What's New for 2008
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has been fully redesigned. A new 4.0-liter V6 is available as an option and Dodge's "Swivel 'n Go" seats make their debut. The new minivan also features several new or improved features like a power fold-flat third-row seat and more standard safety equipment. There's also new entertainment technology: Sirius Backseat TV. It offers three channels of kid-friendly programming. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans are the only vehicles to currently offer this feature.
Despite the popularity of crossover vehicles, minivans continue to be popular as well. Certainly no one will mistake the family Dodge Grand Caravan as a sexy personal statement, but you've got more important things to worry about these days. Each year, about 1 million people choose practicality and versatility over factors like "chicks dig it." They buy minivans.
Dodge invented the modern minivan and it has no intention of walking away from the segment it created nearly 25 years ago. And the fully redesigned 2008 Dodge Caravan is a much better van than the previous version on many fronts. Its base price is lower but it has more standard equipment, and it has many useful features that you simply can't get on other minivans.
A new V6 and six-speed transmission powertrain debut on the new van, plus Swivel 'n Go seating means the family van can now double as a sort of living room on wheels. There are also power fold-flat seats in the third row -- no other minivan has these seating features.
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is also roomier inside and there's more storage space behind the third row of seats. That's due, in part, to a van that's 2.5 inches longer and has a 1.9-inch-longer wheelbase. Expect a quieter ride as well -- Dodge's engineers gave the new van thicker glass, deeper carpet padding, additional seals and isolated front suspension components.
This new Grand Caravan also has a host of new electronic and telematics features. A three-zone video system is optional and essentially means that front, middle and rear-seat passengers can watch or listen to totally separate entertainment sources. The Nissan Quest has a third-row video screen but not a separate video source.
In our last comparison test, we ranked Chrysler minivans in last place. Had that test been held today, the results would be much different. While the Dodge's interior can seem a little more utilitarian than other vans', it is an excellent minivan overall. A long list of standard and optional equipment plus vastly improved driving dynamics and a sharp new look mean the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan (and its corporate twin, the Chrysler Town & County) should be on anyone's short list when shopping for a family-friendly vehicle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is available in two trim levels: SE and SXT. Even the base SE comes with a decent level of equipment such as power windows and locks, air-conditioning, keyless entry, a CD/MP3 player and a flip-down kiddie mirror. The SXT adds a more powerful engine, a power driver seat, power adjustable pedals, power sliding doors and rear air-conditioning. Dodge expects most people will opt for this version of the Caravan.
Optional equipment is plentiful, particularly for the SXT trim level. A MyGIG hard-drive-based audio system, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, 115-volt household-style outlet, satellite radio, a navigation system and a backup camera are available. Available exclusively on Dodge and Chrysler minivans is Sirius Backseat TV. This option allows passengers to watch three channels of kid-friendly TV. Cartoon network, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel are provided.
Other notable options include another entertainment package (that adds a separate video source and screen to the third row), a surround-sound audio system, leather seating, retractable sunshades, remote start, power-adjustable pedals, three-zone climate control and Uconnect hands-free phone.
Powertrains and Performance
Dodge's 2008 Grand Caravan is available with three engines. Base SE models get a 3.3-liter V6. It makes 175 horsepower and can run on E85 ethanol as well as regular gasoline. This engine gets a four-speed automatic transmission. SXT models come standard with a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 197 hp. Both the 3.3- and 3.8-liter V6s are carried over from the previous minivans. A new, all-aluminum 4.0-liter V6 makes its debut in the 2008 Grand Caravan and makes 251 hp. While this new engine is standard in the top trim level of the Chrysler minivan, it is offered as an option on the Grand Caravan SXT. The new engine, as well as the 3.8-liter V6, is hooked up to a new six-speed automatic transmission that features a manual mode for those who insist on shifting gears themselves, even in a minivan.
As you would expect, the smaller 3.3-liter V6 gets the best fuel economy, with an EPA rating of 17 city/24 highway. Both the 3.8-liter and the new 4.0-liter V6s post ratings of 16 city/23 highway.
A generous list of safety equipment is now standard on all models, even the budget-priced SE. Traction control, stability control, antilock brakes with brake assist and three rows of head curtain airbags are all standard. A rear parking camera, parking sensors and a built-in child booster seat are optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
The '08 Dodge Grand Caravan features a versatile interior with three different configurations. Stow 'n Go is standard on the SXT and gives the van the flexibility of folding all seats into the floor. When the seats are up and in place, the area the seats can fold into becomes a large storage area. Swivel 'n Go is another option, and allows the second-row captain's chairs to swivel around and face the rear seat. A small table is included and can be installed in this configuration. Most minivans have the option of power-sliding side doors and a rear liftgate, and this new Grand Caravan is no exception. Dodge ups the ante by offering a minivan first, a power-folding third-row seat that deploys with just one touch.
Minivans are not intended to be sports cars, so expect decidedly vanlike handling from the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. Still, it is tighter and much more pleasant to drive than the previous version. The interior remains quiet even at highway speed, and power from the 4.0-liter V6 is more than ample. The 3.8-liter V6 delivers adequate, if not spectacular, acceleration.
Read our Dodge Grand Caravan Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test