2008 Town & Country New Car Test Drive
Chevrolet Cavalier offers improved handling and a smoother ride than last year's model. For 2003, the Cavalier gets a sporty new exterior and new safety features. All models come with GM's newly developed Ecotec 2.2-liter engine, which offers responsive performance, excellent fuel economy, and cleaner emissions.
Cavalier handles winding roads well, with little body lean in the corners. It rides well on rough roads, damping road vibration. The revised chassis makes the 2003 Cavalier feel tighter than last year's models, and there's good throttle response from the four-cylinder engine.
Coupes and sedans are available. The coupes look sportier, while the sedans offer the advantage of four doors and roomier rear seats. Cavalier LS models start at $15,480 and include power windows, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, and other convenience features most of us now take for granted. LS Sport models come with sport suspensions and special trim. XM Satellite Radio and OnStar are available.
. It's hard to believe, but Chevrolet's fiberglass flyer turned 50 this year. That's half a century as America's premier sports car. Many Corvette owners have been attending events to celebrate. For most of those 50 years, the Corvette has been America's only true sports car, that is, the only U.S. production two-seater capable of real race-track performance.
The Corvette has endured because it has always represented real performance value. We realize 'value' may not be the first word that springs to mind when looking at a $50,000 sticker. But this fifth-generation Corvette (sometimes called the C5) delivers a combination of acceleration and handling matched only by the Dodge Viper, Porsche 911 and various exotics, all of which are far more expensive.
There's really nothing quite like the Corvette. Sports cars in the C5 price range, such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK, BMW Z3, and Porsche Boxster, offer an entirely different driving experience.
For 2003, the Corvette celebrates its longevity with a special 50th Anniversary Edition, featuring unique dark red paintwork and a 'Shale' (gray-beige) interior color scheme. All 2003 Corvettes wear the 50th Anniversary logo and come with even more standard equipment than before. A new option called Magnetic Selective Ride Control promises better ride quality with the same handling precision that made the Corvette a legend.
. The Chevrolet Impala is a mid-size sedan packing nearly full-size family room. It even feels like a big luxury car. The Impala handles well and accelerates quickly when equipped with the optional 3.8-liter V6.
By any other name, the Impala would be an impressive, significant car. But Chevrolet chose to honor an icon of the 1960s, not only with the Impala name, but with key visual cues as well. Impala is calculated to push the nostalgia button for a certain generation.
From 1958-65, Impala meant the flashiest full-size Chevrolet, a real working-man's Cadillac, tame in its base form but offering performance options to match its aggressive looks. After '65, the sporty Impala was subordinated to the more conservative-looking Caprice, and eventually the name disappeared from the Chevrolet lineup.
Like its namesake, today's Impala is tame and practical with base-level equipment. However, when ordered with the optional 3.8-liter V6 the Impala is quick. The Chevy Impala feels more responsive than the six-seat sedans from Toyota, Dodge, Ford and Buick. The Impala offers competent suspension tuning, distinctive looks, and plenty of interior room.
XM Satellite Radio is available as an option this year and the 2003 Impala comes in new exterior colors with new five-spoke alloy wheels.
. Chrysler has redesigned the Town & Country minivan for 2008. In addition to the popular Stow 'n Go seating arrangement, the new Town & Country offers Swivel 'n Go, which includes second-row seats that rotate 180 degrees to face a removable table that stores in the floor. With these improvements, Chrysler bills the Town & Country as the ultimate family friendly vehicle, and we agree.
In addition to the new seating arrangement, the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country gets a new engine choice, a 4.0-liter V6 that is more competitive with the V6 offerings from other manufacturers. The 4.0 moves the T&C nicely, while the carryover 3.8-liter V6 is adequate for around-town duty. The base engine is a 3.3-liter V6. With the redesign, Chrysler has dropped the short wheelbase body style.
On the road, the Town & Country offers a smooth ride and an SUV-like view of the road. The Town & Country is a big vehicle, however, and it is not nimble. It is prone to body lean in turns and the ride can feel floaty at highway speeds. The Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest are more car-like and sportier.
The Town & Country's entertainment and seating options, however, are the best in the class, matched only by the Dodge Grand Caravan. The available Stow 'n Go seating tucks the second-row seats nicely into the floor, and when those seats are up, the floor bins offer storage space. The rear seats fold into the floor on all models, allowing a perfectly flat, voluminous rear storage area that can accommodate items such as couches, 4x8-foot sheets of plywood, and most any other item you might need to transport. In addition, there is a handy well behind the third row that offers lots of storage space even with the seats up.
The new Swivel 'n Go option will be great for family trips. The second row turns to face the third row with a table in between. It will help keep the kids entertained with games of checkers, a place to draw, or any number of other possibilities. And if that's not enough, the Town & Country offers single and dual screen rear DVD entertainment systems, plus newly available Sirius Backseat TV with three kid-friendly channels. The dual screens allow different viewing options for kids that can't agree on what to watch. And for the adults up front, Chrysler's new MyGIG hard drive radio stores up to 1600 songs.
