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DrBoost UltimaDork
2/15/16 6:35 a.m.

At this stage in my life, we've had a minivan for years, and will have one for quite a few more. Most of my friends are in the same boat. I am asked about my thoughts on our latest minivan, the Honda Odyssey regularly so I thought I'd share, for those that care. I also figured this is the time to answer the other FAQ, how does it compare to the Chrysler Town and Country that we had. So, here goes.
I'll start with a disclaimer. I'm not comparing MY Town and Country to MY Odyssey because they were 6 model years apart, that's a looooong time in the automotive world. I'll share my impressions of each with some comparisons where appropriate.
The vehicles in question are a 2005 Town and Country, not loaded, but nicely equipped and a 2011 Honda Odyssey loaded with everything but rear-seat DVD system.
Let's start with what is the whipping boy in my circle of friends, the Chrysler. We owned it for about 150,000 miles, selling it on at 183,000 miles old. In that time I made two repairs that I don't consider maintenance. The engine suffered a catastrophic failure under warranty (about 46,000 miles if I remember correctly) and was handled by the power-train warranty. No deductable, no out-of-pocket costs. The other was a headlight relay at about 175,000 miles.
Other than that, just maintenance. No front-end work until 100,000 miles, and none after that. The rear suspension, front and rear HVAC, exhaust, transmission, electrical systems were all flawless up through 180,000 miles. So, to all you Chrysler haters (most of which have never actually owned one) that's 180,000 miles on the rear shocks, A/C compressor, transmission, etc. That's pretty amazing.
We averaged about 19 mpg over our ownership. When my wife was taking the kids to and from school (short trips, lots of idling in the line) that average dropped down to 18-18.5.
The seats were always comfortable and wore very well.
Now let's consider the Odyssey. I'll start by saying, maybe my expectations were too high? By listening to a few specific friends of mine, you'd think that this is the minivan that Jehovah would make if he were to make a minivan. Maybe I was destined for disappointment.
It's a fine van. It's a nice van. I enjoy driving the van. That would be the end of the story if it weren't for the fact that the Japanese came so close, but failed to hit the ball out of the park.
The engine: yes, it revs nicely. It sounds nice when you're running up a freeway on-ramp. The VTEC is neat as well. But it has such a lack of torque down low it took me weeks of ownership to stop shoving my head forward on accel in anticipation of the torque that was not to be. Now, I know the power is there, it's just going to arrive a little late for the party. Too bad. If this were an S2000 I'd be fine with that, but we routinely have 4 adults and three kids in it at the same time. That's when I want torque. We are averaging about 21 mpg with no taking-the-kids-to-school trips. That's very good for a vehicle this large. The chassis: The Odyssey feels like you're driving a large Accord. I like that. It feels more refined than the T&C, maybe partly because of the 6 model years between them, I don't know how it compares to a 2011 Chrysler. That being said, there is one SERIOUS issue I have with the chassis. The lack of middle row stow-n-go. That's a HUGE problem in my book. We used the S&G in the T&C regularly and it's a great feature. Good enough that it'll keep me from paying the Honda tax at my next purchase. Having third row S&G but still having to remove the three middle row seats is a ground rule double at best.
The transmission: There is no combination of words in the english language to express my distaste for this transmission. It shifts up fine, but the downshifts are more tardy than the engine's torque. Coming to a slow corner, transmission is in third, slowing....slowing {should be shifting to 2nd at this point] turn the wheel, foot on the throttle....still in 3rd.....slowly accelerating....still in 3rdBAM!!DROPTO2nd!!! Man I hate that.
Ergonomics: I want to rip on the Honda for this as well, but I'm going to chalk it up to having to adjust to a new-to-me vehicle. But the power sliding door switches should be in the center stack so the driver and passenger can reach them, and the controls in the center stack fall away from the driver instead of being close at hand. I like the optional center console between the seats. Misc: The water management on the Honda allows water to stay in the weather striping, thus freezing the doors shut with alarming regularity. Maybe I need to replace them? My two biggest complaints with the Honda are the fact that there's no S&G in the middle row, and the fact that the cargo hold is both shorter and narrower than the T&C. Like most minivan owners, it plays double duty as a truck. Loading 4X8 sheets of anything will destroy the trim around the rear opening because......IT TAPERS IN TO BE NARROWER THAN THE LOAD FLOOR!!! What were they thinking!!! In the T&C I could load 4X8 sheets with no problem, I've even hauled 10' lumber with the lift gate closed. Not so with the Honda.
I know, this was a long read. I could go on and on about both vehicles, but I'll sum it up with this:
There is a reason everyone but Honda dropped out of the minivan race: Chrysler just does it that well. The Honda is a very close runner-up in the minivan game. It's great looking, drives very nice (but boy does it feel wide), and returns good fuel economy. Most folks experience with the Chrysler minivan is with the rental-grade variety, naturally, leaving a bad taste in their mouths and a worse smell on their clothes from the experience. From my experience, you can't go wrong with either choice. The Honda is a nice vehicle to spend time in and is easy on the eyes. The same can be said for the Chrysler. Much of what separates these to are things that are subjective. Many of the Honda fans I know don't want to be seen in a 'domestic' vehicle so the Honda is the defacto choice. I'm sure there are a lot of the 'I'm buying the Chrysler because....'MERICA!' out there as well.
So, there you go. My impressions after 300,000 miles in two different Chrysler vehicles, and about 10,000 miles in a used Honda. The car magazines will say how the driving dynamics are superior on the Honda. Yes, I (assume) the Honda will pull a better skid pad number than the T&C or exit a 6-gate slalom faster. But saying it’s a better minivan because it handles better is like saying the Panamera is a better 911 because it’ll fit 4 people more comfortably.

