Everyone makes fun of mini vans, but if you have to carry lots or stuff (screaming children are not people, they are stuff), nothing excels at that task like a mini van. I don’t have kids, but I do have a camera crew, and we have officially ditched our pickup truck for the quiet ride and enclosed cargo storage of America’s favorite parent trap. Yes, buying a minivan throws away your dreams of exciting motoring and curb appeal, but they are the A-Team of transport: getting the job done even if it’s a bit ugly. But don’t judge so fast; with the captain’s chairs and quiet ride, road-trips in these are more rolling leer jet than suburban embarrassment.
Try as they might, manufacturers can’t hook buyers with sexy styling, like Alfa did with the 8C. Function and comfort is king.
Today we’re comparing the original gangsta of parental conveyance, the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Touring L ($33,145), and the 2012 Nissan Quest SL ($34,500). Can Nissan’s re-done shuttle, with its boxy rear and CVT transmission unseat the minivan patent holder, the Chrysler Town&Country? Um, no.
The Quest is a good car. The sound deadening is excellent; a difficult task in any rolling cavern. The engine is smooth and the CVT is good enough to edge out the Chrysler to 60MPH. The seats beat the Chrysler in comfort, but only by a hair. City MPG is also better (by 2, 19 to 17) though loses to the competition on the freeway (24 to 25, respectively). But where it loses is cargo space and standard amenities.
While the Quest holds 63 cu. ft. of stuff behind it’s second row, because its seats fold flat, and don’t stow into a recessed area, it’s 20 cu. ft. short of the Town & Country’s 83cu. ft. maw. Likewise when the 2nd and 3rd rows are put down, thanks to the lower floor, the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country wins again, by 35 cu. ft. On my trips, that difference means being able to see out the back.
The Nissan Quest SL also doesn’t come with Navigation. In fact, it’s not even available; you have to go up to the LE for that, and that bus starts at $42,350. Yes, we all have iPhones, but legally that’s not allowed.
On the flip side, the Chrysler Touring-L comes with voice-activated Navigation, the seats are Stow n’ Go, and it has 23 more horsepower, which you’re thankful for when making a pass. Some have said the seats aren’t comfortable, but on several 5-hour drives, neither my passengers nor I ever complained.
These vans are quite similar, but the two things that matter to shoppers are space and price. The design in the Quest is a little, and the exterior could be called more exciting (beauty is in the eye…), but at the end of it all, these are appliances. I want functionality, and if I can get more of that and spend less, that’s what I’m going to buy.
The Town & Country does just that. It has more DC outlets, more airbags, more room, more standard feature, and it costs less. Chrysler knows this game well, as they should.