There are many things America gets right: The Big Mac, Disney World, college football, the Super Bowl. Add Dodge to that list. In the last few years Dodge has produced vehicles we Americans can be proud of. One example of this is the Dodge Grand Caravan, even though it’s actually built in Canada… which we like to call the US of “Eh”.
Emerging out of the Dark Ages of Chrysler, the minivan started a revolution when Dodge introduced it in 1984. It seems that suburban American families needed a vehicle to carry a growing family, haul the groceries and pieces for our do-it-yourself home improvement projects. And it was Dodge who staged a carpe diem moment introducing a new type of vehicle that wasn’t a car, or a full sized van. The minivan was born and suddenly suburban driveways looked different; filled as they were with boxy vehicles ready to take on whatever a modern family could throw at them.
Since then the minivan has become somewhat maligned; a symbol of our generational shift. We give up our man-cards, learn to change diapers, replace “let’s party” with “yes dear”. We have responsibilities; our carefree youthful days are over, time to grow up, push a stroller, learn about soccer, after all we now own a minivan. No matter the criticism though, 30 years later the minivan is now firmly entrenched in American society and Dodge still leads the way when it comes to domestic brands. The sales of all minivans have fallen in the last decade, thanks in large part to the growth and availability of SUVs we suspect, but Dodge and Chrysler still own nearly half this shirking market. After a week recently with a 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan, it’s easy to see why.
Dodge has shown in recent years that they can make quality vehicles and the Caravan is a great example. The interior has a nice fit and feel with a well designed dash and its Uconnect touch screen system is one of the better ones on the market.
For 2014 the Caravan is offered in four trim levels: American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT and R/T. One of the highlights is the starting price point. The MSRP for the base AVP model starts out at a somewhat surprising $19,995 and continues up to the R/T which has an MSRP of $29,995. The SXT model, Black top edition, we had for the week has a base MSRP of $26,995.
The base model AVP already comes standard with a slew of features including, 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power front windows, dual-zone air-conditioning, a second-row reclining-folding-removable bench seat, an overhead console, a conversation mirror and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. With the SE you add such items as rear privacy glass, tri-zone climate control (with rear air-conditioning), second-row captain's chairs with the very nice Stow 'n Go fold-into-the-floor feature, a front floor console and a six-speaker audio system.
You’ll step up to 17-inch alloy wheels on the SXT, and get roof rails, power rear windows and a larger floor console. Also standard on the SXT is the Power Convenience Group, which includes a power liftgate, power sliding rear doors and power-adjustable pedals.
Moving up to the top of the line R/T you get the 17-inch alloy wheels with special tires, a performance-tuned suspension, remote start, automatic headlights, foglights, black interior accents, some pretty cool interior lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather first- and second-row seats, power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), a rear overhead console, a trip computer, a 115-volt power outlet, the 6.5-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an upgraded nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a USB port and 28 gigabytes of digital music storage. No matter the model, even when you add such things as the Safety Sphere Package of features includes ParkSense rear park assist system, ParkView rear backup camera, Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection system, rain-sensitive wipers and automatic headlamps you still can get the Caravan at a great price.
As mentioned we had the SXT the Blacktop package. The package features 17-inch aluminum wheels, a black grille, foglamps, leather interior accents, premium cloth seats and silver accent stitching. The black interior seemed a little strange at first, but upon further review the thought of all the use a family will get out of this van means the black interior will hide stains for many years.
No matter the model, the Dodge Caravan is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 with 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque that delivers the power via a six-speed automatic transmission. On the road the Caravan drives like, well, a minivan. You’ll not be whipping around a turn in an aggressive manner; however the ride however is smooth, the interior quiet and roomy and the power more than adequate for everyday use. With estimated EPA ratings of 17 mpg city and 25 highway, the fuel mileage is also very good; during our test week driving on both the highway and city streets our mpg was nearer the 25, which we found impressive.
As mentioned the market for the pure minivan is shrinking. And that’s a shame. Sure an SUV or even a crossover can perform many of the same functions, but the minivan can do it all, and it was the first to do so. It can take the kids to school and, in the case of the Caravan, the seats can be stowed giving a cavernous amount of room to do whatever else a family needs. The market for the minivan may continue to shrink, but there is no doubt in our minds that with its Grand Caravan, Dodge will be leading the way until the very end.
The 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan
MSRP (as tested SXT Blacktop): $32,505 (includes options and $995 destination charge)
Engine size 3.6 l V6
Horsepower 283 hp @ 6400 rpm, torque 260 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm
EPA Ratings: (CTY/HWY) 17/25 mpg (as tested in mixed conditions: 25mpg)
Width 6 ft. 6.7 in. (78.7 in.)
Height 5 ft. 7.9 in. (67.9 in.)
Length 16 ft. 10.8 in. (202.8 in.)
Ground clearance 0 ft. 5.6 in. (5.6 in.)
Wheel base 10 ft. 1.2 in. (121.2 in.)
Front head room 39.8 in.
Front hip room 58.4 in.
Front leg room 40.7 in.
Front shoulder room 63.7 in.
Rear hip room 65.0 in.
Rear head room 39.3 in.
Rear leg room 36.5 in.
Rear shoulder room 64.1 in.
Maximum towing capacity** 3600 lbs.
Maximum payload** 1540 lbs.
Epa interior volume 196.5 cu.ft.
Curb weight 4510 lbs.
Cargo capacity, all seats in place 33.0 cu.ft.
Maximum cargo capacity 143.8 cu.ft.
** when adequately equipped, which may require engine and/or other drivetrain upgrades.
Basic warranty 3 Yr./ 36000 Miles