2003 Town & Country New Car Test Drive
For some people, luxury means a deserted beach, a bottle of sunscreen, a new mystery novel, leaving everything behind. For others, luxury means traveling with all the comforts of home. If you fit in the latter category, if you're certain that luxury means never having to say, 'I'm sorry, but there isn't enough room to take that with us,' then Chrysler built the Town & Country for you.
With its responsive engine, smooth, quiet ride, upscale appointments and power accessories, the Chrysler Town & Country drives like a refined luxury vehicle. But it also offers seating for seven (available in leather, of course) and cavernous cargo space, so nothing (and no one) will ever have to be left behind. You can even order Town & Country with all-wheel-drive. How much more luxury can you stand?
Okay, some upmarket SUVs make similar claims. But the Town & Country does it without the excess weight and bulk. It even fits in your garage. You enjoy the same chair-height seating as your SUV-driving neighbors, but with a low, flat floor, so you don't need a ladder to climb in. And you don't need to be a Houdini to squeeze into the third-row seats, either. Once in, the Town & Country delivers better handling than most of those truck-based SUVs. And it costs less than most of them.
Chrysler last redesigned the Town & Country for 2001, and it remains among the best minivans on the market. 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.
For 2003, Chrysler has added standard equipment at most trim levels, an optional power sunroof, and three new option packages for the Town & Country LX. Power adjustable pedals are expected to be available late in 2003.
Midway through 2002, the Chrysler Town & Country line expanded to five trim levels, with the new high-value eL joining the existing LX, eX, LXi, and Limited. For 2003, the LXi and Limited are offered with either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive; all eL, LX, and eX models are front-wheel drive.
All models are built on a long, 119.3-inch wheelbase, making the Town & Country among the biggest minivans on the market.
The standard engine in the eL and LX is a 3.3-liter overhead-valve V6 producing 180 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque. A 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 developing 215 hp and 245 lb-ft is optional in eL and LX, standard in eX, LXi, and Limited. All models come with a four-speed automatic transmission with adaptive electronic control (so it learns your driving style and shifts accordingly). All come with four-wheel-disc brakes and ABS (anti-lock brakes).
Retail prices range from $23,870 for the eL to $37,945 for the Limited AWD, the latter loaded with leather and other features. Chrysler's Town & Country Limited feels like a luxury vehicle that happens to be a minivan. In between, a broad range of models meet varying needs and price ranges.
The model lineup can be a little confusing, because the bargain-priced eL comes with some standard equipment (such as three-zone climate control) that the $25,165 LX does not. On the other hand the LX offers some options (including the rear-seat video system) that are not available on the eL. Both come with power windows, heated mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering, seven-passenger seating, multi-stage air bags and ABS. Both feature dual sliding doors, with power an option for the passenger side.
The eX ($26,315) represents a definite step up, with a power-up and power-down rear liftgate, dual power sliding doors, a removable powered center console, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with six speakers, second-row bucket seats and split 50/50 roller seats in the extreme rear, a power eight-way driver's seat, and three-zone temperature control. The eX also comes with traction control and 16-inch tires and aluminum wheels. Dual power sliding doors, a security alarm, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls have been added to the eX equipment list for 2003.
The LXi ($29,460) adds automatic temperature control, an air filtration system, 10-speaker Infinity audio, a universal garage door opener, an electroluminescent instrument panel, and, new for 2003, an Electronic Vehicle Information Center (trip computer, etc.), auto-dimming mirrors, third-row lamps and assist handles, and a roof rack. Color-keyed lower bodyside cladding distinguishes the LXi as an uplevel model.
Leather upholstery is optional on both eX and LXi. Options added last year include DVD video and remote audio for the rear seat passengers (complete with wireless headphones) and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The ultimate-luxury Limited ($35,620) coddles its occupants with premium-grade leather, memory seats, and a six-disc CD changer. It is distinguished externally by its color-keyed roof rack and chromed aluminum wheels.
All-wheel-drive editions of the LXi and Limited list for $33,333 and $37,945, respectively.
Side-impact airbags are optional on all models ($390).
In addition to the Town & Country line, Chrysler also markets the Voyager minivan, which is built on a 113.3-inch wheelbase and, with more basic equipment and appointments, represents a strong value in the family-transport market. (See separate NewCarTestDrive.com review of the Voyager line.)