2012 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
Dodge Grand Caravan has been substantially revised for the 2011 model year, and we think the changes elevate this minivan on the consideration scale. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country offer class-leading interior convenience.
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan benefits from an extensive midcycle update. Changes for 2011 include revised styling, a new engine, an upgraded suspension, and a reworked interior.
For 2011, Grand Caravan has been repositioned to sell mostly below $30,000 while its Chrysler counterpart, the Town & Country, is packaged to sell above $30,000. For the Grand Caravan, that means several features are no longer available, including Sirius Backseat TV, FloTV, a power third-row seat, a dual-screen rear DVD entertainment system, and Swivel 'n Go seating with second-row seats that turn rearward to face a table that stows in the floor. However, the key features that make the Grand Caravan a compelling purchase as a people mover remain.
The new engine for 2011 is a 3.6-liter V6 that replaces three archaic V6s from 2010, offering more power and improved fuel economy. The new engine fixes a weak point and makes the Dodge competitive with the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. This fine new 3.6-liter V6 is mated to a mediocre 6-speed automatic transmission, resulting in a combination that delivers adequate response for most drivers.
The 2011 Grand Caravan suspension is stiffer than before and the van rides lower, making it more responsive to driver inputs than the 2010 model. Gone are the annoying wallow and float characteristics we noted with the 2010 model. Yet ride quality is still quite smooth. Like all modern minivans, the Grand Caravan is big, so it can be a beast to handle in tight quarters. Grand Caravan, Sienna, and Odyssey are all the same size: extra large. Indeed, we should call these vehicles midi-vans or vans because there is nothing mini about them.
For 2011, the interior of the Grand Caravan is upgraded, and we find the new look far more attractive. The materials are richer, though, like most of its rivals, hard plastic dominates the dashboard. Still, the new soft-touch door tops, redesigned gauges and nice bits of trim are welcome.
Grand Caravan is about usable space. Super Stow 'n Go is standard. It offers more 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.
The Grand Caravan's unique cargo and entertainment features make it a strong contender in the minivan class, and the 2011 changes only make it better. 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. While some options are gone, there are plenty of entertainment features that will help keep the kids occupied. They include three types of hard-drive radio, Sirius satellite radio, rear DVD entertainment, a wireless cell phone link, and a mobile internet hot spot. If you want more than that, check out the Chrysler Town & Country.
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 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 and other small cargo.
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan is offered in four models, Express, Mainstreet, Crew, and R/T. All come with the new 283-hp 3.6-liter V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Grand Caravan Express ($24,995) comes with cloth upholstery, tri-zone manual climate control, interior air filter, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, Super Stow 'n Go second-row bucket seats, split-folding third-row seat, power windows, power door locks, heated power mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, auxiliary input jack, trip computer, and P235/60R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
Grand Caravan Mainstreet ($25,995) adds power rear and rear quarter windows, and alloy wheels.
Grand Caravan Crew ($28,695) gets tri-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, power-adjustable pedals, power sliding side doors, USB port, Sirius satellite radio, Uconnect Multimedia with 6.5-inch touchscreen and 30-gigabyte hard drive for music storage, Uconnect Phone, wireless cell phone link, universal garage door opener, 115-volt power outlet, fog lights, roof rack and P225/65R17 tires.
Grand Caravan R/T ($30,595) upgrades to leather upholstery, power passenger seat, Infinity 506-watt sound system with subwoofer and three additional speakers, sports suspension and polished alloy wheels. It loses the roof rack.
Option packages include a Power Convenience group ($1,325) with power-adjustable pedals, power-sliding side doors and a power liftgate; a Driver's Convenience group ($810) with heated front seats, heated steering wheel, USB port, Uconnect Phone Bluetooth cell phone link, voice recognition, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror; a Passenger's Convenience group ($595) with heated second-row seats, second- and third-row sunshades, and a portable flashlight; Uconnect Hands Free group ($690) with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB port, Sirius satellite radio, Uconnect phone, voice recognition and an auto-dimming rearview mirror; Entertainment Group 1 ($1,300) with a single-screen rear DVD entertainment system; Security Group ($395) with remote engine starting and an alarm; a Mopar Exterior Appearance group ($940) with unique floor mats, mud guards, bright door sills and running boards; and a Trailer Tow group ($620) with heavy-duty transmission and engine cooling, load-leveling rear suspension, and a trailer wiring harness. Other stand-alone options consist of a Garman navigation system with real-time traffic ($695), removable second-row console ($220), Sirius satellite radio ($295), hard-drive radio ($695), the Infinity sound system ($795), power rear liftgate ($425), roof rack ($150), running boards ($700), and the load-leveling suspension ($290).
A Cargo Van ($21,800) is also available, with more rudimentary air conditioning and audio, no back seats, no carpet, skinnier tires, lower-line exterior trim than the Express model.
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 ABS with brake assist, 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.