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Honda Odyssey, Toyota Corolla, Chrysler Town and Country, Car Buying, Car Comparisons, Van
Mar 08, 2013 (8:29 am)
2013 Chrysler Town and Country Review:
After extensive time with the two Odyssey models and then the Sienna, I drove straight away to the Chrysler dealer a few miles down the street. I did not even make it all the way out of my car in the parking lot before I was approached by a salesman on the lot.. Uh oh, I thought (a pushy one). We chatted about what I was looking for (having done my research ahead of time I wanted to look at and drive a 2013 T&C Touring L with dual DVD screens). This dealer had a ton of T&C's on the lot and the salesman (he was new) worked with another salesman and the three of us found a white one. We spent about 15 minutes going over the vehicle and the older salesman (not the new guy, I will call him salesguy1). knew a lot about the van. He had been in the business for a long time and quickly pointed out the advantages of the Chrysler (more powerful engine, stow and go, more features for the money, price, etc).
Hmm. I really don't think neither good nor bad thoughts about the T&C. It is shaped like a toaster. A big square. Too be honest, it does nothing for me, but at the same time, it is not offensive either and at the end of the day these are all minivans are the most important aspect, to me, is the interior, features, and how the vehicle drives. That said, like the Sienna, the T&C has the metal antenna sticking up on the front passenger side. Again, we are talking about an expensive modern day minivan here, not a $14K econocar. I would give the appearance a 6.5. Close to the Honda, but so bland and toaster like that I give the Honda a slight edge for being different.
This was my first surprise with this minivan. Chrysler, since I last drove one in 06, did a great job with the interior. More upscale looking than either the Honda or Toyota with tasteful chrome accents and nice black leather and more expensive textured plastics than the Toyota. The cabin was nice. If I were to nitpick, I did not like that the shifter was not labeled P, R, D, etc. You had to look at the dash to verify what gear you were in. I also did not love the analog clock in the center stack above the vents. Aside from that, the front seats were comfortable. Very impressed and was not expecting this level of fit and finish in the cockpit. I would rate it very close to the Odyssey and ahead of the Sienna. Where I started to notice corners being cut were on the plastics in the rest of the cabin. Vents felt really cheap, the center console was wobbly and cheap feeling, the doom reading lights looked chintzy and cheap. I really liked the dual DVD players for the 2nd and 3rd rows. Very cool. I also liked the center radio/display. Quite functional. This van had a nice backup camera, rear parking sensor, powered liftgate, blind spot indicator, heated second row seats, and even remote start. Very impressive list of features and all for about $7700 cheaper than the Odyssey Touring and about $5000 cheaper than the Sienna! Wow. Aside from some of the cheaper plastic materials, I have to say I am not sold on the stow and go. I rarely remove the 2nd row seats in my 06 Odyssey, and the 2nd and 3rd row seats in the T&C felt cheaper than their competitors. You don't get a middle seat for the 2nd row due to the stow and go either, so if you ever want to haul eight people you are out of luck. Still, overall I was impressed for the money. You get a lot, and the quality is impressive for $30K.
Again I was surprised. The steering feel at lower speeds on the T&C is the best of the three for me. It did not feel nearly as numb and electronic. At higher speeds, it was on par with the other two, but I did think the transmission was hesitating a little more. The engine is very powerful and all three vans felt about the same to me in terms of acceleration and performance. Very close. The T&C engine was louder than the Odyssey's during hard acceleration and about on par with the Sienna. The T&C felt a little less forgiving over rough pavement and the turning radius was not as good as the other two. Handling wise, I thought this van may have had the best driver feedback for me. Kudos to Chrysler on this. Like the others, this van had plenty of available power and toque for passing. Even with the heat blasting The van felt a little less refined than the Odyssey and Sienna to me in terms of the transmission and engine, but I am being picky.
