2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2008 Chrysler Town & Country

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Redesigned for 2008, the Chrysler Town & Country luxury minivan has traded the “jellybean” appearance of its predecessor for a more squared-off, angular appearance with styling cues that resemble other Chrysler vehicles. The new angular styling does have some practical advantages too – the roof is 15 cm wider, the rectangular rear cargo door is larger, and there’s an extra four cubic feet of cargo capacity. With the standard “Stow N Go” seats folded into the floor, 4X8 sheets of plywood will fit inside the cargo area with the hatch closed.

The new Town & Country (herein known as the T&C) can be distinguished from the Dodge Grand Caravan by its chromed four-slat grille and winged Chrysler emblem, quad headlights under clear plastic covers, standard 16-inch alloy wheels, and extra chrome trim.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

Compared to the previous T&C, the new model is longer (by 49 mm/2.0 in.), narrower (by 44 mm/1.7 in.), and the same height, while the wheelbase has been stretched by 48 mm (1.9 in.) to 3078 mm (121.2 in.). The base curb weight has increased by 103 kg (227 lb.)

New for 2008 is a six-speed automatic transmission which replaces the old four-speed automatic, and a new, more powerful 4.0-litre V6 engine is available in uplevel Limited models. Other changes for 2008 include a redesigned interior, new stain-resistant “Yes Essentials” seat material in Touring models (replacing leather/microfibre), new power roll-down second row windows, optional window sunshades, a removable sliding front centre console,

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

brighter LED interior lighting, bigger standard 17-inch tires on Limited models, optional voice-activated phone and navigation system with touch-screen monitor, two rear DVD screens for videos, and a new optional “Swivel and Go” seating system with swiveling second-row seats and a removeable table.

Despite a major redesign, the price of the 2008 T&C has been substantially reduced. The 2008 Town & Country Touring model now starts at $35,995, down from $40,815; the 2008 Town & Country Limited model is now $42,895, down from $43,795.


Standard and optional equipment

As before, the T&C Touring model is equipped with Chrysler’s tried-and-true 197-hp 3.8-litre OHV V6 engine mated to a new six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The T&C Limited gets an all-new 251-hp 4.0-litre SOHC V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

Standard on the Touring model are 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, seven passenger seating (two front buckets, two centre buckets, three-person 60/40 split rear seats), stain-resistant “Yes Essentials” cloth seats, Stow N Go fold-into-the-floor second and third row seats, power driver’s seat with manual lumbar adjuster, AM/FM/CD/MP3 radio and six speakers, three-zone temperature control, power dual sliding doors and power rear hatch, overhead console with conversation mirror, storage bins and LED lights, power adjustable pedals, remote keyless entry with remote door and hatch openers, three 12-volt power outlets and one 115-volt outlet, and a roof rack.

Standard safety features include front, side and curtain airbags, driver and front-passenger knee blockers, child seat anchor system with LATCH mounts for three child seats (two in the second row, one in the third row), anti-pinch power sliding doors and rear hatch door, automatic hazard flashing lights when side doors are opened, tire pressure monitor warning light, electronic stability and traction control, and four wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist and ABS. In crash tests, the T&C’s corporate cousin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, was recently awarded the highest possible (Five Star) rating for frontal and side impact protection from the U.S. Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

The top-of-the-line T&C Touring model adds the 251-hp 4.0-litre V6 engine, 17-inch chromed alloy wheels, High Intensity Discharge headlamps, additional chrome exterior trim, remote starter, leather seats with microfibre trim (first and second row), premium sound system with nine speakers and 506-watt amplifier, MyGIG AM/FM/DVD/HDD/MP3 system with 20-GB hard disc, 6.5-inch touch-screen, Sirius Satellite radio with a one-year subscription, vehicle information display, additional interior lighting, and rear back-up camera.

