Previously a lackluster also-ran in the minivan segment, the Dodge Grand Caravan recently received a host of comprehensive updates, highlighted by a more upscale interior and a new V6 with class-leading power, that make it a much more competitive model. Although its somewhat dated platform makes for middling driving manners, the Grand Caravan does boast a capacious and innovative cabin that makes it an ideal choice for large families.
Outside, Dodge has spruced up the Grand Caravan's familiar shape with a new "crosshair grille," sleeker fascias front and rear and "ring of fire" LED taillamps. Far larger and more substantive changes take place in the interior, however, which ditches the bargain-basement plastics and cluttered design of the previous model for a high quality and genuinely appealing new look. The dashboard sports a much simpler and more elegant layout, while strategically placed soft-touch materials create an upscale feel.
What hasn't changed for the latest model is the Grand Caravan's interior flexibility, which is largely due to Dodge's clever Stow n Go feature. Standard on the second row seats and available as an option for the third row, Stow n Go allows the seats to be easily folded into the floor, creating a flat loading space for cargo. Also standard are third-row "tailgate seats," which flip backwards to create a rear-facing bench.
Seven passenger seating comes standard, while the second-row captain's chairs can be swapped out for a bench seat to create room for eight.
Cargo space is rated at 33 cubic inches behind the third row seats; with the second and third rows folded, a substantial 143.8 cubic feet of cargo room becomes available.
For the latest model year, Dodge replaced the Town & Country's multiple engine options with a single motor. The new mill is Chrysler's ubiquitous 3.6-liter "Pentastar" V6, which boasts a healthy 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. The engine sends power to the front wheels via six-speed automatic transmission and returns EPA-estimated fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The powerful new motor helps the Grand Caravan tow up to 3,600 pounds when properly equipped.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Grand Caravan is available in five trim levels: American Value Package, SE, SXT, Crew and R/T.
The entry-level American Value Package comes standard with power windows and locks, dual-zone A/C, an AM/FM/CD sound system with four speakers, cloth seats, power heated and folding exterior mirrors and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
The SE adds to or upgrades those features with Tri-Zone A/C with rear air conditioning, two extra speakers for the sound system, easy-clean floormats, sunscreen glass, a floor console with cupholders and body color exterior trim.
Stepping up to the SXT nets 16-inch aluminum wheels, power second-row windows, power quarter vented windows and body color exterior mirrors.
The Crew brings 17-inch aluminum wheels, dual power sliding rear doors, a power adjustable driver's seat, power adjustable pedals, automatic tri-zone climate control, fog lamps, a power liftgate, remote start, Sirius Satellite Radio and more.
A new option for the latest model is an industry-exclusive Blu-Ray dual-screen DVD system.
Also new is the style-focused Blacktop Package, which is available on the SXT trim level. Outside, it adds 17-inch polished aluminum wheels with gloss black pockets, a gloss black grille, black headlamp bezels and fog lamps. The interior gains an all-black color scheme, with the headliner, door panels and center console all rendered in a stygian hue. Silver accent stitching adorns the black cloth seats, door trim and leather-wrapped steering wheel. A leather shift knob finishes off the interior enhancements.
Grand Caravan R/T: the Man Van
Dodge is making an effort to target image-conscious male buyers with a sporty R/T trim level the automaker's product planners refer to as the "man van." The R/T is distinguished by a host of aesthetic updrades inside and out, more standard equipment and a few honest-to-goodness performance upgrades.
The complete list of standard features and upgrades from the Crew trim level include: a body-color grille and side moldings, unique 17-inch aluminum wheels, a new front spoiler, a performance-tuned suspension, leather upholstery, power front seats, a Uconnect Media Center with a touch-screen interface, an upgraded sound system with nine speakers and a subwoofer and a rear parking camera.
Standard safety features on the Grand Caravan include dual front and side airbags, 1st, 2nd and 3rd row head airbags, traction and stability control systems and electronic brake-force distribution.
Minivan sales have been falling in recent years, forcing automakers to either put their best designs forward or cut out of the segment altogether. As a result, the Grand Caravan squares off against a small number of very strong competitors including the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna and the Nissan Quest.