2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT: First Impressions
May 22, 2008
I've been eyeing the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan from afar for quite some time. The styling hasn't really grabbed me, but a lot of the features I've heard about sound pretty good.
I finally had my first turn at the wheel. My impressions haven't fully gelled, but here is where my head is at so far:
Ride & handling: Decent steering effort, but on center feel is a bit "thick"--it isn't as precise as I'd like. The ride is pretty smooth, but the rear end bounds up and down way too much when traversing long amplitude waves in the road--the kind you get when crossing bridges, etc. The rear springs feel too soft and the damping too weak. (I used to tune suspensions for two other OEs for a living, including minivans, so I'm not making this up.) And this is empty, folks. It's liable to feel less settled with a load. Third row passengersmight need airsickness bags on the roads I drive going to Oregon.
Engine & transmission: Good in-town and freeway acceleration from the 4.0-liter V6. The transmission upshifts are quick (!) and smooth. Not bad at all, but I still need to check it on a grade. The odd dash-mounted shifter and left-right manual mode make sense, in a way, because you can tap the manual shifter up or down without removing your hands from the wheel.
Interior features: Pretty impressive. I'll do more on this later, but my daughters were wowed by theswiveling seats, table and satellite TV where they could watch Disney's "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" while underway on a screen in either of the two back rows. If my eldest were here, she'd say "OMG!" They can't wait to try their Nintendos in the input jacks. The power-folding third seat controls are a bit of a puzzle--it's easy for them to zig when you want them to zag. Make mine manual, please.
Interior quality: Too my hard plastics for my taste, and I could do without the strakes in the glove box cover. And that huge center stack has the same obsolete Dell tower computer look that GM finally got rid of when they redid the Cadillac CTS this year. The nav system is easy to use, but the screen isn't shaded much at all and the images washed out often on my commute home.
In the 2nd row, my daughter complained about the lack of a cup holder (only in the sliding door itself and the back of the front console, both out of her reach) and the cheesy hard plastic pockets for her use behind the front seats.
Exterior: I'm not crazy about the design and the huge all-chrome mirrors. But the thing that is really worrisome is that I randomly saw ANOTHER red one on the freeway just yesterday, and it had the same plastic step bulge that Josh noticed on ours a few days ago.Apparently thisisn't a one-off issue.
There's some good stuff here. I'm sure my daughters won't be hard to convince if we decide to take this to Oregon this summer.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Automotive Testing @ 5,059 miles