2014 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Grand Caravan is indisputably America's favorite minivan. Dodge sold 141,648 Grand Caravans in 2012, representing a 28 percent increase over 2011. Add in 111,744 sales for the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country, the Grand Caravan's mechanically similar but decidedly up-market cousin, and the resulting quarter-million minivans account for nearly half the entire U.S. minivan market. The Chrysler Group minivans have left Nissan, Toyota, Honda and some other bit players scrambling for the half that's left over, perhaps appropriate given Chrysler popularized the minivan.
The Town & Country is reportedly being phased out, following the exit of other manufacturers from the minivan segment, and we expect Grand Caravan to attract some of their would-be buyers.
Dodge lowered the base price of the 2012 Grand Caravan to $20,995, and has lowered the price again, to a 15-year low of $19,995 MSRP for the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan. According to Dodge, that makes the 2013 Grand Caravan the most affordable seven-passenger vehicle currently on sale in the U.S.
Yet despite its low price, the Grand Caravan keeps acquiring attractive new features. For example, integrated Trailer Sway Damping is now standard on all 2013 Grand Caravan models. A second-row bench seat is now standard on 2013 Grand Caravan base models, increasing versatility. And a new, industry-exclusive dual-screen Blu-Ray video system is now offered on 2013 Grand Caravan Crew and 2013 Grand Caravan R/T models.
Dodge Grand Caravan is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Industry for Highway Safety, the insurance industry's lobbying outfit.
The basic design of the current-generation Grand Caravan has been around since 2008, but it still looks fresh and crisp, especially next to some of the more forced and gimmicky styling we've seen on newer import-brand vans. Substantial interior and mechanical revisions back in the 2011 model year updated the Grand Caravan and have kept it more than competitive in its segment.
Grand Caravan rides lower and more firmly than minivans did a few years ago, making it more responsive to driver inputs. Long gone are the annoying wallow and float once characteristic of the breed. Yet ride quality is quite smooth. Like all modern minivans, the Grand Caravan is big, so it can be a beast to handle in tight quarters. The Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest and Honda Odyssey are all roughly the same size: extra large. We should call these vehicles midi-vans or, simply, vans because there is nothing mini about them.
Power is provided by the relatively new 3.6-liter V6 that is rapidly becoming ubiquitous in Chrysler Group products. Unfortunately, it's still mated to a mediocre 6-speed automatic transmission, resulting in a combination that delivers barely adequate response for most drivers.
We found the interior of the Grand Caravan attractive, though, as in most of its rivals, hard plastic dominates the dashboard. Still, the soft-touch door tops, boldly contemporary gauges and some nice bits of trim are welcome.
Grand Caravan is about usable space. Super Stow 'n Go is standard on all but the base model, and optional there. It offers comfortable second-row seats that fold into the floor, offering useful cargo space with those seats up or down. The third-row seats fold into the well behind them, and with all the seats down the Grand Caravan can accept a 4x8 sheet of plywood.
Grand Caravan's entertainment features make it a strong contender in the minivan class. Families will like it, especially because those entertainment features will make for more enjoyable family trips. That is, after all, the reason the Grand Caravan remains so popular. They include a variety of hard-drive radios, SiriusXM satellite radio, rear DVD or Blu-Ray entertainment, a wireless cell phone link, and a mobile internet hot spot.
The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan is offered in five models: AVP, SE, SXT, Crew, and R/T. All come with a 283-hp 3.6-liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
AVP stands for American Value Package. Grand Caravan AVP ($19,995) comes with cloth upholstery; dual-zone manual climate control; interior air filter; tilt/telescoping steering wheel with cruise and audio controls; folding, reclining and removable second-row bench seat with in-floor storage; 60/40 spilt Stow 'n Go third-row seat; power windows; power door locks; heated power mirrors; remote keyless entry; four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack; trip computer; rear window wiper, washer and defroster; chrome grille; and P225/65R16 tires on 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers or 225/65R17 on 17-inch steel wheels with wheel covers.
Grand Caravan SE ($22,995) upgrades to tri-zone manual climate control, Super Stow 'n Go second-row bucket seats, removable floor console with four cupholders, deep-tint sunscreen glass, and more body-color (rather than black) trim.
Grand Caravan SXT ($26,595) adds a power liftgate, power sliding doors, power adjustable pedals, six-speaker audio, a more elaborate Super Console, power rear and rear quarter windows, a black roof rack with side rails, and 225/65R17 all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.
Grand Caravan Crew ($28,595) gets tri-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, automatic headlights, SiriusXM satellite radio, Uconnect Multimedia with 6.5-inch touchscreen and 30-gigabyte hard drive for music storage, universal garage door opener, 115-volt power outlets, fog lights, remote start, and ambient interior lighting.
Grand Caravan R/T ($29,995) upgrades to black leather upholstery; Infinity 506-watt sound system with subwoofer and three additional speakers, DVD and HDD capability; sports suspension; and rearview camera. It's distinguished by body-color grille trim and Satin Carbon alloy wheels. It loses the roof rack.
Option packages include a Driver's Convenience group ($795) with heated front and second-row seats, heated steering wheel, USB port, Uconnect with voice command, Bluetooth streaming audio and cell phone link, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and second and third-row window shades; Uconnect Hands Free group ($690) with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio, Uconnect phone, voice recognition, and auto-dimming rearview mirror; Entertainment Group 1 with a single-screen rear DVD entertainment system, Sirius Satellite Radio, 40GB HDD, rearview camera, and 115v outlet; Security Group ($395) with remote engine starting and an alarm; and a Trailer Tow group ($995) with heavy-duty engine cooling, load-leveling rear suspension, and a trailer wiring harness. Stand-alone options include a removable second-row console instead of a more elaborate unit (no charge); the Infinity sound system ($795); and the load-leveling suspension ($290). Many more options are available, and the model you order and the combination of options you order can affect option prices.
Safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, driver knee airbag, all-row curtain side airbags, active front headrests, tire-pressure monitor, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS with brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control. Options include a rearview camera, rear park assist, Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Alert. All-wheel drive is not available.
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