Eric's Autos / Automotive

Eric's Autos: Reviewing the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country

It's easier to shop minivans now than it was just a few years ago - because there are fewer minivans on the market. GM and Ford no longer sell them at all. And if you want a higher-end van, you've only got three models to dissect and compare: The Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna - and the Chrysler Town & Country, subject of this review.

The Chrysler's got several things going for it - including a lower price all dolled up than its main rivals - still under $40k vs. over $40k for a top-of-the-line Toyota Sienna (and well over $40k for a top-of-the-line Honda Odyssey).

The Honda Odyssey Touring Elite, for example, is nearly $44k vs. just a little over $39k for a top-of-the-line T&C Limited. Chrysler also gives you a standard 283 hp V-6 vs. a standard 250 hp V-6 in the Honda - and a less-than-200 hp standard four in the base model Toyota Sienna.

On the other hand, the T&C is no longer offered with AWD. The Toyota Sienna is - and the T&C's base price of almost $30k is a lot higher than the base price of a Sienna, which starts just over $25k. So there are distinct pros - and cons. Let's take a longer look at both.

WHAT IT IS

The T&C is Chrysler's premium minivan, related to the Dodge Carvan but unlike its mass-market sister, the T&C comes decked to the nines with standard luxury features such as leather seats, music storage hard drive and rear seat entertainment system. That's the base Touring model, which starts at $29,995. Go all the way to the Limited and your T&C will come with the entire kitchen, not just the sink: multi-screen rear seat entertainment system, heated first and second row seats, heated steering wheel, xenon HID headlights, an even better stereo and, if you want 'em, power folding/stowing third row seats. (The second row seats can be folded, too.)

This version of the T&C starts at $39,300. The Limited I tested - with pretty much every option on the roster - stickered out at $42,595.

Of the other lux vans out there, only Honda's Odyssey (base price $28,375; $43,825 at the top) comes comparably equipped - and comparably priced. There's also the Toyota Sienna - though it spans a wider range, with the base $25,060 version of that van being closer to the Dodge Caravan than the T&C. Base model Siennas are also equipped with a four-cylinder engine while the T&C (and Sienna) both come standard with pretty powerful V-6 engines.

Higher-trimmed versions of the Toyota are comparable on features - and price - but still lack the more upscale brand image that Chrysler has in its corner.

WHAT'S GOOD

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