My test vehicle was a Touring model with $3,550 worth of options including the $550 Sound Group with 506-watt amplifier, nine speakers and subwoofer; the $2,400 Entertainment Group #2 with 2nd row screen, 3rd row screen, two wireless headphones, video remote control, AM/FM/CD/DVD/HDD/Satellite/MP3 MyGig hard disc stereo, and back-up camera; the $375 Family Value Group that includes 2nd and 3rd row window shades and removeable centre console; and the $225 17-inch alloy wheels. The as-tested price of my test van, including $1,350 Freight and $100 A/C tax came to $40,995.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge


Interior impressions

Though it’s a tall vehicle, the T&C is easy to get in and out of because the floor is low and the seats are about at hip level. For rear seat access, I found myself constantly using the remote door opener for the side doors and power rear hatch – it was easier and could be done from a distance while approaching the vehicle. My tester had the standard Stow N Go seats which fold completely into the floor, creating a flat, carpeted loading surface that’s up to eight feet long, four feet wide, and three feet two inches tall at the rear. There’s no other type of vehicle on the market with as much accessible cargo area. But I was disappointed that the right front passenger seatback does not fold flat.

2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country
2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country
2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country

To fold the second row seats flat into the floor, the first row seats have to be moved forwards to allow the door in the floor to be opened. With a little practice, the second row seats can be lowered or raised in about 30 seconds. Same goes for the 60/40 split folding third row seats which lower into a cavity at the rear. The design of the seats allows plenty of flexibility – for example, seats on one side of the van can be lowered to transport a ladder while seats on the other side can be left up for passengers. When all the seats are up, the cavities where the seats go can be used for storage. The second row seats also slide forwards and backwards, allowing more legroom for third row passengers. The really great thing about the Stow N Go seats is that you don’t have to go to the trouble of hauling them out of the van and leaving them in your garage – then lifting them back into the van later. In my experience, removeable seats are usually awkward and heavy to remove. The downside to the Stow N Go seats is that they are not quite as comfortable as regular seats.

2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country
2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country
2008 Chrysler Town Country 2008 Chrysler Town Country

The T&C Touring’s standard “Yes Essentials” seat fabric is a stain-resistant, odour-resistant, anti-static cloth fabric that seems ideally suited for parents with young children – most food and drink stains are easily removeable. These seats replace the previously standard leather seats which might explain how Chrysler was able to reduce the base price of the Touring model so much.

Newly available for 2008 are optional “Swivel and Go” seats with second row bucket seats that swivel 180 degrees and can face the rear. The package includes a removeable table between the second and third rows that allows rear passengers to play games or do other activities. With this option, the third row seats still fold flat into the floor, but the second row seats do not. Swivel ‘n Go is also available with an integrated child booster seat in the second-row seat.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

I liked the look of the new dash and the proximity of controls, particularly the unusual position of the transmission lever just to the right of the gauges where it can be reached easily. A combination of silver, chrome, black and wood trim gives the instrument panel a classy appearance, and there are plenty of storage spaces, including two pull-out cupholders in the instrument panel and a large open bin at the bottom of the centre console with two 12-volt power outlets. Between the seats is an optional console with four cupholders, a 12-volt outlet, and bi-level storage with enough room for a purse. This console slides back about six inches in order to move the rear cupholders closer to the second row passengers. It can also be removed completely for walk-through access.

I also liked the new LED overhead lighting which is much brighter. Some of the lights swivel so they can be pointed at specific areas.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

The optional MyGIG “infotainment” system offers many entertainment choices to keep the family entertained during the journey: CD/MP3 discs, DVD movies, a hard disc drive for storing songs with a “Jukebox” feature for personalized music play lists, Sirius satellite radio, UConnect hands-free communication system with Bluetooth technology, and optional navigation system. There is also an auxiliary jack for music players. The 20-gigabyte hard drive can store approximately 1,200 songs which can be downloaded through a USB port in the dash. The touch-screen can be used to operate audio and navigation functions, and while the vehicle is in Park, the screen will also play movies. When in Reverse, a back-up camera display shows the area behind the van.

Second row passengers have their own roof-mounted heater and fan controls, plug-in jacks for headphones and audio players, a 12-volt outlet, and a 115-volt AC outlet. My test van also had the optional dual fold-down video screens for second and third row passengers. The dual DVD system allows rear passengers to watch two different movies at the same time, or listen to two different media at the same time.

