2004 Caravan New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan offer a smooth ride and responsive handling. These are family-friendly vehicles that offer the features and flexibility most buyers want and there's a model for every budget. With room for seven passengers, they can carry half the little league team and the Grand Caravan has room left over for their stuff.
Dodge has added new features to the Caravan for 2004, including a tire pressure monitor and a new electronic key fob that integrates security and convenience functions. Two new stereo systems both feature in-dash six-CD changers. A new Anniversary Edition features a handsome two-tone leather interior that feels upscale and luxurious.
The Grand Caravan is longer than the Caravan. Most models come with a powerful V6 engine that delivers strong acceleration for merging onto hectic freeways. Anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags are available, and all-wheel drive is available for improved safety on snow and ice.
Dodge sells more minivans every year than any other brand. Getting the basics right and focusing on value, packaging, and practicality keeps the Dodge Caravan number one in a highly competitive market segment. In spite of fierce competition, Chrysler commands 21 percent of the U.S. minivan market, selling about 350,000 minivans a year, 10 million in the past 20 years.
Dodge has streamlined the lineup to three trim levels for 2004. The Caravan SE ($21,130) is the base level and comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, hand-crank windows, manually adjusted mirrors, and a limited list of options. It comes standard with air conditioning, variable intermittent wipers, AM/FM/CD stereo, and 215/70 tires on 15-inch steel wheels. The longer Grand Caravan SE ($24,295) is similarly equipped, but is powered by a 3.3-liter V6 engine.
Caravan SXT ($24,185) add second-row bucket seats, dual-zone manual air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, power windows, power heated mirrors, power locks with remote keyless entry, an upgraded AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo, a rear window defroster, sunscreen glass, 215/65 tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels, a tire-pressure monitor, and other niceties, plus an expanded list of options. The 3.3-liter V6 motivates the Caravan SXT.
Grand Caravan SXT ($29,655) is powered by a 3.8-liter V6 and comes standard with four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and low-speed traction control. The Grand Caravan SXT gets all the SXT equipment listed above plus low-back reclining bucket seats up front, a 50/50 split third seat, steering wheel mounted audio controls, fog lamps, a roof rack, overhead console, tachometer, rear courtesy lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, and auxiliary power outlets. Dodge claims that dealer incentives on Grand Caravan SXT lower its actual selling price by more than $3,100. So for Internet shoppers, Dodge offers the Grand Caravan eX, identical in every way to the SXT except for a list price ($26,545) that's about what traditional shoppers can actually expect to pay for an SXT at their local Dodge dealership.
Grand Caravan Anniversary Edition ($32,370) comes loaded with two-tone leather, a six-CD changer, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and unique Anniversary Edition badges celebrating 20 years of Dodge minivans.
A power sliding door on the passenger side is optional on Caravan SXT, while Grand Caravan eX and SXT come standard with power doors on both sides. A power liftgate is optional on Grand Caravan SXT and eX. All Grand Caravans offer the option of manual three-zone climate control, with automatic three-zone control optional on eX and SXT.
Side-impact airbags and power-adjustable pedals are optional on all Caravans. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are available on all models except the base-level Caravan SE. Grand Caravan SXT is available with all-wheel-drive ($2,325), useful in the snow belt.
Options for Grand Caravan models include leather seating, a six-disc CD changer, rear-seat DVD entertainment, upgraded suspension packages, and a trailer-tow group that comprises a 160-amp alternator, 600-amp battery, heavy-duty engine cooling, wiring harness, and a load-leveling suspension.
Sirius Satellite Radio is available factory-installed ($325) or installed by the dealer ($299 plus labor). Either way, a $12.95 monthly subscription is also required. Uconnect, Chrysler Group's hands-free, voice-activated communications system, is a dealer-installed option ($299 plus labor).