Overall, the 2008 Town & Country does what a minivan should. It is a great vehicle for families that need to haul kids and cargo on a regular basis. And the seating and entertainment options will prevent a lot of the fights that inevitably accompany road trips. Pricing can exceed $40,000 with all the options, so carefully consider which you'll need and use before you buy.
Chevrolet Cavalier comes in two body styles, two-door Coupe and four-door Sedan. They are trimmed and priced about the same (Sedans are priced $150 higher) and their dimensions are essentially the same. The Ecotec 2.2-liter engine is used for all Cavalier models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models. A four-speed automatic ($815) is optional.
Three trim levels are available, base, LS, LS Sport.
Cavalier Coupe ($14,030) and Sedan ($14,180) come standard with air conditioning and an AM/FM stereo. These are base models with wind-up windows, manual locks, manually operated mirrors, 14-inch wheels and rear drum brakes.
LS Coupe ($15,480) and LS Sedan ($15,630) add sport cloth bucket seats, power windows, mirrors and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a premium CD stereo, four-wheel antilock disc brakes (ABS), 15-inch wheels, body-color bumpers and side moldings, and other convenience features.
LS Sport Coupe ($16,730) and LS Sport Sedan ($16,880) get a sports suspension, 16-inch chromed aluminum wheels with performance tires, a leather-wrapped shifter, and special exterior trim.
Safety features added for 2003 include a center rear three-point seatbelt and optional front side-impact airbags designed to protect torso and thorax (not the head).
OnStar is optional ($695). Should an airbag deploy, OnStar automatically notifies the system's battery of operators over its wireless network and pinpoints the car's location using the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network. OnStar operators will dispatch emergency crews if the driver does not respond to their calls. OnStar can also unlock your doors remotely should you lock the keys in the car, and OnStar operators can dispatch roadside assistance or direct you to the nearest gas station or that Italian restaurant you can't seem to find. OnStar Personal Calling acts as a hand-free cellular telephone using the Verizon Wireless system.
. The Corvette lineup consists of the coupe, the convertible, and the Z06 hardtop.
Powering both the coupe ($41,680) and convertible ($48,205) is the 350-horsepower 5.7-liter LS1 V8, which meets California's Low Emissions Vehicle standards. An automatic transmission is standard; a six-speed manual ($915) is optional.
The LS6 V8 in the Z06 hardtop ($50,043) displaces the same 5.7 liters, but produces an amazing 405 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.
The coupe comes with a body-colored removable roof panel as standard equipment; a translucent plastic panel is an option. The coupe's rear window opens like a hatchback. The hardtop and convertible have trunks. The Z06's top is fixed, for maximum rigidity.
Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate controls, fog lamps, sport seats, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, a driver information center, remote keyless entry, stainless steel exhaust with chromed quad outlets, retractable headlights, Bose speakers, 6-way power seats with leather upholstery, extended-mobility (run flat) Z-rated tires, traction control with Active Handling, and cast alloy wheels. The coupe comes with a parcel net and luggage shade. Child Restraint Attachment System (CRAS) hooks have been added to the passenger seat for 2003. Don't forget that the passenger-side air bag must be manually shut off while carrying children.
The Z06 hardtop adds a head-up instrument display, titanium exhaust, a tire inflator kit for its Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, and forged alloy wheels. The six-speed manual is the only transmission offered.
In addition to its special colors, the 50th Anniversary Editions feature a color-coordinated instrument panel, Champagne-painted wheels, embroidered badges on the seats and floor mats, padded armrests and grips on the inner door panels, and a Shale top for the convertible. Race fans may recognize the package, which was previewed on the 'Vette that paced the 2002 Indianapolis 500.
Standard on the Anniversary Edition, and optional on coupes and convertibles, is Magnetic Selective Ride Control, which provides continuously variable suspension damping without electro-mechanical valves or any small moving parts at all. Instead, the system relies on Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluid in the shock absorbers and an electromagnetic coil inside the shock-absorber pistons. Varying the current to the coil instantly changes the viscosity of the MR fluid. This in turn allows the system to continuously adjust the shock rates, providing a quieter, flatter ride with more precise, responsive handling, particularly during sudden high-speed maneuvers. On bumpy or slick surfaces, Magnetic Selective Ride Control integrates with the Corvette's standard traction control to maximize stability; it also communicates with the anti-lock brakes.
Changes made last year (2002) included revised rear shock valving and new high-performance front brake pads. New aluminum front stabilizer-bar links were added for Z06s, and coupes and convertibles with the Z51 suspension package. All Corvettes with automatics got a new aluminum transmission cooler case.
A CD-capable stereo is standard on Corvette coupes and convertibles; a 12-disc remote CD changer costs $600 extra.
