The US Minivan's last stand - Chrysler to debut 2008 Minvans at Detroit

Ford and General Motors have lost their taste for the minivan wars, leaving the Chrysler Group to stand alone as the sole domestic player in the minivan arena. It's just as well -- DCX always had the best American vans, anyway. Having invented the segment, Chrysler has hunkered down and pushed their minivan to be a contender once again. The Caravan and Town & Country will sport new styling, squaring up the edges of the current look, and front-end appearances will offer more distinction between the Dodge and Chrysler brands. Underhood, four-cylinders are banished, and there's a new high-end 4.0 liter V6 hooked up to a six-speed transaxle. The squarer profile will offer more interior room, and there's been talk of DCX ditching the short-wheelbase vans altogether. Speaking of the interior, of course the Stow 'n Go seats will show up, but there are also some slick surprises inside the new vans.
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We're sure we haven't heard about all of the wondrous things that await inside the newest Chrysler minis, but Allpar has been keeping their ears to the ground, and we think the vans will be a pleasant surprise at the Detriot Auto Show (assuming their embargo holds). Lighted cupholders that'll heat or cool your drink sound pretty neat, and Allpar reports that the front seats will be ventilated, while the middle passengers can warm their rumps with seat heaters. Even the folks way back in the third row can amuse themselves with a powered seat. Let's hope that DCX has selected switches with a high MTBF, because if there's one thing kiddies love to do, it's flip switches.

The Stow n' Go system will be on hand for storage and configuration flexibility, and we'd still like to fill one with ice and beverages and use it for tailgating. Keeping the munchkins from abusing the switchgear will be easier with a Harman/Becker sourced MyGig Infotainment system along with Sirius streaming video. If romper room gets too loud, you can always treat everyone to a "wind tunnel" demonstration, utilizing the rear windows' newfound ability to roll down.

Niceties aside, the real meat and potatoes that will make the van competitive have been addressed as well. Manufacturing quality will increase due in part to the team-based approach DCX has implemented. The interior will be a more serene place to enjoy the better acceleration improved fuel mileage. The latter two may be mutually exclusive unless and until a hybrid version is rolled out. The icing on the new RT (current minis are RS) minivan cake is Volkswagen's vote of confidence. The platform is good enough for Volkswagen to base its new US van offering on it, which should make for an interesting comparison. VW may be able to take design more retro and expressive, which Chrysler considered with the Kahuna, but rejected in favor of moderate lines. We're excited to see what DaimlerChrysler has baked in to their new rolling loaf. The upgrades sound substantial and we're glad there's more to it than some extra cubbies and cupholders that'll mix your hot cocoa. Minivans don't normally raise the pulse, but we're eager to see what rolls out at the NAIAS.

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