Skip to main content

When I think back to family road trips when I was a boy, I wonder how my dad did it.

How did he survive Canada's harsh winters without a heated steering wheel to keep his hands warm and toasty? Lacking the convenience of a remote control on his key chain, how did he open the trunk without hurting himself?

As for us kids, I wonder how we got by without heated rear seats, DVD players and jacks to plug in various electronic gadgets. Answer: By reading books, playing I Spy and, when that got old, punching and kicking each other in the backseat.

Story continues below advertisement

Thankfully, as a father myself now, I'll never have to face these hardships.

After putting Chrysler's 2012 Town & Country minivan through its paces with my wife and two kids, I can assure you the company thought of every safety and convenience feature imaginable.

In addition to a heated steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, heated first- and second-row seats, power sliding doors, power tailgate and a dual-screen DVD system that lets your kids watch a movie and play video games at the same time, our top-of-the-line Limited model also came with a rear video camera and a blind-spot alarm that's designed to save you from trouble when changing lanes on the highway.

What's more, the vehicle featured a "three-zone" climate control system that kept all of the occupants warm as we visited friends and family over the holidays, and power-adjustable front seats that made it easy to squeeze my temperature-controlled buns into a comfortable driving position.

The only thing it didn't have was a cappuccino dispenser.

All these amenities don't come cheap, of course: the base Town & Country Limited model retails for $45,995, before incentives, while the optional equipment on our test car pushed the price to $51,545. That's getting into second mortgage territory.

Certainly, there's a lot to like about the vehicle.

Story continues below advertisement

Aside from all the electronic bells and whistles, my wife and kids appreciated the expansive interior and abundant storage space. When we're travelling as a family, my wife often places a large bag of snacks, books and other road trip supplies at her feet, which eats up most of her leg room. But that wasn't a problem with the Town & Country, thanks to the large storage area situated conveniently beneath the centre-front console.

When it's time to carry larger items, the Town & Country's second- and third-row Stow 'N Go seats conveniently fold into the floor. If you're frequently carting around bulky items, this is one of the vehicle's best features.

As a driver, I appreciated the minivan's excellent sight lines which, along with the back-up camera, made parallel parking a breeze. The "Eco" mode improved fuel economy, but at a noticeable drop in power from the 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 engine.

Those positives aside, I found the ride somewhat unsettled, and the steering wasn't nearly as nimble as say, a Honda Odyssey, which handles more like a car. When you're driving the Town & Country, you definitely know you're behind the wheel of a minivan.

Another annoyance, at least to my ears, was the intrusion of engine noise into the cabin, particularly when the vehicle was accelerating. I also found the stereo underwhelming, despite the nine speakers and subwoofer. As for the retro-style, vertical antenna mounted on the front of the vehicle, it's just begging to get broken off by some idiot (it happened to me with another car, which is why I prefer those stubby roof-mounted antennas instead).

If you must have all of the modern creature comforts – and you don't mind shelling out big bucks – the Town & Country Limited may be worth considering. Or you could move down to the less-expensive Touring model. However, keep in mind that while Consumer Reports say the 2012 Town & Country is "much improved" over its predecessor, reliability has been below-average in previous generations.

Story continues below advertisement

On the other hand, if you're on a budget you could also consider a stripped-down Dodge Grand Caravan, the sister vehicle to the Town & Country. The entry-level Grand Caravan SE with the "Canada Value Package" currently retails for just $19,995.

Your hands may get cold and you'll have to lift the tailgate yourself, but dad certainly survived.

Tech specs

2012 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

Type: Minivan

Base Price: $45,995; as tested, $51,545

Engine: 3.6-litre, V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 283 hp/ 260 lb-ft

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/7.9 highway; regular gas

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Report an error
About the Author
Investment Reporter and Columnist

John Heinzl has been writing about business and investing since 1990. A native of Hamilton, he earned a master's degree from the University of Western Ontario's Graduate School of Journalism and completed the Canadian Securities Course with honours. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.