatar
            Kendahl

            Better to see a urologist for a couple of quick snips. Negligible failure rate.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @Kendahl –
            Pregnancy is considered a post-op complication of vasectomies.
            Doctors will get you to sign a release form saying that they aren’t responsible for child support if a persistent swimmer gets through.

          • 0 avatar

            “Thankfully I never will; a 3rd kid means no time or money for anything else. 2 max and then it’s condoms, good cars, and neat vacations.”

            My wife is due with our second child in the next month or so…I told her that this is it for the reasons above. I’m not trying to be broke just to have three kids (she wants three and also wants to be a stay-at-home mom…nope LOL)

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    People generally don’t want actual advice – they usually want you to just validate a decision they’ve already made.

    But what the hell…with three little kids, the last thing you need is a car that will cost as much to maintain as a used Benz will. Get a minivan.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    In my experience, people tell themselves all sorts of stories about why they NEED a new car. Every story, however, translates to somebody WANTING a new car.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    If the OP is a frugal sort and makes a healthy income, go for the MB. I am not a MB fan, but the wagon…oh baby cakes yes please! Especially in AMG form. What is not to love?

    Back to reality, if you are like **most** new parents with 3 youngsters you are early to mid career and most likely have not reached peak earnings and have a lot of expenses. So, the minivan is the correct choice.

    I 100% agree on the choice of the T/C or Pacifica. It was my choice 14 years ago. I bought new, and the ATP is nowhere close, I want to say with rebates and discounts I was 10k off of MSRP. Honda or Toyota are not going to give you that, nor do they hold their value 10k over a T/C long term.

    Don’t fear used. Buy from a reputable dealer. Negotiate a 3 or 4 year comprehensive service contract into the deal from a quality provider. Does not have to be factory, just do some research, the big name common suppliers have good programs. Just don’t over pay for it. Buy a dark color, tint the heck out of it maybe buy some wheels have enjoy your quasi gangster family hauler!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I’d go with a Sienna over a FCA minivan. I bought a Grand Caravan new and the main reason was the fact that it was discounted and therefore much more economical to buy… BUT… over the lifespan of that van, repair costs greatly outweighed the savings. Resale was pathetic. The Sienna is still on the road with minimal repairs and the GC with the same mileage and age was sent to the “as is, where is” auction.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    For family use, you can’t beat a van, especially if you have more than two children.

    Don’t forget, you will be carpooling to activities and events. Seven seats are a must.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Get the minivan. Lots of space and the whole family comfortable, and room for gramma and grandpa or the cousins too, is a lot of fun in its own way.

    Consider a smaller and more maneuverable car as the second family car.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    A wife and three kids? Ford EcoSport.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Three kids and a wife…

    Do you really want to have to think about reliability?
    Really?

    Don’t you have bigger fish to fry? Isn’t the peace of mind worth the added cost with going to a more reliable marque than a German eurowagen or the unholy fusion of a failed American brand and the Italians?

    Oh, doG… I think it just happened! I just I just officially became… OLD!!!

  • avatar
    spyked

    I mean, sure, any Merc is going to be expensive to maintain compared to a Toyota, but depending on the year of the Merc, it would have the M276 engine. That is similar to your beloved Pentastar – developed at the same time I think while Daimler was still with Chrysler. The W212 E is really not a bad choice. At that mileage you just need to make sure the 7G Tronic (or 7G Plus) was properly serviced with fluid at the exact mileage intervals. The rest of the car is solid, especially for a proper German car.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I have to agree. I would get one with the older 272 engine however. The balance shaft issues were resolved in 2008 so anything this decade is good. A well maintained one is pretty solid.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Aye, heed the warning. “Here be wagons!” As a former Honda Odyssey owner, another vote for the mini-van.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    This site tests 3-abroad 2nd row car seats, and gave the Pacifica a thumbs up for the optional 8th seat:

    thecarseatlady.com/2017familyvehiclebuyingguide/

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Life is too short to hang yourself by boredom with driver’s side noose option.

    Buy an AMG Benz and strap your kids to the roof or put them in the trunk!

    *Important announcement: I am about to comprehensively state why I intend to go all in on a business model TO DRAMATICALLY lower the number of vehicles purchased and driven, help’people get to work,’school, wherever, reliably, safely, comfortably and extremely conveniently, all for 10% of the cost of ownership of the average vehicle.

