“How the heck do I turn on the heater on this bloody car?” I almost screamed at my 11-year-old son while seriously editing my language and shivering while driving him to school in a 2009 Chrysler Town & Country.
49 — That’s how many buttons, knobs and dual-function controls the Chrysler’s center stack has, and that’s not counting the dozen or more touch screen functions associated with the multimedia entertainment screen.
7 — That’s how many functions you’ll find on the key for the minivan, including a remote start button.
3 — That’s how many video screens, kids television stations, and electric doors the minivan comes with from the factory.
2 — That’s how many wireless headsets, DVD players and swiveling chairs come with the blinged out Limited version of the van.
1 — That’s how many DVD remote controls and stowable picnic tables the Chrysler has and how many expletives I used while trying to figure out how to turn off the back heater and turn on the front heater. All I can say is thank goodness for the big heated front seat button, otherwise I’d still be shivering.
“You have to believe that the wiring harness for all these electronics must be the size of The Rock’s forearms after an especially heavy day at the gym,” I told my son as he left for school.
The good news is that all this stuff works and works well once you figure out that how to use it. My son and his buddy especially loved the kids Sirius Satellite television programming on the third television screen that allowed them to watch Sponge Bob in the back, while dad listened to crystal clear old man NPR in the front.
Now you may be thinking to it’s pretty bad sign of the times that kids need to watch TV when driving around town, But iv you are, you probably don’t have kids to drive around town from this to that practice, recital, play date, lesson and birthday parties every spare moment of your day.
And that’s really where the Chrysler Town and Country excels. All of the electronics, swiveling, power, rotating, stowing, unstowing, sliding, retracting features make the minivan a great circus act as well as family hauler. I could see taking it across town or across the country sitting in my leather-clad king’s driver’s throne
But all of this electronic excess comes at a price. The Town and Country rides like your father’s old Buick as it lazily wallows over hills and dales. I would use a lot of words to describe it, but “mini” would not be one of them. It’s still a relative light weight to park at the grocery store compared to your brother-in-law’s Ford F-150. But you’ll never mistake it for a Honda Fit while playing who can snatch the nearest parking space at your neighborhood grocery store.
Surprisingly, it is incredibility poised when going around the twisty bits of roads, but that’s really not the point of this vehicle.
I parked the Town and Country at my local soccer field over the weekend and asked 10 busy parents what they thought of the design. The Chrysler scored a not-so-great 5 out of 10 on the soccer mom/dad coolness meter.
“I love the inside but it sure is ugly,” was a common refrain from many of the moms. The dad’s downcast eyes suggested they would rather own a rusty 10-year-old SUV before piloting the van around town. And that’s a shame because the driving throne of the Town and Country is a nice place to be when you’ve got a small or large family to haul.
One word of advice to the designers. Enough already with the green dot display in the speedometer. It reminds me of a funky 20-year-old Nintendo game. When you can capture the beauty and grandeur of the Grand Canyon on your iPhone screen, you guys can certainly move beyond 1989 in the “miles to empty” and “outside temperature” display.
Speaking of 1989, the Town and Country was introduced in 1989 (as A 1990 model). It has steadily evolved into one of the most useful, if not user friendly, ways to move a family. Over the years Chrysler has been responsible for much of the innovation in minivan technology, and you can really tell this thoughtful features in its latest Town and Country Limited.
Now if they could only make the heater controls easier to figure out.
Chrysler Town & Country, 2009 Facts & Figures
Price as Tested: $44,430; Engine/Transmission: 4.0 liter V6 SOHC engine, Automatic 6-speed; Horsepower: 251; PocketDyno Test Data; 1/8 Mile: 11.57 second at 64.95 mph; 0-60 mph: 10.06 seconds; Max Acceleration: 0.41 g’s; EPA Fuel Economy Estimates, City: 17 mpg, Highway: 25 mpg, Combined: 20 mpg, As tested: 17.8 mpg; CO2 per year: 11,738 lbs.