Honestly, at this point in the test drive I was very pleased. Both salesman came along for the ride, but they were not annoying and encouraged me to drive the van like I owned it. Brakes were good. Probably on par with the Sienna, but slightly below the Odyssey for me. Would need to drive them again to confirm. I honestly thought I could buy this van. Yeah the exterior is boring, but you get so much for your money and it drove very well. Then I remembered it was a Chrysler. And I remembered the poor reliability ratings and issues (my brother/sister in-law own a previous gen one that is always having issues). I realize the Chrysler changed out the van in 2011 and this one seems to be better made, but my Odyssey had zero issues in 7 years. None. Nada. Do I really want to take a chance? Resale value is also not as good, but if you keep the van for 5-7 years and factor in the price, so what? Again, it came back to reliability to me. My wife, who will drive this vehicle much more than me, was concerned about the reliability of Chrysler and we both are worried about the overall state of the company.
Where does this leave us? I think we need to give Chrysler more time to prove they have turned the corner in terms of reliability, and prove they will still be around for sometime to come without needing government assistance. If I had a tighter budget? I would buy this van most likely. I take my hat off to Chrysler though, and would consider them again in the near future once we see how this model holds up over the next few years.
#3 of 51 Wow...great reviews on the minivans
Mar 14, 2013 (8:25 am)
I too am coming from a 06 Oddy EX-L. Like you never had an issue with it. Wife is pushing though for a new van, so we are now shopping. It's funny, it almost seems like I wrote your review because we both have the same exact feelings about each minivan. I am more of a Honda fanboy than you, having own Honda's since the 90's. But I also have the big issue with the Oddy for it's looks (you described it perfectly) and the price.
But I am seriously leaning towards the T&C Limited. With the Limited you get much more "bells and whistles" than even the Oddy Touring has.
My big beef with the Chrysler is the reliability as you stated also. Chrysler is actually ending the T&C after the 2013 model year. As you mentioned, the current generation, 2011 +, is a better vehicle than the past and from what I have read, has better reliability.
I think I may go with a used or CPO 2012 Limited due to the depreciation.
Let us know what you decide to buy. Great review...thanks!
#4 of 51 Re: Wow...great reviews on the minivans [gauger01]
Mar 14, 2013 (5:44 pm)
Thanks for the kind words. Well, I really liked the Chrysler as well, but the recent Consumer Reports ranking probably scared me off:
http://blogs.windsorstar.com/2013/03/04/chrysler-minivans-fare-poorly-in-consume- - r-reports-2013-best-cars-list/
The "below average" reliability rating and the "not recommended" by CR has me worried. In the article Chrysler admitted they need to fix the reliability issues, I just don't think I want to deal with the hassle. I have owned two vehicles that had extensive time getting fixed (VW and Saturn) and I don't want to go through that again. That said, there is no question it is a nice van with tons of features and options for the money. A 2012 slightly used makes a lot of sense, but you may want to spring for a bumper to bumper extended warranty if you plan on keeping it awhile. Peace of mind
It is between the Sienna and Odyssey for us, and we will be deciding soon. Getting all my ducks in a row and have emailed lots of dealers for pricing.
#5 of 51 Quest Review
Mar 17, 2013 (1:16 pm)
Here is my review of the Nissan Quest:
I was able to drive a Quest LE late yesterday. I had been emailing with an internet salesman and he was easy to work with. The Quest's were buried into the bowels of the dealer lot and they had about 10 or so LE models (all of them 2012's with 4-12K miles). Salesman explained that these were driven by Nissan executives and he had paperwork to confirm that (they were not demo cars driven by hordes of people shopping). We got in one that had under 5K miles. Here are my thoughts:
Appearance: I have to be honest here, I am not a huge fan of the uber boxy very Asian looking shape of the Quest (I am not a fan of the Ford Flex either, and this van reminds me of that design). On appearance it seems to sit up higher than the other vans, but also seems narrower (even though it really is not). The more I was around it, the more is seemed to warm up to me. But one thing I noticed right away was the angle of the windshield and the narrow windows throughout the cabin. Visibility in this van, for me, was the worst of the three and I am concerned that my wife, who is 5'5" would have a hard time seeing out the cabin. Because the vehicle looked much taller to me, the wheels on the LE looked smaller too. They just looked off. That said, it is a minivan, not a sports car. I would rate the exterior about the same as the T&C a 6.5. Nissan wanted to be a little different, but I am just not sure it worked for me.