[flame-proof suit on]

EDIT: I forgot to mention the whole reason we didn't buy another Chrysler minivan. RUST!! We had two that rusted beyond repair despite regular washing, especially during the salt season. I know vehicles will rust, but the severity of both of our minivans is inexcusable. That being said, would I buy another Chrysler or Honda? I don't know. The Honda us rusting too, and Honda is reneging on they word and won't fix it.

Feedyurhed SuperDork
2/15/16 7:21 a.m.

I do not fit the minivan demographic and don't want/need one but a very nice and interesting read. Very informative and you obviously know your stuff. It's nice to know Chrysler is doing something very well. You mentioned that all but Honda and Chrysler compete in that segment but doesn't Toyota and Kia/Hyundai also fit in there? I haven't researched it so maybe they are gone. As I said I do not know this segment at all. Thanks.

DrBoost UltimaDork
2/15/16 7:37 a.m.
Feedyurhed wrote: I do not fit the minivan demographic and don't want/need one but a very nice and interesting read. Very informative and you obviously know your stuff. It's nice to know Chrysler is doing something very well. You mentioned that all but Honda and Chrysler compete in that segment but doesn't Toyota and Kia/Hyundai also fit in there? I haven't researched it so maybe they are gone. As I said I do not know this segment at all. Thanks.

Thanks for the compliments. I forgot about Toyota, since they are soo forgettable. I'm not sure about the Koreans, I'll have to check.

Grtechguy MegaDork
2/15/16 8:14 a.m.

Sadly, I agree with you. My 2005 T&C is still running strong at 186,000 miles with next to ZERO maintenance (Cleaned EGR valve, one broken front spring).

We also now own a 2010 and also looked at the Honda, but did not like it's interior, MPG, and lack of stow-n-go.

Chrysler did a great thing with the Minivan. Why they decided to rename it the Pacifica this year, I don't know.
Town&Country works. Becoming bored with the name? Ford has kept "Mustang" for 50+ years. GM has kept, Corvette, Camaro.

Leave the name alone. you're only going to confuse your customer base.

tuna55 MegaDork
2/15/16 8:15 a.m.

Agreed, the two best features of the Caravan over its competition are the 4x8 load area and stow and go.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/15/16 8:57 a.m.

I can offer some comment on the next-gen ('08 +) Chrysler. I have a '08 Grand Caravan - a fairly bare-bones, minimal option example. From what I can tell, the only options were Stow-n-Go and rear overhead HVAC controls. I bought it used at the end of '13 from Car Sense (similar to CarMax) with a hair under 78K miles. It just turned 150K miles a week ago. Mine has the base 3.3L OHV V6 - which looks like a toy in an engine bay designed for a DOHC V6. No power doors. Only the front windows go down. Manual pop-out rear windows. Base CD stereo. Manual HVAC. Cloth interior. At first, I thought it was an ex-church van when I found a Bible in the glove box (turns out Car Sense puts those in all of their cars).