. Two models are available: Impala ($20,325) and Impala LS ($24,025). Both are four-door sedans.
The base Impala runs with a 3.4-liter 180-horsepower V6. The more up-market LS comes with GM's proven and highly competent 3.8-liter V6, producing 200 horsepower. The 3.8-liter engine is available as an option ($995) on the base model. So the real difference between the Impala and the Impala LS is the level of amenities.
All 3.8-liter Impalas come standard with traction control and anti-lock brakes; ABS is available as a $600 stand-alone option with the base 3.4-liter engine.
All Impalas come with air conditioning with separate controls for driver and passenger; AM/FM/cassette stereo; four-wheel-disc brakes; a rear window defogger; power locks, windows, and mirrors; tilt steering; front and rear anti-roll bars; P225/60R16 tires on aluminum wheels, and stainless steel exhaust. Remote keyless entry has been added for 2003.
The LS Sport Appearance Package ($1495) adds brake cooling ducts, a strut-tower brace, a tire-inflation monitor, and extra gauges to a graphite-finish instrument panel; the package is distinguished by embroidered logos on door panels and floor mats, a body-color taillight panel, and chromed exhaust tips.
XM Satellite Radio is optional on both base and LS. This high-tech system offers 100 coast-to-coast digital channels, including 71 music channels (more than 30 of them commercial-free) and 29 channels of sports, talk, news, and children's entertainment. XM's sound quality is remarkably close to a compact disc, according to Chevrolet.
OnStar is standard on LS and optional on base Impalas. GM's OnStar is a customer-service network linked via satellite. Among other things, it's a safety feature that you may never notice during daily use, but can serve a critical role if something goes wrong. The system can notify OnStar network representatives of the car's exact location if it is stolen or to direct roadside assistance to you. OnStar automatically notifies the network when the airbag has been deployed, and operators will dispatch emergency crews unless you respond to their calls.
. The 2008 Chrysler Town & Country is available in three models, base LX, well-equipped Touring and top-of-the-line Limited. The LX model comes with a 175-hp 3.3-liter V6 engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The Touring model has a 197-hp 3.8-liter V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. The Limited upgrades to a 251-hp 4.0-liter V6 with the six-speed automatic. All have front-wheel drive.
The LX ($22,460) comes with Yes Essentials cloth upholstery that Chrysler says is stain and odor resistant, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, front bucket seats, front center console, second-row bench seat, third-row stowable split folding bench seat, power front windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, conversation mirror, and P225/65R16 tires on steel wheels with wheelcovers.
The Touring model ($27,700) adds tri-zone manual climate control with rear controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, two additional speakers, cruise control, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, power adjustable pedals, Stow 'n Go second-row stowable bucket seats, overhead storage bins, removable rechargeable flashlight, heated exterior mirrors, power rear windows, power sliding rear doors, power rear liftgate, trip computer, universal garage door opener, automatic headlights, fog lights, roof rack, and aluminum wheels.
The Limited model ($35,670) gets tri-zone automatic climate control with rear controls; interior air filter; leather upholstery; eight-way power passenger seat; heated first- and second-row seats; memory for the driver seat, mirrors, and pedals; 506-watt audio system with 10 speakers; Chrysler's MyGIG Multimedia Entertainment System with 20-gigabyte hard drive; Sirius satellite radio; removable, sliding front console; rear obstacle detection; remote engine starting; auto-dimming driver's side and rearview mirrors; outside-temperature indicator, compass; second- and third-row sunshades; xenon headlights; and P225/65R17 tires on chromed aluminum wheels.
Options start with Chrysler's new Swivel 'n Go Seating group ($495), which includes second-row bucket seats that swivel and a removable table that can be installed between the second and third seating rows. Also offered are Chrysler's MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment system ($1,300), which adds a rearview camera, Sirius satellite radio, Chrysler's UConnect hands-free cell phone link and a navigation system with real time traffic and voice activation to the MyGIG Multimedia Entertainment System. Three rear DVD entertainment systems are offered. The LX model is available with Entertainment Group 1 ($2,120), which has a single rear DVD screen, and also comes with Sirius satellite radio, a rearview camera, and the MyGIG Multimedia Entertainment system with 20-gigabyte hard drive. Entertainment Group 2 ($2,395) for the Touring model has the same equipment, plus a second rear video screen and a second rear DVD player. Entertainment Group 3 ($2,020) for the Limited model has two rear video screens with two DVD players, plus Sirius Backseat TV. A Trailer Tow Group ($795) includes heavy-duty engine cooling, trailer wiring harness, and load-leveling rear air suspension. Stand-alone options include two integrated child seats ($225) for the second row, UConnect cell phone link ($275), sunroof ($895), a power-folding third-row seat ($595), and Sirius Backseat TV ($495). Several of the higher line standard features are also available for the lower line models.
Safety equipment includes dual-stage front airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, ABS with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control. Optional safety features include rear park assist and a rearview camera.