Yet when every brand is doing the same thing, the only way to stand out from a crowd is to go up. Chrysler, for one, has set its sights on a (quite literally) higher mode of transport, airlines.
Before you fall off your seat, let me first clarify that they're not about to build private jets yet. But you can buy the next best thing off their showroom floor — that is the Chrysler Town & Country (T&C) Touring.
First of all, there are the power sliding doors that open with all the grace of those of a freshly landed aircraft. Once you step inside the cabin, you'll see even more familiar sights.
The strictly seven-seater living space seems magically transported from the friendly skies, feeling like the business class of an airline. The cabin has a mound running through the ceiling's center that hides compartments for LCD screens, (available in the Limited model) and storage. A blue light emanates from it, giving some illumination even at night. Each row has access to their own set of climate controls and power windows. Each passenger has generous legroom, personal space, arm rests and their own air conditioning vent, three point safety belt and more than enough places for valuables with the mind-boggling number of cubby holes and storage spaces.
Of course, the Town & Country is not afraid to surpass that which it emulates. Up front lies one of the most sophisticated entertainment and climate centers you've ever seen in a car. Tri-zone climate control takes care of the cooling while the MyGIG system takes care of entertainment.
The entertainment system not only plays your typical DVD's but also has a 20GB hard drive to bring your own tunes and video with you, channeled through 9 speakers. Built-in Bluetooth lets you sync your phone into the system making for one of the most useful hands-free systems.
Loading it up is just as worry-free as well. Let the Power Tailgate open itself for you and you'll find the now famous Stow-n-Go fold flat seats have numbered handles to more easily collapse the seats. Doing this creates a cavernous flat space to load any sort of cargo. If you opt for the Swivel-n-Go (Limited model only), the second row can rotate to face the 3rd row while fitting in a table in between, as well as availing of 2nd row under floor storage bins.
As for the captain of the ship, he needn't have a pilot's license to drive this techified behemoth. In fact, he gets the most pampering experience of all with power adjusting pedals, seats, mirrors, steering mounted controls, multi-information display and whatnot. A massive 3.8 liter V6 that delivers 193 horsepower through six forward gears to pull the car along. There's even a manual mode, though with the stick mounted on the dashboard can be quite awkward. The van gives a very plush ride that is quiet and comfortable even for Manila conditions. It's not a thrilling drive, unfortunately, as the sheer size makes it difficult to park or maneuver. Still, it's the most luxurious suspension system on any current van.
Of course, the latest safety checklist is there to complete the package. Electronic stability, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, airbags for front passengers and curtain airbags for all three rows make it also one of the safest vans around.
With all of that loaded into the new big-grille, semi-retro styled van, you really begin to understand why a 3.8 liter V6 is needed to pull it along. There's more than enough muscle, but the thirst, especially in these times might be something to contend with. It's worthy to note that the new six-speed tranny and massive fuel tank do much to extend its range over the previous model.
All in all, everything about the vehicle has been made easier. There's hardly anything else you'd want out of the van that the Chrysler engineers haven't thought of first.
For those willing to pony up the cash, the Town & Country will show you what's truly possible in a minivan. It may not match the common rail diesel van's fuel efficiency but it certainly trumps it in terms of comfort and luxury.
Whether the derrieres being pampered are corporate execs or the kids fresh from school, this is the van to fly… I mean shuttle them in. It's the closest thing to an airline bound to the road. And if Chrysler ever does decide to make a private jet, you can bet that this will be the mold.