The T&C’s second row power windows now roll down about 75% of the way, a welcome feature for second row passengers who want some fresh air. My test van also has the optional pull-up sunshades for the second and third row windows – very handy for protecting young children’s eyes from bright sunshine.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

The power side doors can be locked out from the driver’s seat to prevent small children from opening them, and they feature automatic re-opening if a limb gets caught in between the door and the B-pillar. The power rear hatch also has this “anti-pinch” feature. Child seat anchors and LATCH points are provided for child seats in the second row and one in the third row.

The third row seats have adequate legroom for adults when the second row is moved forwards a bit, and there’s plenty of headroom, but it’s not really wide enough for three passengers and the short seatbacks aren’t as comfortable.

Behind the third row seat, a deep well where the seats fold into provides a roomy storage area that will take a surprising amount of luggage. There is also a removable flashlight in the rear quarter panel for emergencies.


Driving impressions

By virtue of its long wheelbase, wide track and relatively low centre of gravity, the T&C rides and handles better than you might expect – particularly when it comes to the highway ride. The new Town & Country is an extremely comfortable minivan that’s easy to drive despite its long body. The driver sits up chair-like and has good visibility in most directions due to the large windows.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

The power driver’s seat is multi-adjustable and features inboard folding armrests for comfort while cruising. Power adjustable brake and accelerator pedals bring the pedals closer for shorter drivers, compensating for the fact that the T&C doesn’t have a telescopic steering wheel.

With the base 197-hp 3.8-litre V6 engine, the T&C has plenty of get-up-and-go despite its 2044 kg (4057 lb) curb weight. The engine’s generous torque (230 lb-ft) is mostly responsible for this. In a recent acceleration test conducted by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC), a similarly-equipped 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan did 0 to 100 km/h in 10.2 seconds, and 80 to 120 km/h in 9.1 seconds, acceptable for a vehicle of this size. I found the T&C responsive in both city and highway environments, and the engine very quiet and relaxed at highway speeds, doing under 2,000 r.p.m. in sixth gear at a steady 100 km/h. Though the new optional 4.0-litre SOHC V6 engine offers about 50 more ponies, I don’t think there’s really a need to upgrade to this engine. The base engine will satisfy most owners.

Fuel consumption ratings for the 3.8 engine are about the same as the previous model: 13.3 L/100 km (21 mpg) city and 8.7 L/100 km (32 mpg) highway, and it uses Regular grade gasoline.

The new six-speed transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, and improves both performance and fuel economy – but of course now that there are six gears instead of four, it shifts more often. The transmission even has a manual shift mode, but I found the location of the shift lever on the dash awkward for manual shifting.

2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country
2008 Chrysler Town & Country. Click image to enlarge

With a turning diameter of 11.6 metres (38 feet), the T&C is surprisingly manoeuvrable for a vehicle with such a long wheelbase, but its long body length means it’s more difficult to find a parking space. The rear back-up camera is handy for backing into a parking spot, but the screen is small and I found that rainwater and dirt would accumulate on the rear camera lens, obscuring the view. Personally I prefer audible rear back-up warning sensors.

With a revised MacPherson strut front suspension and twist-beam rear suspension, the T&C’s handling is steady and stable, and despite its box-like body, it’s resistant to side winds. The power rack and pinion steering requires little effort when parking.

Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock and Brake Assist are standard, but in AJAC braking tests, a Chrysler Town & Country stopped in 47.7 metres (156 ft.) from 100 km/h, longer than average for a minivan of this size.


Verdict

Equipped with all the goodies that parents need to keep their offspring happy, the redesigned 2008 Town & Country minivan is a comfortable, roomy, easy to drive family vehicle with decent performance from its base engine.


Pricing: 2008 Chrysler Town & Country

  • Base price: $35,995
  • Options: $3,550 (Sound Group: 506-watt amplifier, nine speakers and subwoofer, $550; Entertainment Group #2: 2nd row screen, 3rd row screen, two wireless headphones, video remote control, AM/FM/CD/DVD/HDD/Satellite/MP3 MyGig hard disc stereo, back-up camera, $2,400; Family Value Group: 2nd and 3rd row window shades, removeable centre console, $375; 17-inch alloy wheels, $225)
  • Freight: $1,350
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $40,995 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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Crash test results


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