SEE ALSO: Chrysler Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 37,175 Price As Tested $ 38,340 Engine Type OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 231 cid/3778 cc Horsepower 215 @ 5000 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 245 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 119.3"/78.6"/200.6" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 4657 pounds Fuel Capacity 20.0 gallons Tires (F/R) R215/65R-16 Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Seven-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 88 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.36 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 17/22/20 0-60 MPH 10.5 seconds Maximum payload capacity 1150 pounds Maximum towing capacity 3500 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983 and has sold millions of them worldwide, commanding 40 percent of the market. The Chrysler brand name graces the most luxurious version, the Town & Country, which is available in LX, LXi and top-line Limited, the subject of our test.
OUTSIDE - For 2001, there is a harder edge in Town & Country's overall design. Sharper creases in the hood line begin low in the front bumper cap, while the headlights are larger and provide 80 percent more light. There is a new character line that runs the length of the side and the D-pillar and rear window have been raked forward a bit. The door handles are lower as well, which gives the character line more prominence, and the tail lights are set higher in the rear quarter panel. The Chrysler-specific grille is more prominently displayed than the old model but otherwise the two generations are pretty much the same. Multi-spoked 16-inch alloy wheels are standard, as are all-season tires and a full size spare.
INSIDE - The interior has several industry-first conveniences that really come in handy. A removable center console features quick- disconnects for power, and can be locked into place either between the front or middle-row seats. This unit has two lockable storage compartments with the front well containing a removable bracket for a cellular phone. When the console is installed up front, there is power available all the time to recharge the phone batteries. When it's snapped into the rear seating area, power is activated by the ignition switch. A pop-up rear cargo organizer uses folding dividers to accommodate up to six bags of groceries and can be raised or lowered for convenience. Standard items include a power-up rear lift gate. Other standards include front and rear air conditioning with three-zone temperature controls, premium leather seating, cruise control, tilt steering, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors (also heated), Infinity-brand uplevel stereo, keyless entry, power driver's seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror and much more.
ON THE ROAD - There's been improvements under the skin as well. Town & Country models come standard with a 3.8 liter V6 engine that now puts out 215 horsepower (up from 180) and 245 lb-ft of torque, five more than before. The engine has enough power to get the job done, with a noticeable increase in traffic quickness and effortless top-end cruising this year. The 3.8 engine is of the venerable overhead valve variety, which doesn't seem as smooth or sophisticated as an overhead cam engine, but improvements in metallurgy and better sealing techniques have made this new Chrysler minivan the most reliable version ever. Mated to this is a four-speed automatic transmission and, in the case of our test vehicle, an all-wheel drive system that makes this nearly a perfect winter weather people carrier.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Chrysler also focused on improving the Town & Country's safety features. Its chassis is now 20 percent stiffer than before, which improved its energy-absorbing capabilities, while the roof pillars are covered in a special poly material that also helps diffuse energy in the event of a crash. The dual dashboard airbags are of the next-generation type and can deploy in dual stages based on the severity of a crash, while dual side-impact airbags (standard on the Limited) provide protection beyond mandatory requirements. The basic suspension components remain the same, but stronger, lighter pieces and an improved steering system makes it more nimble and responsive, as well as being easier to maneuver in parking lots. A load-leveling system keeps the van on an even keel when it's fully loaded. The four-wheel disc brakes have been improved with more massive rotors and larger, stiffer front calipers. Four-wheel anti-lock braking is standard.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact airbags, ABS, side- impact door beams, child seat tether anchors and front seat belt pre- tensioners are standard.
OPTIONS - Trailer Tow Group, $175; heated front seats, $250; rear bench seat, $125.