So why did a single guy buy a minivan? I ride mtn bikes and most of them are not cheap and I have a personal problem with sticking my $8,000 race bike on a roof rack. Plus, I was hoping to use it for camping, which it can do with marginal success. The van spends 90% of its time in "cargo mode" with the seats all stowed. Regardless, it does an exemplarily job for which it was purchased.

So, over the last 2+ years, I've put over 70K miles on the van. MPG has averaged in the low 20's with occasional tanks in the 24 mpg range. I live in the salt belt and so far rust hasn't been a problem. Like the Dr, I've had minimal problems. A heater pipe needed to be replaced and the LF caliper is sticking. The CD player no longer works. I've done brakes once and many, many oil changes (5-6K mile OCI) with the cheapest 5w-20 oil I can get. It could probably use a tune-up by this point, but being a transverse V6, the rear plugs look to be a bitch to get to and may be seized, so I'll probably pay my mechanic to do that. I have had issues with the doors freezing, but I've had that with most vehicles over the years.

As far as handling goes, it is about as expected. If I pay attention to the line, I can still surprise the occasional sports car driver. It goes, stops and turns well enough in the snow with Conti DWS all-season tires.

Stow-n-Go meant that only Chrysler vans were even considered when I was looking for a minivan. While yes, I could remove the center seats, I really don't have the room in my house to store them when not in use - which as stated - is some 90% of the time. Plus, when it comes to "appliance type" vehicles, I prefer the generally cheaper parts of domestic offerings. That said, I'll admit there is a certain "cheap feel" to the van, especially in the HVAC controls. The entire interior is pretty low grade, but pretty much what I expected, so it doesn't bother me. Plus, I have no worries when I roll a dirty mtn bike into the back or loads of construction materials.

Would I buy another one? Hard to say. When my TDI is finally back on the road, the van will probably get less use. I often miss my old full-size van when I'm camping, although as a DD vehicle, I would miss the driver's side sliding door and 25% better fuel economy when gas goes back up to normal levels.

DrBoost UltimaDork
2/15/16 10:37 a.m.

^^ exactly! Being able to fully utilize the interior volumn is much more important to me than a few tenths of a G in a corner. I hauled a buddies 600cc motorcycle whike towing a 944 on a tow dolly and got 21 mog through the mountains of PA and VA.

nderwater PowerDork
2/15/16 11:05 a.m.

We've rented a 2015 Kia Sedona for the past week. It's a huge step-up in style and luxury inside and out from my brother's 2015 Grand Caravan AVP, but kia.com says the as-configured MSRP for this car is $31,000 -- and there are three higher trim levels -- yikes!

We also have a seven passenger 2013 Kia Sorento SUV. Except for ground clearance, the Sedona does absolutely everything our Sorento does, but better. Ride is better, interior space is so much more usable, even fuel economy is very slightly better, and the third row comfortably seats adults. My wife has never been a minivan person, but now she wants to trade our Sorento for a new Sedona asap.

Compared to the Grand Caravan, the Sedona's interior is very much more about comfort than utility. For example, the middle seats easily lift forward but are not removable, meaning the load floor is noticeably shorter than the Caravan. You're not going to fit a 4'x8' anything in this van. And, or course, no Stow-and-Go.

I like the Sedona, and consider it a worthy alternative to the Odyssey. But for the GRM crowd, there's no beating the cavernous utility of the Grand Caravan / Town and Country twins.

DrBoost UltimaDork
2/15/16 11:16 a.m.
nderwater wrote: A lot of useful stuff

Interesting. I fully expext the Asians to go after this market. Then they can sell vehicles to the generations that rode in them. Just like the Japnese invasion of the 70s, it's going to change the automotive landscape.

JohnRW1621 MegaDork
2/15/16 11:55 a.m.

The full size console in the new Kia is interesting.
On one hand, it takes away one of those things that makes a minivan great; the ability for Mom to travel back to the back seat while moving.

On the other hand, will it make the driving position feel more SUV like and attract buyers who might otherwise not look at minivan?

