2001 Chrysler Town & Country
MSRP
$24,430 - $37,510

Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

Comfort and practicality with power and luxury.

Introduction

Chrysler's Town & Country is all-new for 2001. Working from the proverbial clean sheet of paper, DaimlerChrysler's engineers designed its fourth-generation line of minivans from the inside out. As a result, the Town & Country is roomy and comfortable. The interior is versatile with seats that fold and remove. Powerful V6 engines deliver crisp performance. The ride is smooth and quiet. And it's wrapped in an attractive design. 

In terms of refinement, power, handling, and braking, the Town & Country once again ranks among the best minivans on the market. 

Lineup

Town & Country is available in three trim levels: LX, LXi and Limited. Front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available for each trim level. All are built on a long wheelbase, making these among the biggest minivans on the market. 

LX and LXi models come with a 3.3-liter overhead-valve V6 that produces 180 horsepower. The Limited gets a more powerful 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 that generates 215 horsepower. Mid-year models will offer a brand-new 3.5-liter single overhead-cam engine that delivers 230 horsepower, all the makings for one mighty minivan. 

Prices range from $24,430 for the LX FWD to $37,175 for the loaded leather Limited AWD. Chrysler's Town & Country Limited is a luxury vehicle that happens to be a minivan. 

In between these two levels are LXi and well-optioned LX models to fill varying needs and price ranges. The $29,175 LXi comes with popular and useful convenience features: front and rear air conditioning with three-zone automatic temperature control, an air filtration system, dual power sliding doors, garage door opener, electroluminescent instrument panel, map and courtesy lights, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with Infinity speakers, eight-way power driver's seat, split fold-down rear bench, and 16-inch tires. 

Side-impact airbags are standard on the Limited, optional on LX and LXi. 

In addition to the Town & Country line, Chrysler also markets the Voyager; Voyager is a standard-wheelbase minivan that starts at $19,160 (see NewCarTestDrive.com's review of the Voyager). 

Walkaround

There's nothing mini about the Chrysler Town & Country. It's big, measuring 200.5 inches long and 78.6 inches wide. And it stretches across a longer wheelbase (119.3 inches) than the Chrysler Voyager (113.3). 

Power sliding doors are standard on both sides of LXi and Limited models. Press a button on the remote transmitter and the door slides open; press the button again and it slides closed and seals. From the second-row seat, the power sliding door can be opened and closed by pressing a button; it can also be opened manually. A child safety lock switch hidden away on the trailing edge of the door can be engaged to prevent opening the sliding door from inside. The power doors work particularly well when managing children and armloads of stuff. Pulling on the outside lever opens the power door manually, with just slightly more effort than opening a regular manual door. Our LX came with a power sliding door on the passenger's side and a manually operated sliding door on the driver's-side; the manually operated door is easy to operate, smoothly sliding open and closed with the pull of a nicely designed lever. The outside door handles are comfortable, easy to operate and well designed; they impart a feeling of quality in looks and operation. 

An available power liftgate adds convenience when picking up groceries or supplies: Press a button on the remote control and the rear liftgate opens or closes automatically-great for those all-too-frequent times when you're walking up with an armload. 

Town & Country presents a sleek, solid stance. In profile, its raked windshield, rising roofline and beltline, and fast D-pillar with canted backlight (rear window) give it an aerodynamic appearance. Crisp creases have replaced the smooth forms of the 1990s. Pronounced wheel arches complement sharp character lines that flank the integrated grille. Rear styling cues give the Town & Country a weighty appearance that looks wider than taller, for visual stability. Huge taillamps use clear red lenses and jewel-like reflectors. Our LX was a classy Sterling Blue Satin Glow. 

Interior

Our LX came with bucket seats in the front and middle rows, and a bench seat for the third row. All positions were roomy and comfortable; and it seats seven. Cupholders are available at each seat and the rearmost passengers each get their own storage console, though the plastic lid is flimsy. Seat belt anchors are height-adjustable in the front and middle rows. 

A low floor makes getting in and out through the side doors easy. Our English mastiff, which requires a ramp to get into an SUV, can easily step through the side door to get into the Town & Country. 

Access through the rear hatch is a bit higher, however, and he'd need a ramp there. Loading groceries through here is no problem, though. Plastic grocery bags can be looped onto special hooks on the backs of the rear seats. There's a fair amount of space behind the third row. An optional cargo organizer on the floor behind the rear seat opens to provide a bin for six grocery bags; and it is adjustable. 

