New Car Review

1998 CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY LXi

by Matt/Bob Hagin

chrysler

SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 31,720
Price As Tested                                    $ 33,075
Engine Type                OHV 2-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 231 cid/3778 cc
Horsepower                                   180 @ 4400 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               240 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  119.3"/76.8"/199.7"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4217 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      215/65R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                 81 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.36

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/24/19
0-60 MPH                                       11.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       18.5 seconds @ 76 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Chrysler's minivan was the pioneer in the field of small sedan-like "family" vans and Matt Hagin says it's the most practical kind of vehicle for a young family. His father Bob observes that the Town & Country name has been around for a long, long time.)

BOB - The Town & Country name that Chrysler has attached to this luxo minivan is a very old one, Matt. Chrysler made a Windsor-model "woodie" in '41 but it was a bit different from the other "pine boxes" of the era. It had a fastback rear body that didn't look have the squared-off truck-like look of station wagons before the war.

MATT - You won't find much wood in this new version, Dad, and I think that the Chrysler executive who insisted that everything labeled Town & Country had to carry fake wood on the outside has finally retired. This new Town & Country is blessed with sliding back doors on both sides of the body and the swing-up rear door is low enough to make loading groceries simple. I think the minivan is the most practical type of transportation for a young family to use as everyday transportation. Suzanne and I can strap in both of our kids in child seats, carry a couple of full-sized adults at the same time, and still have plenty of room for luggage or groceries in back.

BOB - Chrysler has an interesting mix of powerplants available for this van, Matt. The only engine offered in the top-of-the-line LXi model is a 3.8 liter V6, which was the version we tested. It's a pushrod unit with two valves per cylinder, but it's been modernized with roller tappets and some other hot-rod technology that updates it considerably. It only puts out 180 horses, but the torque rating is 240 pound/feet at only 3200 revs. This makes for great low-speed pulling power, which is just what the doctor ordered for this large 4300-pound cargo carrier. But in order to meet the emissions control laws in New York, California and a couple of other stringent states, Town & Country minivans sold there only come with a special super-clean Low Emission Vehicle 3.3 liter unit. In the rest of the states, that same engine is available with a Flexible Fuel system that allows it to run on 100 percent gasoline or a variable mixture of gasoline and grain alcohol. In Flex-Fuel vans, the onboard computer automatically adjusts the fuel delivery system to let the engine run up to 85 percent alcohol without much drop in performance.

MATT - On straight gasoline, our test LXi version with the 3.8 engine got 17 MPG around town and 24 on the highway while carrying our average load of family members, strollers and diaper bags. The SX and LX are downscale versions of the Town & Country and their standard powerplant is the same 3.3 liter V6 that's used in California-only vans. Our LXi carried some really handy items like the auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, both inside and out. It also had headlights that turn on automatically when it gets dark. The LXi models we drove had soft, cushy leather upholstery and I really appreciated the lumbar adjusters and the heated front seats. These were especially welcome in the mountains.

BOB - I like the heated seats, but I don't like leather. All versions of the Town & Country come with low-speed traction control that works well to control wheelspin in inclement weather but the best system for snow is the all-wheel-drive option. This would really come in handy if and when conditions got really rough. It's an option on both of the top models, and it's worth the extra money in the snow belt or for winter sports enthusiasts. Your brother Tom tells me that driving his pickup, more than once he's had to put on his boots and clothes in the resort parking lot during a raging snowstorm, just to be first on the lift to get first tracks in the powder. He complains that his toes are cold and everything gets all dirty. But if he had been in the Town & Country AWD minivan, he could have dressed inside where it's warm.

MATT - Next year, Tom and I are going to use one during the season and maybe we can talk you and Mom into coming with us.

BOB - At our age, Matt, the only skiing we want to do is sitting in front of the fire watching the Winter Olympics on TV.

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