2008 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is all new. It's a necessary redesign for Dodge, to remain the leader of the minivan pack. And it's a good one, with many improvements, including a new optional 250-horsepower V6 and six-speed transaxle (a minivan first), with fuel economy of just one less mile per gallon than the standard 175-hp V6 with a four-speed.
The wheelbase has been slightly extended and the stance has been widened. It's a couple inches longer and 18 pounds lighter. There's more headroom but it's no taller. Aerodynamics are better and it's quieter inside. The redesigned rear suspension delivers a good ride. Electronic stability control is now standard. The new Grand Caravan has earned five-star front and side crash ratings, and four stars in rollover ratings, from NHTSA.
The Grand Caravan is all about transporting people comfortably and safely, while keeping them entertained. Making the time pass quickly. Its designers focus on interior creature comforts, and they have succeeded with the '08 model.
The bells and whistles that make your Grand Caravan a mini rec-room are tempting, or maybe downright desirable, but they are expensive. You can get second-row chairs that swivel to the rear, and a table that pops up between those buckets and the third-row bench, for car-poolers to play gin rummy, or to eat indoors at a tailgate party. You can get a video system with screens on seatbacks, and wireless headphones and remote control. You can plug in your laptop. You can press buttons on the ceiling and watch in awe, or amusement, as the side doors and liftgate flip open and closed. Or you can fold it all up into the floor, and haul a stack of plywood or a load of hay.
The styling doesn't look radically new, but it's totally different. All the sheetmetal is new, as is the front fascia, rear fascia, and taillamps. The Grand Caravan looks more like a Dodge truck, now, in the nose at least. The hood is less sloped, and the new grille is the same chrome crosshair that fills our mirrors on the big Ram, Durango, and Nitro trucks.
The base 3.3-liter V6 gets an EPA-rated 17 City and 24 Highway miles per gallon.
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE ($21,740) uses the smallest of the three available engines, a 3.3-liter overhead-valve V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle. Seating is two-two-three, with the Stow 'n Go (second- and third-row seats fold flat, into the floor) optional as part of a package ($3740). (New Car Test Drive uses manufacturer's suggested retail prices, MSRP, which may change at any time without notice.) The standard interior includes a four-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system and fabric seats.
The Grand Caravan SXT ($26,805) uses a 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 with six-speed transaxle and Stow 'n Go standard. The interior adds overhead storage and pinpoint LED lighting.
Options for the SE include the G package ($1750) with cruise control, tinted side glass, rear climate control, and a bigger alternator. The H package ($3740 ) includes everything in the G package, plus YES Essentials fabric, second-row power windows and third-row power vented windows, 60/40 third-row bench, trip computer, heated mirrors, remote starting and adjustable pedals. There's also a Power and Remote Entry Group ($1995), including power sliding doors on both sides, power liftgate, eight-way power driver's seat, and driver's lumbar manual support. There's a Special Appearance Group ($995) with aluminum wheels, leather -wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, black roof rack and body-colored moldings; and there's the six-speaker DVD Entertainment System ($2120) with all the bells and whistles.
The SXT offers the L package ($2080) with heated seats for the first two rows, a MyGIG Multimedia Entertainment System, power liftgate and rear backup camera, plus other smaller things. The M package ($3785) includes hands-free phone, rear climate controls, second- and third-row window shades, cabin air filter, automatic headlamps, backup camera, backup beeper, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The N Package ($7290) starts out with the 4.0-liter single-overhead-cam V6 engine. Most of the rest of it is about deluxe entertainment. MyGIG, DVD screens for both the second and third rows, wireless headsets and remote control, Sirius radio, and an Infinity sound system with nine amplified speakers and subwoofer. The second-row seats swivel to face the third-row 60/40 bench seat, with an easily stowable table between them. The third-row seat folds into the floor, while the second-row quad chairs are removable.
Safety features that come standard on all models include electronic stability control, four-wheel-disc ABS with brake assist, and full-length airbag curtains. Side-impact airbags are not available. Grand Caravan received five-star front and side crash ratings and four stars in rollover ratings from NHTSA.