February 09, 2009
Plenty has been blogged about our Grand Caravan's cargo versatility and capacity . This weekend during a moving expedition, I found what our beloved (or reviled) DGC can or cannot carry, as well as what does and does not work as we get ready to part ways with this long-termer.
The Grand Caravan cannot fit a Queen size mattress/box spring inside, but with some tie-downs, it's fairly easy and safe to haul them on top of the roof rack. The maximum length of a flat-packed furniture box to fit inside while still having the door shut is about 95 inches. In this case my passenger had to ride with her seat nearly in the glovebox, but we were both happier to haul this on the highway protected from the elements and also have the ability to park without worrying about having our new wardrobe frame pilfered.
February 03, 2009
With a large shelving unit in my weekend, I partnered with the cavernous Grand Caravan. The middle seats had been removed for a photo shoot, but the nifty center table was still installed. Removing the table is not hard, once you figure out the push-button release for the pole. The table top comes off its perch easily enough once you sort the under-edge release, and then the two pieces stay together with velcro straps and get stashed in the under-floor storage unit behind the driver's seat.
Getting the table top and pole into the floor was easy enough with the center seats removed, but might be a little more fun with the middle seat still in place. If you've never done it before, you might think the table swap is a pain (it's not exactly elegant in its deployment), but it's one of those things that if you've done it once, there's no drama.
With my recently tweaked back protesting at the in-van contortions, I camped onto the rear bench and fired up the Siruis Backseat TV, flipping between the three channels (Cartoon, Nickelodeon and Disney). The picture comes up almost instantly, and for the size of the screen, the picture is fine. A neighborhood kid wandered by on his skateboard as I was channel surfing and stuck his head into the sliding door opening.
"You watching the Super Bowl?" he asked.
"No," I answered, trying to briefly explain that the system only got three channels, but not live broadcast TV.
"Oh," he answered, completely unimpressed. Obviously disappointed that I wasn't watching the big game in the car, he cruised off.
FLO TV might cure his apathy. Anyone else beyond our own Doug Newcomb think live in-car TV is the next BIG THING?
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 25,265 miles
January 25, 2009
Nothing more here than a little behind the scenes action of our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. With its massive sliding doors, wide liftgate, manual shift control, powerful motor and sturdy roof, the mighty Dodge is the preferred workhorse for our photography staff.
Just after I took that picture, I took a good look at the Ram emblazoned on the "chrome" grille and chuckled. "It's a mini-van, this thing shouldn't have the same logo as those burly trucks from the same company.", I thought. But then it hit me. I've been blinded by the leather-like interior, and the fancy-pants (but impossible to use) navigation system, and the power remote doors. The Dodge Grand Caravan isn't the luxurious retreat from the daily grind that the Honda Odyssey is; the DGC is a workhorse. It's the kind of minivan you can load with firewood found in a ditch. Or fill with dogs. Lots of dogs. Muddy ones. I wouldn't do that with an Odyssey. I'd have to lay down a tarp first and then put a blanket over the tarp and then I'd have to take it to a detailer and then probably sell it.
The Dodge Caravan wears the Ram for a reason. It's not pretentious or pretending to be anything other than a Minivan. We've never abused the DGC but we have put it to work and that's what you should be able to do with a utility vehicle. Too many vans and crossovers forget what fueled their initial popularity.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 24,952 miles
January 21, 2009
There's plenty of dancing room in the middle of the DGC ever since the Mikes removed the second-row Swivel 'n' Go captain's chairs for couch-hauling duty. I took this as an opportunityto see what it's like to have a child safety seat in the third row.
Installation was easy enough.My placement choicewas limited to the center seating position because that's the only one with a top tether anchor in the cargo area (see photo below). Seating an adult in the remaining seating position on the passenger side ofthe bench seat was possible, but I don't recommend it. It's pretty squishy back there (though there's TONS of legroom), but maybe if your car seat is a slim one, it wouldn't be as tight a squeeze. Cinching the kid in was a breeze; being able to kneel right in front of herand tighten the harness strap (rather than leaning in from the outside and tugging at back-wrenching angle) was fantastic.
