2007 Chrysler Town & Country
We found Chrysler's launch of the 2008 Town & Country minivan at the Detroit Auto Show interesting enough that we asked to review the current version, a 2007 Chrysler Town & Country. Despite its peppy engine, the soft-sprung Town & Country is a handful in urban driving.
The car makes an attempt to meet our tech expectations, with Sirius Satellite Radio, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system (standard with the Limited trim), and Chrysler's UConnect Bluetooth cell phone integration system. Although these gadgets were present, most of them are barely worth the trouble. We found more enjoyment from the power-sliding doors.
Test the tech: Soda stability
As we trundled the Town & Country over city streets, we braced for an upcoming pothole. Surprisingly, very little shock was communicated to the cabin, which gave us an idea for testing the Town & Country. We would find out how well a cup of soda would stand up on the floor of the vehicle while we negotiated a course through downtown San Francisco.
First we picked the course, a run from the CNET offices through heavy car and foot traffic into the heart of San Francisco's financial district, then back to our offices. We got a soda cup from a fast food place, complete with plastic top and straw, and set it down on the floor of the car. There would be two laps of the route, one driven by Kevin Massy and one by Wayne Cunningham.
With the soda cup sitting just behind the center console, we began the first lap. The first dangerous spot involved crossing Market Street from 3rd to Kearney. Five lines of cars suddenly lose all lane markings and jockey for position on the other side. Through it all, the cup kept right side up. The turn onto California Street was tight, immediately followed by the uneven surface of cable car tracks. Still, the cup held its position. The trip back across Market involved merging with traffic from another street while still attempting to aim for a lane on the other side. Then we were back at CNET, with the cup unspilled.
Two blocks into our second lap, a Honda Civic cut in front of us at the turn onto 3rd Street, and the quick stop we had to make sent the cup over. We continued the course, but we can't claim the Town & Country was completely spill-proof. It did do an admirable job throughout most of a very tough course, showing that the suspension is well-designed to absorb the normal bumps and grinds of daily driving.
In the cabin
Chrysler makes no real attempt at luxury in the cabin of the Town & Country, beyond a wood grain accent on the center stack. The rest is all gray plastic. The Town & Country comes with Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seating in the middle row. In the up position, the middle row comprises two low-backed seats. These seats can fold down into the floor of the car, opening up substantial cargo room. The third row is a bench across the back, which can also be stowed. Third-row leg room is minimal.
We only realized the Town & Country had a navigation system from reading its window sticker; the little LCD screen at the center of the stack hardly seemed big enough. And it isn't, really. The screen is placed near the driver's right knee, and its small size makes it difficult to use. Its interface comprises a selection knob and buttons labeled Enter and Cancel. Despite its small size, the navigation system works reasonably well. Its route guidance gives appropriate notice of upcoming turns, and it has a points-of-interest database that includes shops and other useful places.
Beyond navigation, we also consider Bluetooth cell phone integration an important part of any tech car. The Town & Country has it, in the form of Chrysler's UConnect hands-free system. UConnect works reasonably well for receiving calls, and it has a voice-command system for pairing phones and placing calls. But UConnect doesn't copy over a phone's address book, and its activation buttons, placed on the rearview mirror, aren't easy to reach.