Babble Best Picks:
2011 Minivans for the Family
Want to know the difference between all the minivans on the market? Babble asked me take each of them out for a spin to figure out which were best for which families. Most minivans got a thorough refresh this year, and many received better interior materials, more power, and higher fuel economy. After cargo capacity, safety is typically a minivan shopper's main concern. These large family haulers tend to do well on crash safety tests, and we included the results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's independent crash test results. To find out what others thought, we added the Consumer Reports score and their Customer Satisfaction rating when available as well.
We hope you find this information helpful in your search for a family crossover. Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here! - Liane Yvkoff
Best luxury minivan | Chrysler Town & Country
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/25
The 2011 Chrysler Town & Country received a much-needed refresh that restored the grand dame of minivans to its former glory. Gone are the three underpowered, fuel-guzzling engine options. Instead the T&C is available only with the standard 3.6L engine outputting 283-hp and paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s a good-sized 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.
If there is such a thing as a luxury minivan, the T&C is it. This year’s update gave the 7-seater a more stylish front and rear end, LED headlights, and a little bling from the chrome molding around the vehicle. Higher-grade materials than previous model years are used on the interior with a lot more soft touch points, like the dash and arm rests, (which means less plastic). Construction definitely seems tighter, leading us to believe the van will stand up well against the wear and tear of a million trips to soccer practice and the store. Parents love the ceiling-mounted sunglass holder that doubles as a conversation mirror to keep an eye on all second-and third-row passengers.
All trim levels of the family hauler are equipped with 40 standard safety features, including a new 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.
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. And if you plan to use the van for camping or tailgating, with the tailgate open the third-row seats can reverse to face the rear. 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
The minivan offers independent second- and third-row DVD players with wireless headphones to keep squabbling kids entertained. When you’ve run out of new DVDs, the T&C is equipped with optional satellite TV that streams Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network, so long road trips shouldn’t be a problem.
The only part of the T&C that didn’t get an overhaul is the uConnect infotainment system, which is rumored to be added for the 2012 model year. The 6.5-inch touch screen doesn’t offer much more real estate for navigation than a smart phone, and the voice activation system is laborious to use, should you bother.
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