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Facing competition that is superior in terms of reliability and crashworthiness, the Caravan's sole advantage is its greater affordability.
Class-leading styling, configurations to suit almost any taste.
Less-than-stellar reliability history, troublesome crash-test scores.
Available Caravan Minivan Models
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New colors and more standard equipment keep Chrysler's best-selling minivans up to date until the redesigned 2001 model arrives.
We used to call the Dodge Caravan, and its longer-wheelbase twin the Grand Caravan, the perfect family vehicles. That was before the substantially revised Ford Windstar and Honda's all-new Odyssey arrived in 1999 with top-notch crash-test scores and at least 200 horsepower under the hood. Those are our minivan recommendations for 2000. After all, what sense does it make to buy a family van that doesn't protect your family as well as other minivans on the market? But if you've gotta have a Chrysler and aren't much interested in having the safest van available, you could do worse than choose either of these Dodges.
Buyers can select front-wheel-drive short-wheelbase Caravans in Base, SE, or Sport trim. All-wheel drive is available only on long-wheelbase Grand Caravan models, which can be purchased in the same trim levels as the stubby Caravan, with the addition of well-equipped LE and luxurious ES versions at the top of the food chain. In terms of size and features, Dodge has you covered with a wide variety of models. The Caravan line offers several thoughtful details, but the most important are the easy-out rolling seats and the innovative driver's side sliding door. Optional on base Caravan and standard on everything else, the driver's side sliding door offers the convenience of loading kids and cargo from either side of the vehicle. But unlike competitors from Ford, General Motors and Honda, they aren't power-activated. Easy-out seats are a snap to release and remove, though lifting the seat from the rear of the van may still require two sets of biceps. A 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter, dual-cam four (coupled with an archaic three-speed automatic) serves as the Caravan's base engine, but these sizeable vans benefit from a little extra oomph. A 3.0-liter V6 is standard on the Grand Caravan, and offers the same horsepower as the 2.4-liter but with added torque. A 3.3-liter V6, standard on SE and Sport trim, is a step in the right direction, but our favorite motor is the 3.8-liter unit, which outputs 180 horsepower and 240 foot-pounds of torque. The 3.8-liter engine (standard with all-wheel drive and ES trim; optional on LE), comes with a four-speed automatic transmission which provides shifts that are neat and smooth. ES models even have Dodge's AutoStick feature, which allows manual gear shifts for sportier driving. Light steering response gives these minivans an undeniably carlike feel, with an exceptionally smooth ride. Highly maneuverable and easy to control, Caravans deliver exceptional handling. Sport models feature specially tuned shocks and springs for more capable canyon carving, and are genuinely fun to drive. Due for a complete redesign in 2001, the Caravan and Grand Caravan can no longer be touted as the best-in-class minivans. The new models will need to match or beat Ford and Honda in terms of crashworthiness, features, and price to return the minivan-king crown to Chrysler's design. In the meantime, Dodge offers affordable transportation in just about any conceivable configuration.
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