    Traffic congestion, traffic jams, and lengthy commutes, in terms of both stress and, especially, time
    wasted (up to 480 hours annually in major metro areas) is a major cause of stress,’lost recreational and work time, and decreased quality of life in the U.S., as well as wasting nearly 200 billion dollars a year annually!

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    I feel for the OP. Immediately pre-kids, I managed to avoid buying a 60’s Lotus and/or a TVR. Good thing considering, but they were the ones that got away…. You cannot rationalize the purchase of an older German wagon as a sensible alternative to a minivan. That is completely impossible. Even if you have the purchase price covered, in the future you’ll wish you had the annual maintenance/repair costs back to spend on family.
    BTW, there is a great looking E500 wagon on ebay. Sourced from God’s waiting room (Boca Raton), 12 years old, 36K miles, dealer serviced. Sounds wonderful. Except at 12 years old every under-hood elastomeric and plastic part is suspect from being in Florida. And for Sajeev, there is a nice looking brown metallic E350 wagon – but it has issues…..

  • avatar
    7402

    Get a minivan.

    We were in your exact spot back in 2002 and went with a Honda Odyssey. Yes, we struggled with the identity and aesthetics, but in the end you will develop a love-to-hate/hate-to-love relationship with these incredibly utilitarian vehicles. Minivans do all you ask of them and more. It’s awesome to open that sliding door with a key fob while holding two kids at once. Junior won’t ding the new luxury car next to you in the parking lot when opening the door. In-car-entertainment and cup holders galore. At the end of the day the humble minivan is not only a family car but a true man’s vehicle; for a typical suburban dad, it will outperform most pickups for hauling stuff you get at Home Depot or that yard sale where you score furniture for the kids’ rooms. We brought a washer and dryer home in ours–both at the same time. I could close the tailgate on a 10′ section of PVC or 2×4. None of this stuff gets wet during transport either.

    We sold the Odyssey the day our youngest started college, but have rented minivans many times since, either for cross-country drives or simply hauling. Our minivan of choice is the FCA T&C with the roof racks (don’t tell the rental company about the cargo box). Stow and Go seats are awesome. On one cross-country trip we had a catastrophic tire puncture and the rental company offered us a vehicle swap instead of repairing it (late Saturday night somewhere in South Dakota). We ended up with a Chrysler Pacifica and hated it compared to the T&C. Yes, it rode a bit smoother and got slightly better mileage, but the ergonomics and visibility, and interior capacity (we were moving a kid’s stuff from CA to IL) was inferior. I wouldn’t fault anyone for choosing the Pacifica over the T&C.

    Do it.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    When I was in High School, I worked at a service station operated by an old-school mechanic. He was an excellent mechanic, but whenever one of his customers brought in a car that they were considering buying for his evaluation/recommendation on buying, he ALWAYS looked the car over thoroughly and said that he didn’t recommend buying it. After seeing this numerous times, I asked him why. He told me that he didn’t want someone to buy a car that had problems down the road, and blame him for not seeing them. He said that all cars have problems, new and used, and that some were big and some were just minor annoyances, but he didn’t want to lose a customer who blamed him when they bought a lemon. He said that if a customer bought a car that turned out to have problems, the customer would remember that he had recommended against buying it, and would continue to bring his or her business there.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      That’s pretty smart. What do you do after the technician rejects every car they bring in though?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Unfortunately it seems that it doesn’t work that way any more. The mechanic might say “do NOT buy this car” but the customer will hear “DO BUY THIS CAR”, because that is what they want to hear. So when something does go wrong they will blame it on the mechanic since they “heard” the mechanic say to buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      The best approach is to charge for a vehicle inspection and say, ” I checked these items, these are the manufacturer’s recommended wear parameters, and these are my measurements.”