Once the captain's chairs are back in there, I'll try this again and report back on how much harder it is to accomplish.
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 24,781 miles
January 09, 2009
No problem for the Grand Caravan SXT. Well, not a problem so long as you don't mind leaving the gate open a hair
Oh, and not really a problem unless you have about 20-minutes and the freakish gorilla strength required to get the second-row seats out. At one point during the removal I had to use my foot as both a lever and as a stopper to block the tracks from locking themselves again. Swivel 'N Go is a neat parlor trick, but Stow 'N Go is far more useful.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 24,008 miles
January 05, 2009
Sometimes we get accused of abusing the vehicles in our long-term test fleet. Well, guilty as charged. This weekend I threw a 10-foot tall, bone-dry Chrismas tree on the roof of our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. Nothing to protect the roof but the paint Dodge supplied. Then I strapped it down to the roof rack with the world's largest ratchet strap and headed for the local recycle center.
The next morning, in a moment of charity, I decided to hose all the pine needles off the van. Imagine my surprise when I noticed some of the trim bleeding salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats.I'm surprised because we drove the van to Bonneville way back in July.
You see, we figure it's our job to be extra hard on these cars and trucks. If they survive 12 months with us, then they just might be worth your hard earned bucks.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 23,700 miles
January 02, 2009
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief
December 01, 2008
After my Thanksgiving misadventure, my driver's license and gas card safely arrived via Fed Ex on Friday, meaning I was good to return home from Phoenix yesterday. Unfortunately, I forgot my cell phone and work computer this time.
November 25, 2008
As expected, our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan's engine bay is nothing special to look at. Actually, it's rather dirty from the van's trip to the salt flats. Yet it's what's underneath this bland piece of plastic (which I lazily cleaned up for this photo) that's actually one of this van's best attributes.
As Scott noted early on, our DGC SXT's got motor. Its 251-horsepower V6 delivers a 0-60-mph time of 8.8 seconds (or 8.4 seconds with a drag-strip rollout). A comparison test we conducted earlier had the DGC out-accelerating a Honda Odyssey.
Meanwhile, the engine sings a respectable throatynote when you pin the throttle and the transmission upshifts with a surprising level of swiftness. It's certainly one of the Grand Caravan's strengths.
The drawback is that Dodge offers this engine on the top-line SXT trim level only. It's optional and comes as part of a pricy leather-and-power package, the $2,365 Quick Order Package 28L (2009 DGC pricing).
It's a bummer that this V6 can't be fitted to other configurations, as maybe you could get a budget van with a buff engine.
I'd hate to think of what a Grand Caravan would be like to drive with the base 175-hp V6, four-speed automatic and a back full of people/cargo.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 20,051 miles
November 19, 2008
After two weeks of living with our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, I must say I have renewed appreciation for the minivan as a vehicle type. No, you can't do big smoky burnouts, but for daily life (with kids) you can't beat it. Following are my top five reasons why minivans kinda rock.
Sliding rear doors: For convenience, you can't beat them. Entry and exit is super easy thanks to the large opening, and it gets even easier with power operation. How many crossover SUVs do you know of that have power-opening rear doors?
Massive interior storage: Besides roomy accommodations for passengers, the heavies of the segment typically offer about 145 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. If you've moved house before, you know that minivans blow pickup trucks out of the water for moving boxes and even many pieces of furniture.
Plentiful storage spaces: Years of evolution has given minivans some of the best storage options in any vehicle. Innovative storage bins and plenty of cupholders are the norm, not the exception.
Safety: You won't find a vehicle segment with better safety scores. Just about every minivan sold has top NHTSA and IIHS crash-test safety scores.
