- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Chrysler’s minivan lineup enters its fifth generation for the 2008 model year, now defined exclusively by the long-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. Five available trim levels, chunkier exterior styling, an innovative interior, a mix of six-cylinder engines and a new automatic transmission re-establish the Chrysler/Dodge family haulers as serious competitors in the segment that they created over 20 years ago.

Dodge offers two distinct trims — SE ($22,470) and SXT ($27,535) — while Chrysler launches with three — LX ($23,190), Touring ($28,430) and Limited ($36,400). All Grand Caravan and Town & Country models are front-wheel-drive for now, but all-wheel-drive variants will likely follow at a later date. Short wheelbase models have been dropped with the fifth generation makeover.

Base Chrysler Town & Country LX and Dodge Grand Caravan SE models are powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine that produces 175 horsepower and 205 pounds-feet of torque mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Uplevel Town & Country Touring and Grand Caravan SXT models come with a 3.8-liter V6 and six-speed automatic transmission directing 197 horsepower and 230 pounds-feet to the front wheels. Top Town & Country Limited models get a 251-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 yielding 259 pounds-feet of torque and shifting via the six-speed automatic transmission; Dodge SXT models include the option of the high-output engine.

According to Chrysler, the new minivans include “35 new or improved features” providing a “family room on wheels” experience. These components bolster seating, storage, entertainment, safety, security and convenience, modernizing the minivans’ interiors across the lineup.

One of the most modern and striking features is Swivel ‘n Go seating, a system that allows the second row seats to spin around a full 180 degrees and to face the third row. In between the seats, a removable table may be installed, proving a true living-space-type environment. When not in use, the table is stowed in coverage storage areas below the second row seats. Other features of Swivel ‘n Go include a one-touch power folding third row seat that retracts flat into the floor and uncovered third row storage bins.

For those not requiring the table and seat spinning capabilities, Chrysler’s popular Stow ‘n Go system remains available, a design that makes use of storage spaces that double as seat stowage areas and the rear seat power folding functionality. Throughout the Grand Caravan and Town & Country, storage and seating solutions abound. Dual glove boxes are the largest in the minivan segment, and 13 cup and bottle holders include dishwasher-friendly removable units in the front center console. The overhead console has been updated, as have the front door compartments. An available sliding front console moves rearward up to 21 inches, and an umbrella holder is also included.

Parents seeking entertainment options for their children have plenty from which to choose. Dual DVD systems can play different media simultaneously — a first in the minivan segment. SIRIUS-based television plays three channels: Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. A 506-watt audio system includes 10 speakers and a minivan-exclusive subwoofer. Finally, Chrysler’s MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with media storage capabilities is included.

A host of convenience and luxury items are rolled into the 2008 model year minivans, solidifying the vehicles as top-tier choices. Stain-resistant seats also deter odor and static. Second row seats, power windows, and retractable sunshades are included in both rear rows.

Safety is enhanced via standard curtain row airbags, stability control with traction control and Brake Assist, a child seat built into the second row bench and a rearview “conversation mirror.”

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