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      That’s dishonest. I wouldn’t use him just for that. I’d much rather he say that he doesn’t do pre-purchase inspections. Instead he takes their money and lies to them.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    When I was in High School, I worked at a service station operated by an old-school mechanic. He was an excellent mechanic, but whenever one of his customers brought in a car that they were considering buying for his evaluation/recommendation on buying, he ALWAYS looked the car over thoroughly and said that he didn’t recommend buying it. After seeing this numerous times, I asked him why. He told me that he didn’t want someone to buy a car that had problems down the road, and blame him for not seeing them. He said that all cars have problems, new and used, and that some were big and some were just minor annoyances, but he didn’t want to lose a customer who blamed him when they bought a lemon. He said that if a customer bought a car that turned out to have problems, the customer would remember that he had recommended against buying it, and would continue to bring his or her business there.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Enthusiasts don’t buy cars with their head, but with their heart. To make rational arguments for emotional decisions is pointless.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Split decision from me.

    Right Brain – YOLO – buy something cool and fun. Why trundle around in a boring (and often hated) soulless minivan when a Mercedes is there. Really, it won’t be that bad. What’s a few repairs especially if you’re driving a frickin’ Mercedes? Go for it!

    Left Brain – now, now let’s be sensible. Do you want to be stranded on the side of the road with the kids? And those repair bills are going to be murder! Minivan all the way, even though you will secretly hate it _every_ day.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    E350, E250 or E150 is the way to go. With the 12, or 15 passenger version each kid gets his or her own row to alleviate the inevitable “so and so is touching me”. With the heart of a Panther (2v 4.6 and 4R7xW transmission) it will have million mile durability and reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      And about 12mpg on the open road whilst getting blown around by wind and beat up by the suspension. Avis inexplicably gave me one as a rental for work, it was truly terrible by any modern metric that the average consumer would consider.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        You were doing something wrong, or had a V-10 powered one if you are only getting 12mpg on the open road. My 2009 E-“1″50 with a tall high top conversion 4.6 and 4:10 gears gets 15mpg all day every day whether running around empty, hauling near its 3000lb payload, around town or on a long hwy drive, admittedly doing ~75mph.

        Of course it rides like a vehicle that has a 3000lb payload when it is empty though I’d still rate it ahead of my F250 in that respect.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    No Germans.

    Pacifica, Transit Connect, Transit. Not the E-Series, its unpleasant to drive and ride in, even for a van. The Transit is far roomier and much better to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      While I’ve yet to drive the Transit, I’ve ridden in a few airport/hotel shuttles and they are definitely more cramped riding in the back than an E-series and do not have a better ride either. It also doesn’t get any appreciable increase in MPG, maybe 1 MPG from what I’ve seen reported. For that you give up the million mile proven durability of the power train and chassis.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Agreed on the Transit Connect.

      At one point, my wife and I both had rental vehicles due to Takata recalls. She had a Chrysler T&C and I had the Ford Transit Connect.

      Chrsyler advantages: Better interior packaging, smoother ride, better stereo, smooth V6
      Ford TC advantages: Better seats, better driving, easier to get people in back due to higher roof, better handling/braking, loved the roof.

      I really don’t like the Chrysler mini but have heard the new one is better. I’ve been in the Sienna and Odyssey and both feel like luxury cars but won’t get treated that way by kids.

      I’d say go drive all of ’em, but to me, the Ford TC drives the best hands down.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    Seven years ago we went the van route and never looked back. With three kids, it’s just easier. Nothing with an equivalent or smaller footprint will hold 6+ people AND stuff. Regarding the Mercedes, even if the cost of repairs doesn’t faze you, the hassle might- downtime is not an option when the kids get older and you are juggling work and activities.

    The reliability of our Odyssey has been great. Last week we hit 150,000 miles, and it needs its first major repair– replacement of the piston rings. Honda is paying for the work, probably because of some kind of legal settlement.

  • avatar
    turbo_awd

    You can get a Mopar warranty (i.e. bumper-to-bumper) from FCA for around $2k that will take your T&C / GC to 7 years / 75k miles with factory warranty. Even if you buy it as a used off-lease car slightly out of warranty.

    And honestly, the Pentastar is solid – with the 6 speed, when running the Grapevine for example (hills north of Los Angeles), I’m easily at the front of the pack, chasing most cars out of the way. The dynamics of the ’12+ are that good/confidence inspiring. No, it’s not a Benz, but it’s not a Metro either. You can easily outrun a Civic/Corolla off a light, for example, the brakes are decent, stow-and-go is a lifesaver with kids and stuff. You can haul full 4×8 sheets INSIDE the van. Can’t do that with many pickups that have enough room for 3 kids, etc..