Entertainment: I'd wager the best rear entertainment systems are found in minivans. Our DGC is a particularly good example thanks to its dual display screens and Sirius Backseat TV.
A lot of this is fairly obvious stuff. Yet presented will all this, my wife still says she'll never be caught dead owning a minivan. Rationality and logic, it seems, aren't enough to stem the minivan's sales decline.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
August 11, 2008
After a few days with the Dodge Grand Caravan, I have this to say.
There'sa loud snappish creak coming intermittently from the driver-side B-pillar area. It seems to happen most over bumps, and during harder accelerations and harder braking. Quick stop: CREEAK. Hard acceleration to merge on the freeway: CREEEAK. -1
Something is definitely up with the brakes: Before I took the keys, Vehicle Testing Coordinator Mike Schmidt mentioned to me that the DGC's brake rotors might be warped and that I should look out for any sound or feeling that could indicate that, soI set my Spidey senses to "tingle." The first night, I heard and felt nothing. But the next day,a Friday,I did notice a disturbing groaning/grinding sound and feeling whenever I hit the brakes. Seemed to get worse the harder I depressed the pedal. On Saturday, the noise and sensation disappeared, only to reappear on all three trips we took in the minivan on Sunday. We'll be taking it back to the dealer. It did make me forget about the B-pillar creak, though. -2
On an impromptutrip to Ikea, I was able to lay a bundle of 5-foot-long bamboo garden stakeson the seat back of the third-row seat and fit them into the space between the second-row seats (blue arrow above points to one of the poles peeking over the seatback), while tucking a whole lot of other Ikea stuff (plus the various bags and toys and things we needed for a trip to grandma's for the day) into the deep storage well behind the third row. Very convenient. We never have impromptu Ikea adventures on the way to grandma's in our personal vehicles (both coupes). +1
Stay tuned on the brake rotor issue.
Bryn MacKinnon @ 12,589 miles
May 19, 2008
Yesterday the Jacquot family took the long-term Dodge Grand Caravan to the XTerra West Championship in Temecula, California. A far cry from the adventure vehicle the marketing folks had in mind when they originally named the series, the Caravan is better than any SUV when it comes to transporting all the goods of an active family.
About half-way through the morning's competition, the mercury climbed into the mid 90s forcing my wife and nine-week-old daughterinto the Caravan for a periodic respite from the heat. By mid-day it was downright miserable:
We asked a lot of the Caravan's cooling system yesterday. It ran for long periods keeping the wife and baby comfortable as the wind wound up outside. There was never a hint of overheating.
Packing for the trip was easy. In fact, there's so much room in this van I didn't even bother doing it efficiently. Here's what it looks like when configured to haul three adults, a baby, a bike, a running stroller, three chairs, a tent, a baby bouncer, two gear bags, a cooler and a small hand cart to move the load:
So the inside was cool and comfortable, but the outside of the van might still be wishing it was in Michigan. This is what the rear bumper cover does when it's this hot:
May 12, 2008
We haven't had a minivan in our Santa Monica-based test fleet since the 2006 Kia Sedona left nearly a year ago, and I had almost forgetten just how handy they can be.
Last week Detroit Editor Dan Pund drove our new long-term 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan from Michigan to California, and this weekend I usedit to drive my daughter andfour of her friends to a birthday party, then stopped on the way home to pick up nine 12-foot pieces of crown molding from the lumber yard.
The Caravan moved both the kids and the trim with the same amount of ease.
I love minivans...
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 4,122 miles
April 30, 2008
You've got to know where the line is before you know if you want to cross it, right?
Thanks to the clever folk at Chrysler LLC, I know exactly where the line is. You see, the company has thoughtfully molded into gray hatchback sill cover a raised line to show you exactly how faryour junk can protrude from the cargo area and still manage to close the hatch. And helpfully, the company also molded the words "LOAD TO THIS LINE" into the piece...
This way, as you accumulate stuff in the back, you'll know exactly when you cross the line.