Next Chrysler minivan to get optional AWD, nine-speed auto

2011 Chrysler Town & Country Touring
2011 Chrysler Town & Country Touring
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"The minivan package has always been a sacred thing ... it's basically a life tool" - Ralph Gilles

The stalwart duo of Chrysler minivans will be reduced by half in the vehicle's next generation, with the Dodge Grand Caravan likely going away in favor of a new people-mover-type vehicle. And while the reworked Chrysler Town & Country shouldn't radically shake up the usual minivan formula, a new report from Automotive News suggests that some new technologies and thoughtful updates are in the cards for our Canadian-built van.

Not surprisingly, the next Town & Country is expected to use the automaker's new nine-speed automatic transmission – a gearbox that, despite its rough launch in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, will also be available on the 2015 Chrysler 200. Speaking of the 200, AN says the next T&C is also slated to get optional all-wheel drive. We suspect it could very well be the same system found in Chrysler's new midsize sedan, a unit that features novel full rear axle disconnect. This wouldn't be an all-new thing for the Town & Country, though, as the minivan was offered with AWD throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Today, only Toyota offers a minivan with all-wheel drive, the Sienna.

Other T&C updates will include revised, easier-to-use Stow 'N Go seating and the latest version of Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system.

"The minivan package has always been a sacred thing: the function, the customers, the flexibility, It's basically a life tool. We're trying to push the envelope and not disturb what's good about the minivan," Chrysler's head of design, Ralph Gilles, told Automotive News.

On that design note, think back to the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, where Chrysler quietly rolled out the 700C concept (pictured below). The automaker didn't release any details about this pure design concept, and while we originally poked fun at it for looking a bit dated, we wouldn't be surprised to see elements of the 700C show up on the next-generation Town & Country.Automotive News reports that the design of the next minivan is about 95-percent complete.

The sixth-generation model is expected to launch in time for the 2016 model year and continue to be built in Windsor, with the plant getting ready to retool thanks in part to more than $500 million (Canadian) in just-approved government subsidies. Chrysler is also negotiating for further incentives to go along with its own expected investment of $2 billion Canadian.

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