Minivans aren’t the same boring people movers your parents used for the soccer carpool. Auto manufacturers are working overtime to bring style to the staid market, and they’re packing them full of the latest technology inside and out. They’re hoping to appeal to a younger generation of savvy car buyers — with big families and gear in tow — who often reluctantly need to go big to go home.
The minivan market is a little smaller this year, but choosing the right vehicle is still a difficult decision. To help readers figure out the differences between each model, Babble asked me to compare all the minivans on the market. In addition to taking them for a spin, I examined the seating options and cargo capacity, and looked for family friendly technology options. For a more comprehensive review of each vehicle, we also cross-checked with Consumer Reports to find the Customer Satisfaction rating from current owners. — Liane Yvkoff
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3 / 6
Top luxury minivan | Chrysler Town & Country
MSRP: $30,260 – $39,160
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/25 mpg
If there is such a thing as a luxury minivan, the 2013 Chrysler Town and Country is it. The auto maker packed this family-hauler with top-of-the line materials and features to give it a high-end look and feel that belies its practicality. This year, the manufacturer has also turned out the “S” model — this latest edition to the staid minivan market looks more at home on city streets than country club parking lots, and could finally offer more urbane families a sleek and stylish option for a growing family.
Powering the Town and Country is a 283-horespower, 3.6-liter V6 engine that gives the minivan more than adequate power and acceleration with an acceptable 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Families interested in using this people-mover to pull boats or trailers will be happy to know that all trim levels include standard Trailer Sway Damping, a feature that will apply brakes if the car or trailer begins to sway while driving.
This 7-seater still has the stylish front and rear end, LED headlights, and chrome molding-bling from previous models. Parents love the ceiling-mounted sunglass holder that doubles as a conversation mirror to keep an eye on all second-and third-row passengers. Other impressive add-ons for 2013 include an optional heated steering wheel and standard power-folding mirrors on Limited and optional on Touring L models.
All trim levels of the family hauler are equipped with 40 standard safety features, including a driver-side inflatable knee-blocker airbag, rear-view back-up camera, blind-spot monitoring, and parking assist sensors, to name a few. (But this laundry list of safety features is reflected in the high price tag.) The Limited trim includes the beloved heated steering wheel, although it also automatically gets you the new super console, which eliminates that space to put a large purse or diaper bag.
The S model offers buyers a sleek exterior similar to the 200 and 300 sedans, including the signature grill with Chrysler Winged badges. A monochrome black interior sets this trim apart from other T&C models, giving it a more urban look and feel.
SEATING + STORAGE
Inside the second- and third-row passenger compartment, the Chrysler Town & Country is like a living room on wheels. The second-row seats are taller, wider, and have more padding than previous model years, and they slide forward and backward and recline.
The T&C’s Stow ‘n’ Go seats are perfect for road trips. The second- and third-row seats fold completely flat into the van floor, opening up 83.3 cubic feet of storage. Even with all rows up, you still have 33 cubic feet of cargo capacity, which is enough for a stroller and a few bags of groceries. Automatic everything means that you can open all doors and fold away seats without breaking a nail. Another pro: There is a fully charged LED flashlight built into the cargo-area wall to help you find things in the car when its dark, or in case of an emergency.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Chrysler is banking on a technology-packed second row to win over the hearts and minds of minivan buyers and their children. The 2013 Chrysler Town and Country introduces the segment’s first Blu-Ray dual-screen DVD system in the rear, which means parents can start standardizing on the newer disk technology. With the available WiFi hotspot connectivity through UConnect and mobile devices growing in popularity as a way to entertain backseat passengers, Chrysler discontinued its Sirius Back Seat TV offering. To make up for it, the Blu-Ray system includes two additional USB ports and a 115-volt outlet charge devices. Also available is a HDMI input for video game systems.
The 2013 Town and Country features a 6.5-inch touch screen doesn’t offer much more real estate for navigation than a smartphone, and the voice activation system is laborious to use, should you bother.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
Consumer Reports gives the Town & Country a score of 74 out of 100 points, and 72 percent of owners said they would buy the vehicle again.