    We had an ’08 GC, and it had a few issues, but not enough that it put us off buying a ’15 T&C. Most of those issues were solved. The only downside is that we liked the front seats on the ’08 a little better.. And heated seats should be available on more trims (my wife likes them).

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Oh…speaking of the Grapevine and the Pentastar, my favorite memory of my 300 when I had it was a glorious pass I made to get out of pack of slowpokes on that biiiig hill as you approach Tejon Pass. Between the Pentastar and the 8 speed, that thing was silky smooth at full throttle when kicking down probably 6 gears and before I knew it I had to slow down on a steep incline at 4000ft elevation.

      I paid I think under 25k for it new, traded it in 4 years later for 19k on a truck when I need more hauling capacity, I miss that car every day.

  • avatar
    random1

    Especially given that you like FCA, get the minivan. So, like many misguided souls, I bought an E wagon in ’00, and it was fine, until we had our 3rd. We got the T&C within a year or so, and they are absolutely the right choice. With 2, honestly, we might not have ever got the minivan, but it would still have been the better choice.
    That said, our T&C was a POS, and it was pretty done by 90k miles. Went Toyota after that, and it was sadly totalled (victim of road rage!) or I’d probably still have it. By then our oldest was about to head to college, so now, I’m still driving the old E-wagon, and probably won’t need a minivan again(though I miss the versatility whenever carrying large loads).

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    I’m very careful how I give car-buying advice. I’ll say:
    “If you buy car ‘A’, this will happen (cooler, but higher maint, etc.), and if you buy car ‘B’, this will happen (lower maint, less chaos).
    And I leave it there. I don’t tell them what I would buy. I do tell them to do what they want, but walk into it with open eyes.

    We all love cool cars; that’s why we’re here. And we’ll put up with something that may not be most reliable, because of the way it makes us feel. But at some times of your life a vehicle has to be tool, and you choose the right tool for the job.

    When my kids were small, I learned to wrench on my own cars, so I could own something a little more interesting, and the wife got the new minivan. The OP didn’t say what he was driving, but maybe the answer is that you buy both.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      “We all love cool cars, that’s why we’re here.”

      I’d like to agree with you. But I’m pretty sure about half of the folks on here got lost on the way to some sh*t-stirring political site and are here to fling poo about politics.

      Not on this thread, thank God. At least we can all agree that old German cars are expensive to maintain and minivans are sensible family cars.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Too easy. The answer is Rav4 the last year of the V6.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Default advice is a Sienna, then Odyssey in that order. I will however also plug the Pacifica. I had one as a rental recently in “lower-tier leather” trim with 42k rental miles on the clock. It was fantastic to drive and got me and indicated 29mpg blasting home to Indiana from Iowa (75-77mph most of the way). It drove and felt notably better and more modern than a Grand Caravan, which itself is a perfectly decent car to drive IMO. Aside from some creaky rear doors (common minivan double, just needs grease) the Pacifica drive and felt like new. One of my favorite long haul rentals.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Your only possible best option is an XC70 T6.”

    I’m mostly kidding, but it’s saner than the E-series wagon.

  • avatar
    stuart

    Sajeev, I took your advice.

    We bought a 1993 E-350 in 1996 when anticipating the birth of our fourth child.

    Ours is the 15-passenger version. Four bench seats. This has been great for vacations with children; every child got their own bench.

    Alas, our van has had many problems over the years. I replaced the transmission and engine myself; both of those rebuilt components were subsequently replaced under warranty. The A/C system is powerful when it works, but it’s a nightmare to keep working. The engine cooling system has also been problematic.

    The surprise benefit has been: safety. The vehicle has been hit several times in the front and back, yet the occupants have always been unharmed. I attribute this to the van’s prodigious mass. We always drove it away from those accidents. All of the other vehicles had to be towed away.

    The obvious downside: parking. My wife used to drive it to San Francisco, and it was always a challenge to park.

    Regardless, if Jon has the room, these are lovely family haulers. Great choice!

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    As someone who owns a Town & Country AND an E Class AND has kids… get a minivan!

    I love my E Class, but she is an expensive date and whenever the kids are in the car they trash it. The T&C is much more user friendly, has been reliable and I don’t have to play tetris to fit things in it.

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