Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country car test drives reviews chrysler
2012 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

The second row seats are a little more complicated, requiring the use of more than one finger. Not that you need a lesson in the operation of stow n’ go, but it is the first time I studied the actual engineering brilliance of the fold-flat second row seats (we had other things in mind during our first trip in the T&C). First, move the front seats all the way forward, then fold the panels of floor cover forward, pull the handle on the seat side and the headrest collapses against the seatback and then the seat folds in on itself and into a hole in the floor that doesn’t seem like it should be large enough to hold a whole captain’s chair. Then simply fold the floor panels back over top (watch your fingers because those panels are heavy) and there you have your completely flat floor.

Beyond the convenience of the acrobatic seats, the second row, when equipped with those captain’s chairs, is as spacious and comfortable as many front passenger seats in compact and subcompact cars.

Folding seats aren’t the only reason to shop the minivan market, so the Town & Country has an options list as long as almost any luxury car. The Limited model we tested was impressively equipped with heated front and second row seats and heated steering wheel, three-zone (driver, passenger, rear) automatic climate control with independent rear controls, Bluetooth with streaming audio, Uconnect voice command, nine-speaker Infinity sound system, and a media centre with hard-drive media storage and navigation ($950).

Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country car test drives reviews chrysler
Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country car test drives reviews chrysler
2012 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

Another costly option was the dual-screen DVD entertainment system with overhead-mounted nine-inch screens for the second and third rows, plus remote control and wireless headphones, a pricey option at $1,750, but can you really put a price on having a bribe/negotiating tactic with unruly kid? You can also find inputs for video-game consoles and a 115-V outlet to power or charge electronic devices. The only downside is that it only plays one channel at a time, meaning all the kids are stuck watching whichever show your loudest crier wants. While it only plays one option, the system is easy to use and remembers where you are in a video so you don’t have to suffer the intros/commercials every time you turn the vehicle off.

Up front, us parents found that the stereo and heating controls were dead simple, and the touch-screen nav system seemed just as straightforward, though we had no occasion to use it. The cream leather seating with suede-like upper seatbacks definitely made the cabin feel luxurious, but it seems like a risky choice for a family vehicle.

Though I’m still somewhat of a novice in the minivan field (it is simply far too much vehicle for my family), the Town & Country lived up to just about all my expectations, especially its functionality and drivability. However, as the self-proclaimed “Canada’s ultimate luxury minivan,” I think it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of interior materials and design. Yeah, it has all the features a kid could ever want, but it won’t tempt many Mercedes or Acura owners away from luxo-barges like the RL or MDX, so it’s really fighting to remain on top of its mainstream competitors like the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country car test drives reviews chrysler
Test Drive: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country car test drives reviews chrysler
2012 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

Formerly, Chrysler took a two-brand approach to the minivan market, equipping and pricing the Dodge Grand Caravan for budget-minded families and a fair number of contractors or trades people that appreciated the ease with which this vehicle can be converted from family hauler to cargo vehicle. That will all end in the near future as Chrysler is shutting down the Grand Caravan nameplate and selling its minivan exclusively under the Chrysler Town & Country badge. At first it seems shocking when you consider over 50,000 unit sales of Caravans in Canada, and the Town & Country is nowhere near it in sales volume. But between the Dodge Journey seven-seater poised to take over Dodge’s budget family hauler position, and Chrysler’s desire to sell the T&C as a high-content (and high-profit) niche vehicle, and that the T&C is almost as successful as the Caravan in the States (where it really counts), it begins to make more sense, even if it is a great loss to large, budget-minded families. Chrysler dealers will have their work cut out for them converting those 50,000 Grand Caravan customers (plus another 100,000 in the US) into the smaller Journey or pricier Town & Country.

With a starting price of $33,095 for the base Touring model, and stops along the way at $35,095 for the Touring-L and $39,095 for the Limited, additional packages and options can take you well into the $40s, all the way up to a fully loaded price of $44,745 (at current discounts as priced on Chrysler.ca). Current listed prices feature significant factory rebates, and the T&C we drove was purchased when the Limited model’s MSRP was $45,995, so it makes the as-tested price of $51,545 a bit shocking.

If Chrysler makes this aggressive new pricing stick, it will definitely sweeten the deal on the Town & Country and keep some Dodge customers even with the absence of the Grand Caravan. Overall, Chrysler knows what it’s doing in the minivan segment that it practically invented, but others have caught up and stow n’ go isn’t enough anymore. While the minivan segment as a whole is shrinking, the Town & Country seems somewhat stale compared to more stylish, more efficient new entries from Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

Pricing: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Limited
  • Base price: $45,995
  • Options: $4,050 (Trailer tow group $700; dual-screen DVD entertainment system $1,750; power folding third-row seats $650; media centre with hard-drive media storage and navigation $950)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,400
  • Price as tested: $51,545 ($44,745 at current discounts as priced on Chrysler.ca)

    Specifications
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Chrysler Town & Country

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Honda Odyssey
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Kia Sedona
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Nissan Quest
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Toyota Sienna
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2012 Volkswagen Routan

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
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