Ever since Chrysler invented the modern minivan back in 1984, innovation has been an integral part of the story for every single generation. From the roomy layout of the original to the addition of sliding doors on both sides, and Stow ’n Go seats, Chrysler designers and engineers have been debuting new ideas on these quintessential family haulers and have come up with 75 minivan-first innovations.
Moving people has always been at the heart of the Town & Country. When transporting up to seven loved ones, safety is always paramount and the SafetyTec Package on the 2012 Town & Country (MSRP $29,995) includes more than 40 available standard safety and technology features. The 2012 Town & Country has been adding more hardware to its trophy case and was recently named Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for 2012 and was ranked highest in minivan segment by J.D. Power and Associates in their 2011 U.S. Initial Quality Study.
Chrysler has included an array of sensors that can see where the driver’s eyes can’t, especially behind the van. Every Town & Country is equipped with a standard ParkView backup camera that provides a clear view of what is immediately behind the vehicle and the ParkView camera along with the available ultrasonic sensors that are part of the ParkSense Rear Park Assist system make parking easier and less stressful by providing visual and audible cues of obstacles behind the vehicle where they can’t be seen from the driver’s seat.
Another difficult and potentially dangerous maneuver is just backing out of a slot in a crowded parking lot. The Rear Cross Path detection uses sensors at the rear corners to look down the aisle as soon as the vehicle starts to back up and the Town & Country was the first vehicle to provide this capability. On the road, a Blind-Spot Monitoring System alerts the driver of other vehicles that can’t be seen in the mirrors before a lane change.
Up front, visibility is further enhanced with the Rainsense wipers and Smartbeam headlamps. Variable speed wipers have always been a helpful way to deal with inconsistent rain conditions. The problem is when the driver has to constantly take a hand off the steering wheel to make adjustments. A moisture sensor in the Rainsense system detects the amount of water and automatically adjusts the wiper speed to keep the windshield clear without dragging a dry wiper across the glass. The Smartbeams automatically monitor ambient conditions and oncoming vehicles to switch the headlamps between high and low beams.
Back in the earliest days of the minivan, Chrysler included easy to remove second- and third-row seats for those times when drivers needed to carry more cargo than passengers. As convenient as that was, owners still had to find a place in the garage for those seats. The current generation Town & Country features the industry exclusive Stow ’n Go seating system that allows both the second and third rows to be folded flat into cavities in the floor. Until you experience Stow ’n Go for yourself, you don’t realize just how innovative and convenient this system is.
For even more convenience, the Touring-L and Limited models offer an available power folding system for the third-row seat that expands the rear cargo area from the standard 33 cubic feet to 83.3 cubic feet with just a touch of a button.
When maximum storage and passenger capacity is needed, the Town & Country also has the standard Stow ’n Place roofrack system that can be used to restrain up to 150 pounds of cargo on the roof. These racks drop into grooves in the roof for improved aerodynamics when they aren’t needed, and are found exclusively on the Town & Country. Speaking of exclusive features, the Town & Country is the only minivan with an available heated steering wheel and standard leather seating and DVD player.
Back on the inside, traveling often calls for entertainment for those in the second and third rows. The Town & Country is standard with one and available two nine-inch LCD screens that flip down from the roof. The dual screen package also includes dual DVD players and audio-video inputs for game systems. Passengers in the second and third rows have the option of either watching the same programming, different movies or movies and video games. The innovation comes through again with the available Uconnect Web that creates a WiFi “hotspot” to deliver the Internet directly to the minivan and its occupants.
Chrysler also provides plenty of connectivity for mobile devices like phones and iPods, even without the Internet. The standard Media Center 430 entertainment system includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen interface and a 30GB hard drive that can store nearly 7,000 songs. The optional 730N system (standard on Limited models) adds a Garmin navigation system, direct iPod control, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free phone capability and more.
Whether it’s packaging, convenience, safety or entertainment, innovation has always been an integral part of the Chrysler minivan story and that shows with the 2012 Town & Country.