We road-tested the top-of-the-line Town & Country LXi front-wheel-drive model. People who buy vans are space-conscious, so here's some data: At 119.3 inches, the wheelbase of the LXi (and the mid-line LX) is six inches longer than that of the base SX model. From bumper-to-bumper, the LX and LXi are also longer--199.7 inches, compared to the 186.4-inch SX. The LX/LXi's total cargo space measures 162.9 cubic feet with the seats removed, compared to 138.5 cubic feet in the SX. The LXi model is slightly heftier as well: 4,168 pounds, compared to the SX's 3,958 pounds.
Our Town & Country LXi test model listed for a base price of $32,300, including the $580 destination charge. (Base prices for the SX and LX are $27,260 and $27,715, respectively.) A base price of $32,000-plus may sound steep, but as a luxury model, the LXi includes the following standard equipment: Dual air bags, sliding driver's-side door, anti-lock brakes, traction control, side door beams for impact protection, windshield wiper de-icer, dual-zone air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, power eight-way front seats with memory, easy-out rear seats with rollers, adjustable driver's-seat lumbar support, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, keyless entry, overhead console trip computer, power garage door opener, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, rearview mirror with automatic day-night feature, stereo system with AM/FM/cassette/CD and equalizer, deluxe sound insulation and 16-inch gold wheel covers.
New touches for 1998 include a sloping, redesigned front fascia, a new sweeping grille with a winged Chrysler badge, an automatic-dimming left-outside rearview mirror, automatic headlights, easy-entry left quad seat and adjustable lumbar support. Under the hood, is a 3.8-liter 180-horsepower V6 that is more powerful than last year.
The dark-tinted windows blended perfectly with the vehicle's dusky, deep-purple paint job--which Chrysler has dubbed Deep Amethyst Pearl. The result is a sporty visage that is both elegant and slightly imposing. But, due to its rounded corners, slanting windshield, sculpted body panels and understated side moldings, even a lighter-colored LXi would still convey a sporty look.
We'll never understand who handed down the initial edict, in the early days of minivans, that said one sliding door would be offered and it had to go on the passenger side. Anyone who experiences the ease of the Town & Country's sliding driver's-side door will be a convert for life. Indeed, whether you're a busy parent, an arts-and-crafts type or a Home Improvement devotee with an armload of tools, you'll love the convenience of loading your cargo from your own side of the vehicle, instead of having to circle around to the passenger's side.
The Town & Country LXi was so spacious that we thought about choosing up sides for a game of interior touch football--after removing the seats, of course.
In years past, that would have required a yeoman effort.
But seat removal is much easier than it was in bygone days. Our test model's center-row bucket seats can be unlatched and removed via the sliding side doors, while a solid yank on a lever pops the third-row bench seat up onto a set of wheels, allowing it to be rolled backwards and removed via the tailgate. However, it's still a two-person job. For smaller loads, the seat backs can also be folded down--affording enough room for the proverbial sheet of plywood.
Head and legroom were quite sufficient, in both the front bucket seats and the second-row seats. Although Chrysler says the Town & Country's rear bench can seat three, one of those persons would have to be pre-pubescent.
Kudos also go to designers for the accident response system--which has been designed so that, after the airbag deploys in a crash, the power locks unlock and the interior lights turn on.