Driving Impressions

By January 25, 2008

The Chrysler Town & Country is tall, heavy and long, and it drives like you'd expect given those characteristics. Drive it hard into a turn and it prefers to keep going straight rather than reacting quickly to steering inputs. Turns and changes of direction prompt copious body lean. In a word, the Town & Country feels cumbersome. Still, it never feels like it's going to tip over.

The steering is somewhat vague. It has enough play on center to keep the vehicle moving straight when you inadvertently jerk the wheel while spinning around to yell at the kids. The Town & Country is in no way sporty. The Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest are considerably more fun to drive.

The ride quality, on the other hand, is quite good. The Town & Country irons out most bumps well, and only the sharpest of ruts will crash through to give the passengers a start. The long wheelbase helps prevent larger humps from causing up and down motions. However, it can feel somewhat floaty at highway speeds. While certainly comfortable, the Town & Country isn't as smooth as the Toyota Sienna, which has an almost luxury car feel.

Recognizing that its engine choices weren't competitive with the best in class, Chrysler made some improvements. First and foremost is the addition of the new 4.0-liter V6 as standard equipment on the Limited model. The 4.0-liter makes 251 horsepower, which puts it in the ballpark with the V6s offered by Nissan, Honda and Toyota. The 4.0 gets the Town & Country moving nicely from a stop and teams with a new six-speed automatic transmission to provide decent passing response. With the 4.0-liter V6, the Town & Country has EPA fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg City and 23 Highway. Properly equipped, the Town & Country is rated to tow up to 3600 pounds with the 4.0, enough for personal watercraft or a small boat.

The 3.8-liter V6 is a carryover engine, but for 2008, it gets a six-speed automatic instead of a four-speed. The 3.8 makes 197 horsepower, and it offers plenty of pep for daily commutes and most needs. Teaming the 3.8 with the six-speed automatic makes it more responsive than in '07 models, but the problem still lingers that this engine is just not as modern and powerful as many others from the competition. The 3.8-liter V6 has the same EPA ratings as the 4.0.

The base 3.3-liter V6 makes 170 horsepower and uses the old four-speed automatic. While the EPA fuel economy numbers of 17 mpg City and 24 Highway are respectable, they are little better than the bigger engines and the 3.3 is overmatched in this large vehicle.

On the road, the Town & Country cruises quietly, especially with the 4.0-liter V6. All of the engines can intrude on conversation under full throttle, but tire noise and wind noise generally don't.