Interior and features:
Okay, this is when things started to get good for me The cockpit of the Quest LE is absolutely gorgeous. There is tons of legroom and headroom in the front seats, and if you are tall, you should give this van a look. I am just under 6', so not overly tall, and the front cabin seemed really spacious to me. The overall fit and finish was very nice, I would say the nicest yet. We are talking Infinity grade cabin materials. However, there were some things to nitpick. Biggest issue I noticed was the placement of the shifter did get in the way of the driver when reaching for controls. I noticed it right away. No sunglasses holder. The storage in the front cabin seemed lacking compared to the other vans, and the cup holders seemed really tiny. And while the front seats were spacious, the third row was much more cramped for me than the other two vans. I am not sure how easy it would be to have adults seated comfortably in the captains chairs and in the third row. For me, it was noticeably more cramped than the Odyssey and Sienna in the third row when I had the captains chairs set for adults. IF you have kids in the 2nd and 3rd rows, I don't see this being an issue. I also noticed the van was only dual climate control, not tri-climate control like the Odyssey. And since my son almost always sits in the third row, it is nice to be able to control his climate separately. All of the seats were very comfortable. I thought they were on par (if not better) than the Odyssey and superior to the other vans. While legroom was a little lacking vs the other vans in the rear seats, headroom is excellent. Again, this van is a little taller and if you are a tall family, this van should be on your short list to drive. Feature wise, the van is loaded. Push button start with keyless entry is a nice touch. With groceries and kids in tow, there are little buttons on the door handles and a simply push will open the doors automatically. Nice with little kids The DVD player was a good size, and the NAV screen was a nice size and was intuitive to use. The rear seats could be automatically lowered or raised via a button in the back, with the caveat that you have to hold the button down the entire time to raise or lower the rear seats.
Which brings up the question of cargo space. The 2nd and 3rd row seats do fall flat but not into the floor like the rear seats like their competitors and the 2nd row cannot be removed or lowered into the floor like their competitors. Personally, I don't know why Nissan went this route. There were so many times I needed to lower the rear seats into the floor to haul something large, or remove the 2nd row seats. Also keep in mind the Quest will haul 7 people and not 8 vs the Toyota and Honda. For many, this might be fine, but I know for us, we have used the 8 seating capacity several times and there will be situations where we would need to take 2 vehicles vs 1 if we go with a Quest. You also are not going to fit a sheet of plywood in the back of this van if you expect to close the rear liftgate. Overall, I am mixed on this van. Fit and finish is top notch, lots of useful and solid features. Lacking cargo and capacity of some of it's peers, which for me, is important since we are talking about a minivan here..
I was very reluctant to drive this van for one reason. CVT. I have driven several Nissan vehicles in the last two years that have CVT transmissions and loathed them. I have to say, in the Quest, the CVT worked for me. It is responsive. It does not hesitate. Nissan has always had strong V6 motors and the Quest is not exception. Handling wise, the Quest was responsive, but I thought it lacked some of the handling that the other vans had. It tended to have some body roll in turns, but overall, I thought the van drove well. Of all the vans, I thought this van was the quietest at low and higher speeds. Unlike the Sienna and T&C, they engine did not sound as strained when pushed and the interior noise level was much more like a sedan to me that a minivan. As I mentioned above, visibility in this van is not as good as the others, and I felt that there were more blindspots.
The Quest is a nice van overall. A contender for sure if you are looking to haul 7 people or less (and not planning on having adult or full-grown teens in the third row often) and don't mind less cargo and capacity of the others. I really enjoyed how the van drove and the fit and finish was excellent. For us, I think the more limited storage and capacity (people moving) is a dealbreaker. It is one of the main reasons why we want a van. I am nost sure if we will consider if vs the Toyota or Honda. I have concerns about the longevity of the model. Sales are really poor and I am not sure if either Nissan will do a major refresh or kill it off. A major concern for me as Honda and Toyota have great resale value and are not going anywhere.
