Nissan's 3.5-liter has the power and responsiveness to fit in with the crowd, but it is a touch coarser than the other engines. It is also the only powerplant mated to a continuously variable transmission, which works quite nicely here. With six-cylinder torque, the CVT can keep the engine more relaxed at the lower end of the tachometer, avoiding the buzzy acceleration that we're used to in small four-cylinder cars with similar transmissions.
With its 2011 models (including the related Dodge Grand Caravan), Chrysler has simplified its powertrain offerings from three mediocre six-cylinders to a single, excellent V-6. Turning out 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, the 3.6-liter makes the most power here and could contend for the best engine. However, a lackadaisical transmission means that the Town & Country doesn't move among fourth, fifth, and sixth gears enough for easy at-speed acceleration. It also shifts more abruptly than the other two six-speed automatics in our test.
Toyota is the only automaker without an independent rear suspension in its minivan. The Sienna uses a torsion beam instead of a multilink setup, but it is so well tuned that it performs almost as comfortably as those in the Honda and the Nissan. A bevy of suspension changes have also improved the Chrysler's ride; it now takes bumps and breaks with much more composure. The body structure, however, isn't as rigid as those in the Japanese minivans, and impacts cause more rattles and knocks than they should. Steering in the Chrysler, on the other hand, is the best weighted and feels the most natural, although we doubt many owners will care. They should care, however, that the Honda's steering is comparatively lifeless, whereas the Toyota and the Nissan strike a nice balance, with lower effort than the Chrysler and less feedback.