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December 2, 2009 > Auto Review: Grand Caravan by Dodge

Auto Review: Grand Caravan by Dodge

It has been quite a while since we have tested a minivan. Last week we drove an Inferno Red Crystal Grand Caravan manufactured by Dodge. Our test Caravan had the "Stow and Go" seating option for seven people. These meant that the second and third row of seats could be folded forward and completely disappear into the floor. This is a great way to carry a lot of items in the back of the Caravan for vacation or other trips.

Another interesting interior option is the "Swivel and Go" seating system. In this configuration, second row seats will swivel to face the third row of seats. A table can be inserted into the floor between these two rows to eat a meal, play games, or do other things while your group is on a trip.

Dodge has even put a rechargeable flashlight into the rear area of the SXT Caravans. Ours also included power sliding side doors on both sides of the vehicle. This makes it very convenient to get into or out of either side of the Caravan.

All Grand Caravans come with a 5 year/100,000 mile warranty on the power train and a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty on the other items. EPA mileage ratings vary from 16/24 to 17/25 on regular unleaded gas for the three available engines in two basic Grand Caravan models.

All three engines are a V-6 configuration: 4.0-liter develops 251 HP and 259 pound feet of torque; 3.8-liter is rated at 197 HP and 230 pound feet while the smallest one (3.3-liters) produces 175 HP and 205 pound feet of torque. The larger two engines drive a 6-speed automatic transmission and the smaller one gets a 4-speed AT. A shift lever sticks out of the dashboard and in our car was loose and felt cheap, seemingly ready to break off as you moved it from gear to gear.

Caravan's "driver's compartment" felt very comfortable and all instruments and controls were easy to read and use. The pedal cluster was adjustable and helped make the driving position more personalized. The Grand Caravan rode smoothly and was quiet however the suspension was a little too mushy for my taste even with a stiffer "Sport Suspension." In medium speed maneuvers, the body rolled more than I would like to see.

Grand Caravans come with a good range of safety features. A full set of airbags includes side curtain for all the rows. Anti-lock brakes are standard as is an Electronic Stability Program.

If you look at reliability information you find opposing opinions. For example, J.D. Powers called the Grand Caravan "The most dependable van for 2009." But Consumers Reports gave it a "least reliable" rating. Sometimes it is hard to figure out who to believe.

The base Grand Caravan SE starts at $25,065 and the SXT with the 3.8-liter engine starts at $27,300. It costs $630 more to get the 4.0-liter engine and $400 more to get a power operated tailgate. A two screen (for both back rows) entertainment system adds another $2,200 to your cost.

The Dodge website shows a number of incentives to get you to park a brand new Grand Caravan in your driveway.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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