Mar 17, 2013 (5:51 pm)
Digging around at safecar.gov, the Odyssey gets better frontal and rollover scores than either the Sienna or the T&C (the Quest is not rated). The frontal crash rating for the Sienna for a female passenger is only 3 out of 5 stars v.s the Odyssey that is 5 out of 5... I honestly thought the vans would have the same scores, and was surprised by this. I am not even sure if my wife wants to drive a Sienna now. On the top of our list was safety...
The Sienna and Odyssey get "Good" ratings across the IIHS site (which I don't trust as much) whereas the Quest gets a lower score for roof strength. Which is concerning to me since the van is somewhat taller and, I would assume, would be more prone to a rollover.
#7 of 51 T&C vs others
Mar 20, 2013 (6:33 am)
I have leased a 2001, 2006,2008 and 2011 T&C. I have never had a major component failure. Just relatively minor annoyances like loose overhead consoles, sliding door adjustments and such. These minor issues have gotten less and less whith each generation. Our 2011 touring-L has needed nothing except for a TB to reprogram the transmission, which smoothed out the shifting.. It is by far the nicest and best performing of the 4 T&C's I've owned. I have considered the Honda and Toyota vans through the years but always came back to the Chrysler. The biggest factor was price - you get tons more features for the money and like I said, reliabilty was not a problem for me. As far as styling is concerned I hate the exterior of the Honda (lightning bolt !), the T&C is neutral and I like the Toyota. The interior of the Honda is nice but I hate the 747 cockpit-like instrument panel, the Toyota is a massive piece of cheap plastic, and I like the Chrysler interior alot. I also use the stow and go for storage on vacation (2 adults - 4 older kids - no problem with nothing on the roof!).
#8 of 51 Re: Safety [dc_driver]
Mar 21, 2013 (12:21 pm)
Thank you, dc-driver, for these excellent detailed reviews. I've been test driving and have been seeing exactly what you have. The only thing I wish is that the Town and Country had is more plush seats like the Odyssey, that is hard to give up from my 03 Odyssey. Also the safety tests- that bugs me some though not a lot since safety is still very good for T&C.
My experience with Honda has been different though. We bought an 03 Odyssey and have had it in the transmission shop 5 times (not counting when it had to go back to have steering wheel realigned due to being screwed up, etc.). It has been rebuilt twice and finally redesigned to add a cooler to get it to work. The transmission design on at least 03 was flawed. Now I'm scared of the Odysseys for that reason. The Chrysler has a 100k mile powertrain warranty vs the Honda 60K powertrain. That's a big deciding factor for me. Also the Honda was not perfect - shortly after we got it had to get a new battery, replaced the passenger window motor when it failed among other things. So I believe the perception of the "perfect" Honda is for others, not me . Unfortunately I'm thinking that probably all cars have issues that get improved in newer models as they get redesigned.
I think we are going to give the T&C a try - it is a better value for our family. The transmission and other parts cost half as much, and we save 10K up front for comparable features. We found your review very helpful, thank you! Hope you find the right van soon for your family!
Mar 21, 2013 (1:17 pm)
Momvan, thanks for your kind words. If my wife and I had the same Honda experience you had, we would be looking elsewhere too. I still might try and get the wife to drive the T&C. Just so much value there. The Chryseler dealer called me yesterday and he sounded desperate to get my wife in to drive it (end of month approaching and sales quotas). I am pretty sure I can get everything I wanted for $29K (not including tax, tag fees). V.S. the Honda that is closer to $37k and the Sienna that is about $35.5K. We are driving the Sienna and Odyssey sometime tomorrow so we shall see.
