2009 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Grand Caravan is still fresh from a complete redesign for 2008, and for 2009 the Grand Caravan gets more safety features.
The Grand Caravan is all about transporting people comfortably and safely, while keeping them entertained. Its designers focused on interior creature comforts, and they succeeded. As part of that focus, Dodge has made its Stow 'n Go seating standard. Stow 'n Go has bins behind the first row that can be used to fold the second-row seats into the floor. When the seats are up, the bins can accommodate toys, games and other cargo.
You can get Swivel 'n Go seating with second-row chairs that swivel to the rear and a table that pops up between those buckets and the third-row bench. You can get a video system with one or two rear screens, 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. You can download you music to a hard-drive radio. Or you can fold down all the seats, and haul a stack of plywood or a load of hay.
The Grand Caravan's suspension delivers a nice, smooth ride, though it can sometimes wallow. It's more about comfort and safety than carlike precision. Electronic stability control is standard, and the Grand Caravan has performed well in government crash tests. The handling is a bit cumbersome, not surprising given the Grand Caravan's size. It doesn't go around corners as well as the Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest do. It leans in hard turns, so drivers will have to be careful not to upset whatever activities are going on in back.
Three V6 engines are available, including a 4.0-liter 250-horsepower V6 added for 2008. We found the base 3.3-liter engine can struggle with freeway on-ramps. The 3.8-liter engine is acceptable, though we prefer the 4.0-liter V6 introduced for 2008. The top engines from Toyota, Nissan and Honda offer more power and response.
But a minivan isn't about speed and handling. The Grand Caravan's unique cargo and entertainment features give it a competitive advantage in the minivan class. Families will like it, especially because those entertainment features will make for peaceful family trips.
The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan SE ($23,530) comes with a 175-horsepower 3.3-liter overhead-valve V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle. Seating is two-two-three, with Stow 'n Go (second- and third-row seats fold flat, into the floor) standard. Also standard on the SE are cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, conversation mirror, and P225/65R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Options exclusive to the SE start with Quick Order Package 24G ($1770) with tri-zone manual climate controls (including rear controls), tachometer, trip computer, outside-temperature indicator, compass, and alloy wheels. The tri-zone manual climate controls are offered separately in a Climate Group ($995). The Popular Equipment Group ($1495) adds power-adjustable pedals, power-sliding rear doors, and a power rear liftgate. UConnect Tunes ($725) comes with a 30-gigabyte hard-drive radio, six-disc CD changer, two additional speakers, and a USB connection. An Entertainment Group ($1395) includes a rear DVD entertainment system with a single nine-inch screen and Sirius satellite radio. A roof rack is also offered ($250).
Grand Caravan SXT ($27,825) uses a 197-hp 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 with a six-speed transaxle. SXT equipment includes three-zone manual climate control with rear-seat controls, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, power-adjustable pedals, power sliding rear doors, Sirius satellite radio, trip computer, compass, outside-temperature indicator, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, 115-volt power outlet, fog lights, roof rack, overhead storage, pinpoint LED lighting, and alloy wheels. The 250-hp 4.0-liter V6 ($630) is optional. Other SXT options include Quick Order Package 28L ($2365) with leather upholstery, heated first and second-row seats, power passenger seat, power rear liftgate, vehicle information center, additional interior lights, rechargeable/removable flashlight, bright bodyside moldings, sport suspension, and P225/65R17 tires. The Premium Group ($1995) includes tri-zone automatic climate controls (including rear controls), third-row power-folding seat, nine-speaker 506-watt Infinity audio system, UConnect Phone wireless link, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing wipers. The Security Group ($1425) adds rear-obstacle detection, Dodge's new Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Monitoring systems, UConnect Phone, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and automatic headlights. The Family Value Group ($695) includes a removable center console, sunshades for second and third row, and remote engine starting. The SXT Entertainment Group 2 ($2200) comes with a rear DVD entertainment system with two nine-inch rear screens, a six-disc CD changer, USB connection, UConnect Tunes, and a rearview camera. UConnect Tunes ($675) is available as a standalone option. UConnect GPS ($1300) includes UConnect Tunes, plus a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic, rearview camera, six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, UConnect Phone, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. With rear DVD entertainment, customers can order Sirius Backseat TV ($495). Other SXT options include a Trailer Towing package ($600) with heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, load-leveling suspension, and a trailer-wiring harness; a sunroof ($895), a power rear liftgate ($400); and heated first- and second-row seats ($500).
Options available for both models include Swivel 'n Go seating ($495) with swiveling second-row bucket seats and a removable table; a Mopar Exterior Appearance Group ($937) with special floor mats, mud guards, bright door sills, and running boards; second-row integrated child seats ($225); running boards ($700), and an engine-block heater ($35).
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags, all-row curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, four-wheel-disc ABS with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control. Front side airbags are not available. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, rear obstacle detection, and the new Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Monitoring systems. The Grand Caravan received five-star front and side crash ratings and four stars in rollover ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.