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Woman's Look: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country Minivans
As a female consumer at the New York Auto Show, I was able to take some time to climb inside some of the vehicles and take a detailed look at the interior, instead of just grabbing snapshots of the outside while I ran past to see the next car on the floor.
One of the vehicles I spent considerable time with was the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan. (In case you didn't know, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country Minivans are basically twin sisters; the main differences lie in trim levels, but they are otherwise nearly identical.) I took a detailed tour with Chrysler product manager Kathy Graham, who showed me many of the 35 new and improved features to arrive on the fifth-generation Chrysler Group minivans this fall.
My husband drives a 2001 Honda Odyssey, which at the time we bought it, set the standard for minivans. We bought the vehicle after our last baby arrived and we realized that my Civic was impractical; we needed more room to haul the baby and his stroller, as well as a pre-teen and baseball gear. I refused to go from the sporty life of my racy little coupe into the "Minivan Mom" persona, so I took his Accord, and my husband became "Minivan Dad," hauling around the baseball team in the lap of luxury.
In the few years since then, the Chrysler minivans have raised the bar several levels, with improvements that essentially make them more like "family rooms on wheels."
A variety of seating and storage options include a second-row bench seat, a Stow 'n Go seating and storage system that allows the second-row to fold into the floor, or Swivel 'n Go seating that allows the second-row captain seats to swivel 180 degrees to face rearward. The third-row seats can flip to allow tailgate viewing out the back of the van, and also fold flat into the floor manually or with an optional one-touch power-folding feature as well. All this versatility allows the driver to choose to transport up to seven people in comfort, or up to 144 cubic feet of cargo with all the seats down. An optional removable table can be used in conjunction with the rearward facing seats to allow back passengers to eat, play games, or finish homework while driving. Movable pinpoint LED lighting, gentle overhead halo lighting (below, right), heated first- and second-row seats in both leather and cloth, 12-volt power outlet, a 110V inverter, and dual- or tri-zone heating and cooling make the minivan as convenient as any entry-level New York apartment.
One of the more thoughtful features accessible from the driver's seat is a new sliding front console (far left) large enough to store even the largest of lady's purses. The handy unit slides back and forth to serve either front- or rear-seat passengers, or can be removed entirely - a real benefit for those whose needs might require storage of a wheelchair or other mobility assistance. Convenient power functions include remote start, first- and second-row power windows; power sliding doors; and a power liftgate with one-touch button on the key fob and rear-pillar.
[italic]In-car electronics include a dual-DVD multimedia entertainment system that can play different media at the same time (above, center) or a videogame system so front and rear passengers can view different entertainment options via dual 8-inch flipdown screens.
Chrysler's "MyGIG" multimedia infotainment system features CD/DVD/HDD/MP3/satellite radio capabilities, plus a 20-gig harddrive with a USB interface that allows users to download photos and up to 2500 songs. Combine that with Sirius Satellite radio and backseat TV to allow the driver to benefit from real-time traffic reporting and automatic route navigation, while passengers can watch Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon network, or other television choices. The system offers voice activation for hands-free operation.
Safety features include all-row supplemental side-curtain air bags, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with traction control and brake assist, LATCH child seat anchor system, and an energy-absorbing steering column. Additional items include Chrysler's industry-first integrated child booster seat, ParkView rear back-up camera, a rearview interior conversation mirror, and ParkSense rear back-up system.
The modern minivan was invented by the former Chrysler Corporation in 1983. Since then, the Chrysler Group has sold more than 11 million minivans and invented more than 60 minivan firsts that have revolutionized the minivan segment, and made their way into other vehicle segments as well. The new generation of Chrysler minivans once again sets a standard with features that offer value, functionality, safety and innovation.
Model lineup and other fine print
Five models are available for the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. Dodge offers two models: the Dodge Grand Caravan SE and Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. Chrysler offers three models: the Chrysler Town & Country LX, the Chrysler Town & Country Touring, and the Chrysler Town & Country Limited.
Powertrain choices for North America include a new 4.0-liter/240-hp V-6 aluminum engine with six-speed transmission or a 3.8-liter/198-hp V-6 aluminum engine with six-speed. Additionally, a 3.3-liter/205-horsepower flex-fuel-capable V-6 aluminum engine mated to a four-speed transmission is also available. "Chrysler Group has been a leader in flex-fuel-capable vehicles," says Larry Lyons, Vice President - front-wheel-drive product team, Chrysler Group. "We sold our first minivan capable of running on E85 in 1998, and since then, Chrysler Group has sold more than 1,330,000 flex-fuel minivans."
Manufacturer's suggested retail hasn't yet been released, though I was told to expect them to be competitively priced among their peers when the reach market in the fall of 2007.