Chrysler’s Town & Country came late to the minivan party, debuting in 1990 – a full six years after its Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager siblings. Even then, legend says, the Chrysler version was created only because the company had an oversupply of pre-manufactured Caravan/Voyager body shells on hand that it needed to repurpose prior to the second-generation van’s debut in 1991.
It’s ironic then that in 2016, with Plymouth folded up and Dodge expected to drop its Grand Caravan and focus on more performance-oriented vehicles, Chrysler’s Town & Country will become the only game in town for domestic minivans.
One has to imagine the changeover will come with a significant restructuring of the Town & Country model lineup, because currently the nameplate stands as the upmarket (and to my eye better-looking) minivan choice, leaving all the value vans in Dodge’s stable: Where the Dodge Grand Caravan CVP (Canada Value Package) starts at $21,590 destination fees included, the least expensive Town & Country is the Touring, which starts at a listed $36,390 with destination. On its website, Chrysler plays up this difference, billing the Town & Country as “Canada’s ultimate luxury minivan.”
To help me experience the truly ultimate in luxury minivan coddling, Chrysler set me up for a week in its range-topping Town & Country Limited Platinum, fully loaded with all the most desirable options.
As minivans go, it’s certainly hard to argue the result: With 30 years experience building minivans (the Dodge Caravan debuted in 1984), Fiat-Chrysler has refined and tweaked the design to provide an abundance of useful features and family-friendly functionality, and the Town & Country Limited Platinum dresses it all up in some pretty fine duds.
Complementing its True Blue Pearl Coat paint and polished 17-inch alloy wheels, my test van featured a two-tone grey and black interior colour scheme with soft Nappa leather upholstery, Stow ‘n Go second row seating, and handy power-operated Tailgate Seats in the third row (these can tilt over backwards allowing you to relax in comfort while facing out of the open tailgate). The front seats are roomy and comfortable, and while the second-row seats are a bit narrow-backed in order to facilitate stowing them, they’re still decently comfortable and offer plenty of headroom and legroom. In the third row things get a little tighter, especially in terms of foot room (you can’t get your toes under the second-row seats), but even at 5’11” I found the third row adequate for short trips.
2015 Chrysler Town & Country Limited, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Chrysler has clearly expended effort to ensure that the Town & Country’s interior has a look and feel befitting its “ultimate luxury minivan” boast, with a fat leather-and-wood steering wheel, soft-touch front door uppers and inserts, a trés chic analog dashboard clock, ebony woodgrain-effect trim, and plenty of brushed metal and chrome accents. But there’s no disguising the family-van bones underneath the luxury, and hard plastics are in abundance throughout the cabin, making up the front door lowers, the rear door panels (including uppers), the dash, and the console. Everything looks good and fits together properly, however, so the choice of materials isn’t really an issue for the most part. A couple of exceptions include the engine start button, which feels flimsy and added on (it appears to be mounted on a stalk, and wobbles around rather disconcertingly) and the rubber-coated armrests for the second-row seats, which could do with upholstering to match the seats.