Robbie SuperDork
2/15/16 11:57 a.m.

Thanks for this thread. We currently are a tad more than a year into ownership of our 05 odyssey.

Ody vs. caravan in 05 (my goal in buying was to spend 5k or less on a 10 year old model or newer), and even caravans in general up to 08 or 09 or so seemed sad compared to the 05 ody, so I went with the ody.

I really like what happened to the caravan since then though (new body, new engine, really low price - American Value Package anyone?!?), so I am excited for the next round when I get to try again, hopefully in about 4 more years.

Duke MegaDork
2/15/16 11:59 a.m.

A year ago almost to the day we bought a used 2012 T&C, pretty much all the way up option-wise. It's comfortable and pleasant enough that we take it out for trips that don't require the space. Heck, we took it for Valentine's dinner last night; just the 2 of us. With 45k on the clock, it was $23.5k out the door, or about 60-65% of an identical new 2015 at the time.

We were replacing a 2000 GC. We cross-shopped the Odyssey, the Sienna, and the Sedona. I have no interest whatsoever in the Nissan offering, whatever it's called these days.

The Honda and Toyota were at least $5k more expensive for anything approaching the same condition and trim level, and neither offered the trick disappearing seats. Hell, our T&C has power 3rd row Stow-N-Go. The Sienna is available in AWD, which we would have considered, but A) good luck finding one, and B) expect to pay an additional $3k-$4k premium if you do.

The Kia was pretty nice for the price point, but not enough to sway us away from the GC/T&C twins. It was also notably smaller in the back. The third row was pretty close to the hatch, unlike the T&C which still offers pretty good room behind the last row.

Robbie SuperDork
2/15/16 12:15 p.m.
JohnRW1621 wrote: One of those things that makes a minivan great; the ability for Mom to travel back to the back seat while moving.

100% agree. Here is my list of actual utility needs of a minivan over our year of ownership. I realize not all are the same as me but I'll try to be as honest as possible. Reason I post this is because many people put their "believed" needs in front of actual ones when car buying. Note the first 6 all point to minivan over SUV, 7 is mixed, and the last 2 point to SUV...

  1. MPG. We have more than one car, but we only use the one 90% of the time. Therefore our main car sees a lot of miles each year. I think we did 20-22k in our first with the minivan.
  2. Space. 100% of the time our van has had a rear-facing carseat in it, and will for likely another 1-2 years. To be able to comfortably sit in front of a rear-facing carseat is something most cars cannot claim.
  3. Sliding doors. I can't tell you how many times I have been able to save a trip from car to house or similar because I can open and close the door with a button.
  4. Comfort. We have already done at least 4 500+ one-way mile roadtrips. We drive a lot to see friends and family and long trips are common. Heated seats go here.
  5. The feature John mentions. During said roadtrips, my wife or I have done this 10+ times. So awesome to not have to pull over or pull some dangerous maneuver.
  6. Stow and go. I have had to pull the middle row of seats out exactly twice this year. I also didn't do any major renovation projects like I normally do in a year. I expect this to increase slightly.
  7. Looks. I like that the van doesn't look old or like a total pile. I look at it almost everyday.
  8. Towing. I haven't towed with the van and I have only had one time I needed to. I like to think I would use it for towing but it turns out I don't really.
  9. 4WD. (or lack thereof). With snow tires this thing is a beast in the snow. Never needed, and we only went off road once where a truck like suspension was way overkill.
Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/15/16 1:13 p.m.

If there is one downside to the GC/TC twins it is they don't really hold their value, as Duke alluded to. Not a big deal if you are a "run it into the ground" type (many of us), but something to consider if you like to keep the family hauler a bit more current in age.

I've read they new T&C/Pacifica model won't have a cheaper Dodge version. I do hope that decision (if true) doesn't come to bite Chrysler in the butt. I can't imagine Dodge dealers are too happy about it.

codrus Dork
2/15/16 1:47 p.m.

A slightly different opinion: IMHO, while stow-n-go is cool, it's hardly essential. We've owned our Odyssey for 9 years now, and I've wanted to use the space that the rear seats take up for cargo maybe twice in that period of time. I mean -- it's a minivan, it's for transporting kids, and if you're transporting kids then you need to have seats for the kids to sit in. I don't try to use it as a truck.

