2014 Chrysler Town & Country S First Test
The Original Premium Minivan is Showing Its Age
It's been three decades since Chrysler created the minivan segment with the Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan and Plymouth Voyager/Grand Voyager. Six years later, the 1990 Chrysler Town & Country arrived for the final year of the minivan's first generation as an upscale offering. The fifth-generation Town & Country has been on the market since the 2008 model year, making it the oldest vehicle in the segment. We recently spent some time in a mid-level 2014 Chrysler Town & Country S to see how well it has aged.
Our tester was finished in Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat paint over black Torino leather seats with black Ballistic cloth inserts. "S" logos are embroidered in the front seatbacks. The exterior features a black chrome grille, black headlight bezels, foglights, and Hyper Black 17-inch alloy wheels. Notable standard equipment on the S trim includes eight-way power driver's seat, ParkView rearview camera, performance suspension, Super Console, Uconnect infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and 40 GB hard drive, Bluetooth audio and phone, dual Blu-ray DVD rear entertainment system with second- and third-row 9.0-inch screens, three-zone (front left, front right, and rear) climate control, power sliding doors and liftgate, power heated exterior mirrors, and tinted glass. And of course the second- and third-row Stow 'n Go seats and third-row tailgate seats.
Options include a $1,945 SafetyTec Package (automatic high beam control, blind-spot and cross-path detection, ParkSense rear park assist, rain-sensing wipers, tire pressure monitoring display), $100 second- and third-row window shades, and $995 Uconnect infotainment system with Garmin-based navigation system and SiriusXM satellite radio. With a base price of $33,990 (including $995 destination), our tester came to $37,030.
All Chrysler Town & Country models are powered by the automaker's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 rated 283 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The S model has stiffer suspension than other Town & Country models. In our testing, the Town & Country S took 7.8 seconds to reach 60 mph; the quarter mile arrives in 16.1 seconds at 86.4 mph. The S model lapped the figure eight in 28.5 seconds at 0.60g average and went around the skidpad in 0.76g average. It took 126 feet for the Town & Country to stop from 60 mph.
Although those numbers are consistent with many of its competitors, the 3.6-liter Pentastar and six-speed auto combination seem crude by comparison. The engine feels aggressive, but there is a noticeable (air intake?) whistle or (transmission?) whine as you pull away from a stop. "The accelerator seems spongy, and you really have to throw it all the way down to get it to wake up," noted Chris Clonts, Motor Trend digital director. Despite these criticisms, the Town & Country can peel out from a stop in the dry or wet; wheel hop and torque steer included. Around town, the handling feels confident, though the stiff suspension gives it a firm and bumpy ride, especially over rough pavement. Despite its light steering, the Town & Country S offers good initial turn-in response and tracks straight down the road. There is a notable amount of road and wind noise even at low speeds.
The exterior's dark-trimmed theme carries over inside with the black leather seats with cloth inserts and gray stitching that carries over to the door armrests. The black leather-wrapped steering wheel features piano black trim on the spokes, as does the dashboard. Black is also used for the headliner, upper consoles, and center console. Another "S" logo is located in the instrument cluster. Although the dark interior initially gives the interior upscale feel, the cabin is filled with hard plastic, with the seats and door panels the exception. The gear shifter doesn't feel quite as premium as the leather-wrapped steering wheel. Some liked the high mount position of the gear shifter, which didn't block any of the infotainment or climate controls, but other (taller) drivers didn't like how it was "right there in your face." The Town & Country's second- and third-row Stow 'n Go seats and third-row tailgate seats were universally praised.
Chrysler's latest Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen is one of the best systems in the business. Unfortunately, the Town & Country is only available with a dated Uconnect system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and a Garmin-based navigation system.
The USB and auxiliary inputs are located on the head unit rather than the center console, which means there are iPhone/iPod cord(s) hanging down from the top of the center stack. The Bluetooth phone system paired easily, but the voice-activated connection process and the voice announcing who is calling (also displayed on nav screen) and when the phone call ended, both futuristic touches at one time, make the experience seem dated. The Bluetooth audio system failed to work, as did the voice-to-text feature for sending SMS/iMessages. Continually showing cross streets and speed limit info are welcome navigation features, but having vehicle speed displayed where passengers can see? Not so much.
Additionally, the dual 12-volt outlets (one was key-on, the other always on) on the front of the center console were finicky, and the contact points didn't stay connected to my iPhone's car charger. Although the 12-volt outlets were less than successful charging my iPhone, the USB port can charge devices, albeit at a painfully slow rate. On the safety front, the Town & Country gets a four-star overall rating (out of five stars) from the NHTSA, but it's not considered a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS due to a poor rating in the small overlap front test. It did, however, receive a good rating in the moderate front overlap, side impact, and roof strength tests; good is the highest score.
In our Real MPG testing, the Town & Country more or less hit its EPA rating of 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The Chrysler minivan returned 16.9/24.9/19.8 mpg in our Real MPG tests in regular mode. Surprisingly, the city and combined numbers in regular mode were slightly higher than when tested in Eco mode. In Eco mode the Town & Country achieved 16.4/25.3/19.5 mpg.
As configured, our tester has a projected five-year cost of ownership of $44,692, which accounts for purchase price, state fees, depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, and repair costs. The Chrysler Town & Country S offers lots of content for the price -- if you can overlook its flaws and less than stellar safety rating.
|2014 Chrysler Town & Country S|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$37,030|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door van|
|ENGINE||3.6L/283-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,562 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||202.8 x 78.7 x 66.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.1 sec @ 86.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.5 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/25/20 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/135 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.98 lb/mile|
Manufacturer-provided photos of the 2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition minivan are shown below.