Chrysler completely redesigned its Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivan twins for 2008, and as regular readers will know, we've become quite familiar with the Chrysler variant. Our Inferno Red Town & Country Limited long-termer now has over 23,000 miles on the clock, and the odometer isn't about to stop spinning anytime soon.
While the 2009 model doesn't change all that much, there are a couple notable differences, such as an 8% increase in fuel economy, revamped brakes and small tweaks designed to reduce cabin noise. Plus, this particular loaded to the hilt T&C -- it has every option from the tow package to the automaker's much-hyped Uconnect web hub -- is equipped with a few things our long-termer isn't.
Let's start with the new stuff, like the Blind Spot Monitoring and Cross Path Detection systems, now available on Touring and Limited models. As its name implies, Blind Spot Monitoring checks the sides of the van for vehicles and lights up an orange triangle in the rearview mirror on the appropriate side. It's nonintrusive and quite effective, turning on only when a vehicle is present. The Cross Path Detection system turns on when the vehicle is reverse and monitors for approaching vehicles. It too lights up the rearview mirrors plus lets out an audible chime. Think of it as an advanced backup sensor. Both are radar-based systems, and at $515 for the safety group that includes both, they're well worth the money. Also added for 2009 are rain-sensing wipers and "SmartBeam" headlamps designed to automatically adjust low- and high-beam brightness when the system deems it appropriate.