Conversely, the improved driving dynamics of the Odyssey are evident every time I drive it. I'm not autocrossing it, I'm not tracking it, but compared to the Chrysler or the Toyota it's a joy to drive.

chandlerGTi UltraDork
2/15/16 3:48 p.m.

Another multiple offender here, I've owned each generation of GC/T&C and we just (December 28) purchased a 14 town and country with about 40k on it. Traded in our 07 GC that was rusting to nothing. This van is SO much nicer, my wife can't believe it and I'm super stoked that it retains all of its utility. The price drop from new is a-ok in my book since I don't usually sell my family car until it isn't worth fixing anymore, so $15.8 off the lot for a lightly used family car was a deal IMO.

My 10yo daughter said it sounds like a sporty car also; so I've got that going for me....

Duke MegaDork
2/15/16 4:26 p.m.

In reply to codrus:

With both DDs being adults, and DD#2 being in college, at this point I reconfigure the seats in some way about every 3rd time I drive the Concert Coach.

Toyman01 MegaDork
2/15/16 4:39 p.m.

I spent 1000 miles in a 2015 Town and Country. I don't know if it was a crash victim or cheap tires or what, but that was the single worst vehicle I've ever had the displeasure of driving. Twitchy, horrible road noise, and the seats were pretty uncomfortable. At 40K miles, I expected better. It almost had to be an alignment/tire problem.

The stow and go seats were awesome and almost worth the rest of the crappy experience.

JohnRW1621 MegaDork
2/15/16 4:44 p.m.

Was that 40k of rental car miles?
If yes, that's a hard life considering 3 times more miles than the average car sees per year and umpteen more individual drivers that a regular car sees per year.

Did you look at the tires because if rental I would imagine they were the factory original tires that are likely only rated for 50k so nearing the end of their best.

Toyman01 MegaDork
2/15/16 4:47 p.m.

In reply to JohnRW1621:

Oh yes, I'm sure 40K in the Hurts fleet is devastating to a vehicle.

Boost_Crazy Reader
2/15/16 4:51 p.m.

The Chrysler vans were eliminated from contention when I bought my wife's van a couple years ago by the lack of an 8th seat. For me, having a people hauler that could haul more people was much more important than not having to remove a seat occasionally. To be fair, I've also got a truck so I don't need the van for hauling much other than people and luggage. We ended up with a Toyota since it seemed like the best for our needs, and we have been very happy with it.

JohnRW1621 MegaDork
2/15/16 5:03 p.m.

Another little tip on Hertz one-way rentals.
Since the renting shop will never have to see the vehicle again since a one way trip, the shops try to unload their "problem vehicles" onto another unsuspecting shop.

Said another way, if the vehicle is due for service, that will generate an accounting charge to the shop that has to service it so they try to push that charge off to the other shop.

As a consumer, it is wise to try to reject the rental car they have planned for you on a one way trip. Find any reason for them to issue you a different car. This may help you avoid a more problematic car.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/15/16 7:27 p.m.

In reply to codrus:

Different strokes and stuff... I don't have kids and it looks like I never will. So people hauling is secondary to "truck use". And the GC does 90% of "truck tasks" better than the diesel truck it replaced. So the seats are there when I need them and out of the way when I don't.

I don't find the seats terribly uncomfortable and I do 6+ hr drives often.

Vigo PowerDork
2/15/16 10:39 p.m.

I just wanted to throw in that im currently daily driving a 5spd turbo minivan with an open cutout (that still isnt that loud) with nothing but empty cargo space behind the front seats. It's glorious. It just ran 14.3 at the track and im going back for 13s in the next few weeks.

I am REALLY impressed with the new Chrysler Pacifica that just got unveiled. Can't wait to try the PHEV version.

Right now, i think i dislike the 6spd auto in the current chrysler vans enough that i'd look at other alternatives just for that reason.

MCarp22 Dork
2/15/16 10:55 p.m.
Ian F wrote: If there is one downside to the GC/TC twins it is they don't really hold their value, as Duke alluded to. Not a big deal if you are a "run it into the ground" type (many of us)

That can be a disaster if the van is totaled and the pittance the insurance company offers is the actual value.

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