We found the second-row bucket seats and third-row split bench easy to remove. All or any one of the four seats can be popped out and rolled away in three quick steps, providing a wide variety of seating and cargo configurations. Reinstalling them takes a little more practice, as you need to learn how to line them up before snapping them into place. Each seat is heavy enough that care should be exercised when lifting it off the garage floor. The seats can also be folded down to form a continuous load floor for 4x8-foot sheets of plywood and other large items. 

There are many features available, in addition to the power doors, designed for those of us who always seem to be dealing with armloads of stuff: A headlamp-off time delay lights the way when coming home in the dark with a load of groceries. Auxiliary outlets, two up front and one amidships, provide convenient power. Four serious coathooks make picking up the dry cleaning a more elegant chore. Three dome lights illuminate the cabin well. An available overhead console houses power switches for the rear hatch and sliding doors along with compass and outside temperature readouts. Power window switches include the rear quarter windows. Dark tinting on the side windows provides privacy. 

A center console houses a cellular phone holder, power outlet, storage tray, light, tissue holder and a map holder. The console is removable and can be placed between either the front or middle seats. 

Small buttons make the audio system a challenge to learn and use while driving and the column shifter blocks the driver's view of the volume knob and seek button; optional steering wheel audio controls might prove beneficial. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls were functional, but rudimentary, in our LX, with his and hers sliders for temperature control. A separate knob controls the rear fan. Cruise controls were conveniently located on the steering wheel of our LX. Handsome and straightforward analog instruments use black on white graphics that reverse at night. A digital odometer doubles as the trip odometer when a button is pressed. Turn signal indicators and warning lights are in a thin hooded panel above the instruments. 

Driving Impression

Chrysler has done a great job with this new Town & Country. It rides smooth and feels very stable at highway speeds. It handles competently and seems surprisingly nimble for its size. Power-assisted steering is light, making it easy to maneuver and park in crowded lots, and the front air dam isn't so low to the ground that it scrapes on curbs. Careful suspension tuning, a new steering system and its rigid new structure have raised the Town & Country's handling prowess to that of the leading minivans. 

Our LX came with the base 3.3-liter V6. It delivered lively acceleration; we felt like we had plenty of motor to jackrabbit away from standstills or pull off that big pass. The engine is smooth and quiet when cruising and makes itself be known under full throttle. 

Wind noise is minimal. Chrysler engineers worked hard to ensure carrying on a conversation inside the Town & Country is easy and pleasant. And they were successful. Special gaskets, re-engineered suspension attachments and other measures have resulted in a quiet cabin when cruising along at 70 mph. 

Town & Country comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes and it stops quickly and without drama. Heavier duty brake rotors and new brake calipers improve braking performance, durability, and enhance pedal feel. Having ABS as standard equipment is good as it helps the driver maintain steering control in an emergency or panic stop. An available traction control system reduces front wheelspin on slippery surfaces. Better is the all-wheel-drive system, which redirects power to the tires with the best grip; all-wheel drive is a smart option for drivers who live in the Snowbelt. 

Lots of glass makes for good visibility all around, though the thick A-pillars hamper front three-quarter vision. Rearward visibility is greatly enhanced with big side mirrors, though third-row headrests block the rear-view mirror somewhat. 

An automatic load-leveling system is available that automatically trims the Town & Country to a level ride height. 

Summary

The people who wrote the book on minivans have produced another winner. DaimlerChrysler has sold 8 million minivans in 16 years and continues to dominate the market; Chrysler and Dodge own about 40 percent of the minivan market in the U.S. 

This new Town & Country shows why. It's roomy, comfortable, practical, powerful and nimble. Order the Limited model and add the word luxurious to that list. 

Model Lineup

LX ($24,430); LXi ($29,175); Limited ($34,850); LX AWD ($30,850); LXi AWD ($32,715); Limited AWD ($37,175). 

Assembled In

St. Louis, Missouri. 

Options As Tested

side airbags ($350); Package 25K ($3295) includes right power sliding door, air conditioning with three-zone temperature control, rear air conditioning/heating, odor/particulate air filtering, eight-way power driver's seat, rear split bench seat, AM/FM/CD with graphic equalizer, keyless entry system with two transmitters, illuminated entry, headlights-off time delay, 160-amp alternator; bucket seats with one child seat/split bench ($125); removable center console ($195); power liftgate; ($295); roof rack ($235); load leveling and height control ($290). 

Model Tested

LX ($24,430). 

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