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Chrysler Town & Country: Man cave of cool re-created, refined

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Chrysler Town & Country: Man cave of cool re-created, refined

The Chrysler Town & Country is sold in three models, and even the base model gets leather seating, power side doors and tailgate, and a rear-seat DVD. Pricing ranges from $30,930 to $42,000.

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POSTED April 4, 2012 7:03 p.m.

A place for everything and everything out of its place is the hapless life of a minivan.

These modern re-creations of the big family car are reviled or loved, and those who don't love them don't know what they are missing — at least in this generation of luxury minivans.

The Chrysler Town & Country is sold in three models, and even the base model gets leather seating, power side doors and tailgate, and a rear-seat DVD. Pricing ranges from $30,930 to $42,000 for the Limited, today's test vehicle. (Pricing does not include a current $1,500 incentive.)

The Town & Country is among the wave of fresh and revitalized new Chrysler products. The interiors are dressed up in soft-touch materials and plastics that look of premium quality. There is still durability for those who use a minivan for family duty or hauling pets and other gear. But the Limited tester, $43,000, was a man cave of cool. The leather has texture, a suedelike center panel and a rich feel with contrasting stitching. The heated wood-and-leather steering wheel (standard on Limited) fits the hand like a smooth pool cue.

The as-tested price buys nearly every imaginable luxury convenience, including keyless Enter-N-Go locking and push-button starting, Internet connection ($650) and a nine-speaker Infinity audio system.

Standard safety features include a rear backup camera (with guidance lines); seven air bags, including a driver-side inflatable knee blocker, electronic stability control and all-speed traction control, and four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist.

The floors are flat, and the ceiling is high. And everybody except the youngster in the center of the third row has good elbowroom. This van seats seven, and four will ride in luxury with the option for second-row captain's chairs, $320. These are as full-bodied as the front seats, with dual armrests. They don't fold into the floor as do the seats in the other models, but the seats can be removed. (And they have more padding than the folding seats.)

To the family man, there is little more self-indulgent than the power controls — a power tailgate (standard) and the power folding third row, which is part of the $1,795 "Luxury" package, which includes a power sunroof, load-leveling and height-control suspension, and rear overhead consoles. The third row even rotates into tailgate seating, which is an amazing feat of engineering to watch for the first few times.

This owner also can stay two steps ahead of kids and guests by opening the power sliding side doors with the remote fob. Each row has fan and climate controls and a variety of vents. And unlike the sculpted interior of sedans, there are swaths of open space with which Chrysler has used for all forms of storage and comfort features.

There are levels of door storage, dual glove compartments and side window sunscreens. Second-row occupants can pull out a long drawer at the base of the front console that has cup holders and storage for at least two pairs of headphones to go with the dual TV screens.

There is one smart power package for all models: a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. There is plenty of power for pulling around a vanful, and the engine never sounds harsh. Fuel economy ratings — on regular unleaded — are 17 mpg city, 25 highway, and there is an "eco" mode to stretch that a little when needed.

The ride quality is remarkably balanced and comfortable, without nausea-inducing wallow. And it's quiet inside, also unlike old Chrysler minivans. But this one had been driven almost 5,400 miles, and there was a sound of light creaking coming from panel movement or that material between the body and the interior panels — whatever it is — that was starting to loosen and make noise as the body shifts. Such is the issue when building a box that will carry sheets of plywood.

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