What's New for 2006
As of December 2005 production, the 2006 Dodge Caravan benefits from a strengthened roof and side structure and updated side curtain airbags to improve its crashworthiness in side impacts.
Back in 1984, Dodge's Caravan introduced America to the modern minivan. Within its relatively compact dimensions it offered seating for up to seven, and with the second- and third-row seats removed, enough cargo space to handle a kid's move to college. Since then, Chrysler has sold more than 10 million minivans worldwide.
Last redesigned in 2001, the Dodge Caravan impresses with its peppy performance and carlike ride and handling qualities. These minivans have been Chrysler's biggest success story of the last two decades and have always been at or near the top of the segment's sales charts. But these corporate darlings haven't been without their problems, as various mechanical woes have tarnished its reliability reputation. Although quality has improved greatly in the last five years, the Caravan still tends to have more repair issues than import rivals. An extended warranty is a good idea if you're planning to keep the van beyond its basic three-year/36,000-mile warranty period.
The 2006 Dodge Caravan is geared toward families who need a seven-passenger vehicle but can't afford or don't want one of the larger and pricier minivans. Luxury features, such as leather seating and triple-zone climate control, aren't available on the Caravan, in keeping with its more basic persona. Keeping things simple, the Caravan comes in just two trim levels: base SE and well-equipped SXT. A 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline four hooked up to a four-speed automatic propels the SE. Since that really isn't enough power for a vehicle of this size, we'd advise you to get the SXT with its 180-hp, 3.3-liter V6. There is also a CV model, a cargo van geared toward customers seeking a low-cost vehicle for business use. In recent years, the competition has gotten stronger, with competing models offering better performance or more value. Regardless, plenty of folks will still be won over by its combination of agile handling, comfy ride and good looks.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
With only two trim levels to choose from, picking out a Dodge Caravan is relatively easy (there's also a cargo van version, the CV, that offers options for configuring a Caravan as a work vehicle). The base SE is equipped with a four-cylinder engine, 15-inch steel wheels, dual sliding doors with an alert system, a CD stereo and bench seating in the second and third rows. Stepping up to the SXT model adds 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone manual air conditioning (with separate controls for the rear), power door locks with keyless entry, second-row bucket seats and a tilt steering wheel. Many of the features fitted to the SXT can be had as options on the SE, including power windows, locks and mirrors. Popular stand-alone options include a rear-seat DVD-based entertainment system and power-adjustable pedals.
Powertrains and Performance
The Dodge Caravan SE comes with a 2.4-liter inline four rated at 150 hp. This engine may be adequate for a small passenger car, but it is definitely lacking as a power source for a minivan. The SXT's 3.3-liter, 180-horse V6 is strongly recommended. In addition to more muscle, another benefit of the V6 is its quiet performance in contrast to the four which gets buzzy when pushed. The V6 is standard on SXT and CV models. A four-speed automatic transmission is the sole gearbox.
Front disc/rear drum brakes are standard, and ABS is optional on the SXT only. All Caravans include a driver knee airbag. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional on both the SE and SXT. Neither traction nor stability control is available. The Dodge Caravan has posted good crash test scores in government crash testing, netting five out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side impacts, it earned four stars for front-occupant protection and a perfect five stars for rear-occupant protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Dodge minivan can seat up to seven people. When in family-shuttle mode, 15 cubic feet of luggage space is found behind the third-row seat. When it's time to make a trip to the home improvement superstore, removing the second- and third-row seats (which are by no means light) will open up 142 cubes of available cargo space.
The Caravan's most endearing qualities continue to be its agile handling and supple ride characteristics. We suspect that the 2006 Dodge Caravan will surprise and win over a lot of folks who expect the minivan driving experience to be an exercise in lethargic vehicle dynamics.