2010 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
The Dodge Grand Caravan is all about transporting people comfortably, efficiently and safely, while keeping them entertained. Its designers focused on interior creature comforts, such as the popular Stow 'n Go seating system. Stow 'n Go consists of bins in the floor behind the first row of seats, and folding second-row seats that can be folded into those bins, resulting in a flat load floor for easily carrying larger objects. Or, when the seats are up in the normal seating position, the bins can accommodate toys, games, sporting gear, tools or whatever.
Another popular feature is Swivel 'n Go seating, with second-row chairs that swivel to the rear and a table that fits between those seats and the third-row bench, thus allowing up to five people to face each other around the table. It's great for keeping the kids entertained on a trip, for getting in a little work, or having an on-road conference. Other available features include a video system with one or two rear screens, wireless headphones, and remote control; a spot to plug in a laptop; power sliding side doors and power liftgate; and the capability to download music to a hard-drive sound system. Or, if need be, all the seats can be folded flat and the Grand Caravan can accept a sheet of plywood or some bales 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. 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. The base engine is a 3.3-liter V6 of 175 horsepower; it is fitted with a four-speed automatic. Next is a 3.8-liter V6 of 197 horsepower. Our preference is the 4.0-liter V6 of 251 horsepower. The 3.8 and 4.0-liter engines have a six-speed automatic. We found the base 3.3-liter engine can struggle with freeway on-ramps. The 3.8-liter engine is acceptable, though we think the 4.0-liter V6 is the best choice.
The few changes for 2010 include front-seat active head restraints, three-zone climate controls are now standard on the SE trim level, a rear-obstacle detection display is available, and the 4.0-liter engine is fitted with a revised final-drive ratio, which improves fuel economy.
The Grand Caravan's unique cargo and 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. Which is, after all, the reason the Grand Caravan remains so popular.
The Dodge Grand Caravan SE ($23,175) comes with the 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, three-zone manual climate controls with rear-seat controls for the 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 include Package 24G ($1,070) with power front windows and third-row vents, tachometer, trip computer, outside-temperature indicator, compass, and alloy wheels. The Popular Equipment Group ($1,495) adds power-adjustable pedals, power-sliding rear doors, and a power rear liftgate. An Entertainment Group ($2,120) includes a 30-gigabyte hard-drive radio, six-disc CD changer, 6.5-inch touch-screen display, a rear DVD entertainment system with a single nine-inch screen, six speakers, a 115-volt power outlet, rear park assist, and Sirius satellite radio. A roof rack is also offered ($250).
The Grand Caravan SXT ($26,730) has the 197-hp 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 with a six-speed transaxle. SXT equipment includes 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 251-hp 4.0-liter V6 ($630) is optional. Other SXT options include Package 28L ($2,760) 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 ($1,995) 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 ($1,425) adds rear-obstacle detection, Dodge's 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 ($2,220) 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 stand-alone option. UConnect GPS ($1,300) 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 ($995), 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 ($940) 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).
For the commercial buyer there is also the Grand Caravan Cargo Van, which is available only with the 3.3-liter engine. It is fitted with a heavier-duty suspension and is available with several specific options, including full-width cargo divider ($450), molded floor mat ($325), wall liner ($550), solid window inserts ($550), and vinyl window shading ($325).
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 Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Monitoring systems.