2016 Grand Caravan New Car Test Drive
For decades, the Dodge Grand Caravan has proved its mettle as a family carrier, as ready for highway excursions as it is for quick jaunts around town. Long considered an exceptional value among minivans, the Grand Caravan has gotten old. Little has changed for the 2016 model year, since a new generation of minivans is expected soon and it looks long in the tooth.
Still ranked among the most flexible minivans you can buy, the Grand Caravan has fallen victim to more stringent crash-testing programs. Safety counts big in family vehicles, and Dodge falls short. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives it only a four-star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety declared Grand Caravan Poor in the new small-overlap crash test, though better in other testing.
Advantages of the Grand Caravan include strong V6 power, fine visibility, and exceptionally flexible seating. Grand Caravan handily tops its more up-to-date competitors, including the Honda Odyssey, with a terrific system called Stow ‘n Go. Standard on all but the base SE trim, Stow ‘n Go permits second- and third-row seats to fold flat into spaces within the floor. When seats are up, those spaces can serve as storage bins.
One drivetrain is available: a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6, mating with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Gas mileage is about average for a minivan, EPA-rated at 17/25 mpg City/Highway, or 20 mpg Combined. Honda's Odyssey manages a Highway rating of 28 mpg. However, we have observed 28 mpg on the highway in both the Grand Caravan and the Odyssey. An Eco switch adapts shift patterns for optimal fuel economy on the Dodge.
Except for a hint of groaning from the V6 now and then, it's a smooth powertrain, with no shortage of low-end or midrange power. Steering and ride quality don't quite match Odyssey or Quest, yet a Grand Caravan feels composed on the open highway. Over sequential bumps, on the other hand, the Grand Caravan tends to bound, revealing that its suspension damping could be better.
Dodge offers a Blacktop package that includes silver-painted 17-inch wheels with gloss black pockets, black grille and headlight housings, and an all-black interior, including the headliner.
The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan comes in three primary trim levels, along with two Plus packages. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Grand Caravan SE ($21,795) comes with tri-zone climate control, six-speaker audio, removable second-row bench and fold-away third-row seating. (Few options are available, including Stow ‘n Go seating.) SE Plus adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, black interior with silver accents, and power second-row windows and third-row vents.
Grand Caravan SXT ($27,395) includes Stow ‘n Go seating, plus a power liftgate and sliding side doors. SXT Plus adds a leatherette interior, Uconnect hands-free, automatic headlights, and upgraded trim.
Grand Caravan R/T ($30,995) adds color-keyed trim, black leather-upholstered seats, a special suspension, and upgraded audio. Options include navigation, Bluetooth, DVD entertainment, and the ability to turn the minivan into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Safety features include curtain airbags and stability control with trailer sway control. Available safety equipment includes parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross patch detection, and automatic headlights.