One of my wife's friends just traded their T&C in for an Odyssey (it was a 2008 T&C which seems to be a more problematic model vs the newer ones) and she had lots of issues with theirs, so it does not help. They are announcing the mid cycle refreshed 2014 Odyssey late next week, so I may try to hold off on buying to see what the refresh offers. Rumor is 6 speed transmission will be standard along with the new Earth Dreams engine (more power, better gas mileage) and some more amenities. I would love to see the Odyssey get 21mpg City, 30 highway with an average of about 25mpg. Might be close.
#10 of 51 Re: 2013 Odyssey vs 2013 Sienna vs 2013 Town And Country [dc_driver]
Mar 22, 2013 (6:08 am)
For what it's worth, once you get used to the Dial Navigation Control it is so superior, it's hard to ever settle for touch screen again.
I am a gadget freak and early adopter of most major tech. When I shopped for my last SUV, the tech was so important that when I went to test drive the GMC model and they said it didn't offer Bluetooth integration I walked out without a test drive and scratched it off the list. The dealer couldn’t believe it was so important to me but I said I couldn’t believe they were so behind the times that they didn’t understand many drivers care about the technology now. Before each test drive I called ahead to make sure they had a model with a working navigation and wouldn't go unless they did, then I spent at least 30 minutes trying navigation features on each test -- driving the dealers crazy. I pretty much ruled out the Toyota at the time for the specific reason that it's navigation had a "nanny" feature that locked out using it while in motion -- ignoring the fact that there are often people in the passenger seat perfectly able to handle that.
When I first tried the dial I was skeptical and even after my half hour test I wasn't convinced. But I got the car and got to know it. By the way, I had had an integrated touch screen nav in my previous car and have owned several Garmin portables that we take with us on trips to use with rental cars. Combined with the test drives and using other rentals, I have used almost every nav system out there.
Anyway, after a few weeks I decided I would never NOT want a dial nav again (which pretty much limits me to Honda, Acura, BMW, Audi, etc. – note mostly high-end brands). I agree that it is inferior for typing a specific address or the name of a waypoint, but honestly I don’t have to do that often. In every other regard, the dial is superior. For example, the most common function I do during a trip is to zoom the map in and out of different magnification levels. I never bothered doing this with my touch screen because it’s only relevant while driving and it’s too distracting to find the right place to touch. But dozens of times on long trips – zooming out to see the path ahead during long stretches on freeways, zooming in when I want more detail for off-ramps or city streets, etc. Sometimes medium zoom in is fine for streets so I can still see the next couple turns, but sometimes super zoom is better when the streets are close together, etc. I can do all this without looking at the screen because you quickly memorize the position of the dial and how to handle it. So I need only glance at the resulting map, far less distracting than a touch screen. And that is but one example – most of the menu features can easily be used by the driver because of minimal distraction and voice response. Sure with touch screens – which the Honda has too – you can use voice commands but after the gimmick wears off you realize those are way more trouble than they are worth in most cases.
Also, of the three brands you mention, the Honda is the only one that won’t disable virtually all functions on the nav system while in motion. It’s up to drivers to exercise common sense but more importantly it doesn’t prevent my wife from being “the navigator” without us having to pull over to add waypoints or check alternative routes during traffic, etc.
#11 of 51 Re: 2013 Odyssey vs 2013 Sienna vs 2013 Town And Country [citivas]
Mar 22, 2013 (8:47 am)
Wow, great feedback on the Nav systems. It is one are that rarely gets discussed, but I agree, the technology is really important to us as well. My car has bluetooth phone support and my wife loves it. It is so critical for us with kids in the car and being able to take calls or stream music from our devices.
Definitely good feedback on the dial. We have a top of the line Garmin now, and I hate it. It is constantly buggy and routing us the wrong way, or the longest way. I have a cheaper Magellan that is quite old that does a much better job.
We will be able to test drive a Sienna that has the Nav tonight back to back with the Odyssey and I will definitely compare the two features. The Nav, for me, is a must have with the Sienna since the normal display screen is so tiny it is almost pointless to use as a backup camera screen. I give Honda credit for their big screen.