By KBB.com Editors
Although it was temporarily overshadowed by the SUV as the symbol for family transport in third-millennium America, as recently as 2007 almost a million families opted for the arguably more functional minivan. Chrysler is widely credited with inventing the modern minivan and will soon be the only domestic manufacturer left in the game, as GM and Ford effectively replace their slow-selling minivans with three-row crossover SUVs. Fresh from last year's complete redesign, the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country – and the less chromed and woodgrained Dodge Grand Caravan – refine the segment by offering attractive seating and entertainment options clever enough to remain competitive with rival minivans from Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia.You'll Like This Car If...
With features like an available Swivel 'n Go setup that configures into a table for four people and dual, independent video monitors that can display DVD movies, video games or satellite-based SIRIUS Backseat TV, Chrysler's fifth-generation minivan is the obvious choice for satisfying rear-seat riders.You May Not Like This Car If...
While the Town & Country's ride and handling are well-balanced, you may prefer the softer Toyota Sienna or the more eager Honda Odyssey. Also, while the Town & Country's interior has been greatly improved versus its predecessor and feels more sophisticated than the Grand Caravan's, we feel there's still room for improvement.What's New for 2009
Both the LX and Limited receive more standard equipment. LX trims now feature three-zone air conditioning, second-row power windows and third-row power vent windows as well as a combination temperature/compass/trip computer gauge. New options include a Blind Spot Monitoring system, dual 9-inch DVD view screens with swiveling third-row screen and the Rear Cross Path system, which warns drivers backing up of objects approaching them.Driving It Driving Impressions
If you've found the ride and handling of other minivans too soft or too firm, you might appreciate the Chrysler minivans' balance between highway comfort and around-town responsiveness. We also appreciated the surprisingly competent steering and braking response, and found the 4.0-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission combination that's exclusive to the Town & Country Limited model especially responsive and plenty powerful. The 3.8-liter V6 engine that we tested in the Grand Caravan is also satisfying, but the more powerful 4.0-liter version delivers identical EPA fuel economy. We'd look elsewhere in the segment before settling for the 175-horsepower base V6. The Chrysler minivans aren't as nimble in parking lots as the exceptionally tight-turning Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.Favorite Features
In addition to the comprehensive uconnect gps infotainment system up front, Chrysler's newest minivan offers dual, independent rear video screens that allow second- and third-row passengers to watch two different DVD movies, play video games or even watch the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network Mobile via SIRIUS Backseat TV.
Swivel 'n Go Seats
Although not without legroom challenges, the Swivel 'n Go seating option that comprises swiveling second-row captain's chairs and a hideaway, removable table takes the concept of the rolling family room to a new level. The fold-flat Stow 'N Go seating system introduced on the previous generation is also available.
Sharing sheetmetal, powertrains and all but a few features, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan are most differentiated by unique interior styling. Whereas the Grand Caravan's sportier gauge cluster and heavier use of black suggest a more athletic nature, the Town & Country combines wood-like and bright trim in conveying a more sophisticated persona. Available conveniences include Stow 'N Go and Swivel 'n Go second-row seating, integrated child booster seats and a class-exclusive power-folding third-row seat. Loading and unloading is predictably easy and the accommodations are comfortable.Exterior
After more ovoid third- and fourth-generation models, the 2009 Chrysler Town & Country now appears more in-line with the boxier roots of the first couple of iterations. The latest sheetmetal and increased use of available chrome give the new model a look that's both bold and sophisticated. Body-colored trim and steel wheel covers on the LX are substituted with more brightwork and aluminum wheels on the Touring and Limited trims, which also feature power sliding side doors and a power liftgate.Notable Standard Equipment
A base 2009 Chrysler Town & Country LX includes three-zone air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, stain-resistant cloth seating, woodgrain trim, second-row bench seat, 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat and 16-inch covered steel wheels. Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability and traction controls plus front-impact and three-row side-curtain airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
The Town & Country's most sophisticated option is a hard-drive-based uconnect gps system that offers navigation with real-time traffic information and features MP3/WMA music and JPEG image uploading, auxiliary audio input, voice-recognition, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity and more. Other notable options include back-up sensors and a rear-view camera, Blind Spot Monitoring system, Rear Cross Path system, power liftgate, power sliding doors (LX), power-folding third-row seat and high-intensity-discharge headlamps. Second-row seating options include fold-flat Stow 'N Go or rearward-pivoting Swivel 'n Go seats, integrated child booster seats, power windows and manual sunshades. A comprehensive entertainment system offers two nine-inch independent video displays.Under the Hood
We wouldn't want to regularly haul around full loads with the base powertrain, comprised of a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission, especially for very little improvement in fuel economy. The 3.8 is a much more reasonable choice, but it's the 4.0-liter V6 that offers the best combination of power and fuel economy. Both the 3.8 and 4.0 also come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.
175 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
205 lb.-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (gas), 11/16 (E85)
197 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
230 lb.-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
251 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
259 lb.-ft of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
The 2009 Chrysler Town & Country LX has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting close to $27,000; the price will climb into the low-to-mid $40,000 range for a fully loaded Limited model. While the LX's base price is among the lowest in the category, that's in conjunction with the category's weakest powertrain. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world transaction prices – before any available incentives – to be right around sticker price. Despite its relatively new design, the Town & Country does not retain resale value as well as other stalwarts like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.