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 08, 2009
There's so much to like about the Dodge Caravan - sadly, seems like for every positive, there's a negative.
I like the waythis vanlooks - I think the Grand Caravan is the second best looking van out there. Odyssey is first. The Dodge isn't much to look at inside however, the Chrysler version is more attractive - still, they both have the same plasticy materials.
The transmission is pretty good - upshifts are nicely muted but the shift lever itself is cheap feeling. The van's highway ride is nice and cushy but if you even think about braking or turning it feels cumbersome and heavy. Plus, this thing creaks like a listing tanker - sounds cheap all around.
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
December 02, 2008
Minivans are a lot more popular in Canada (especially the Chrysler models) and so is hockey, soit seemed like the perfect vehicleto take last night to see my Toronto Maple Leafsbeat the L.A. Kings. For the last week, I've basically been driving the official vehicle of the Canadian hockey mom (joke, pit bull, lipstick) so it was probably about time I go to a hockey game. Thehockey was excellent and the van, well, "It sounds like we're in a covered wagon," my girlfriend said after the continuous creaking and rattling that comes with every road bump, driveway entrance or simple change in momentum.
Now for some house keeping. We've had the DGC since February and 21,611 miles later, we've never updated the fuel economy (there have been other things to comment about). So here it is. It's important to note that the Caravan lived with Dan Pund for a while in the less-congested confines of Detroit and has made quite a few long-distance trips, including his adventure out west.
Overall Fuel Economy: 18.6 mpg
EPA Combined: 20 mpg
Best Tank: 30.8 mpg (137.8 miles on 4.471 gallons of fuel achieved by photog Kurt Niebuhr)
Worst Tank: 9.7 mpg
Furthest Traveled on One Tank: 385.7 miles
Most Fuel Pouredinto the 20-gallon tank: 18.428 gallons
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 21,611 miles
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
October 28, 2008
I've got to admit, I've gotten old. When I drive around I listen to talk radio almost exclusively. When I was younger, I thought talk radio was a waste of time. Back then I just wanted to blast AC/DC, now I want to hear a debate over the pros and cons of a high speed rail line.
Well it so happens on my way out to Fontana this afternoon they were talking about the Big Three and a proposed bail-out loan for them. Deep into this discussion they bring on a guy talking about reliability ratings and how Ford has gone up, GM has gone both up and down, while Dodge has taken a nose dive, citing the Sebring and their "line of minivans" as the worst of the worst from the maker.
Really? I can't imagine. Nearly all of the posts on our site regarding this vehicle are negative in some way.
I do, however love this minivan in one respect: it's got plenty of power. Nearly every stop-light on the way out to Fontana I was stuck at, I chirped the tires big time at the green lights, especially when the tires were on a painted surface. It was great to see the reactions of people not used to a minivan blowing their doors off the line.
Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer
October 24, 2008
I once wrote a scathing post about our long-term 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. Haven't driven it since. Didn't want to. Avoided it like reality shows staring Scott Baio.
But Tuesday the inevitable happened. I was handed the keys to the DGC and instructed to drive it 225 miles east to Blythe, California and back in the same day. In other words, drive it the entire width of Califonia twice, as Blythe essentially sits on the Arizona border.
I hemmed and hawed and hit the road. Turns out the DGC isn't that bad. Oh, it's built like a high school science project gone wrong, packs more squeeks and rattles than a bundle of snake mice and still feels like the rear suspension is missing its dampers, but I also found a lot to like.
Turns out our van has very comfortable seats. My ass, back and legs still felt great after all 450 miles. The DGC also has a respectable range, nearly 400 miles on a tank. And I learned to like its loosy goosy suspension as long as the road was perfectly smooth, which it turns out to be way out in the California desert. The van's strong air-conditioning, navigation system and Sirius radio also made the trip more enjoyable, as did its sizable cupholders and powerful 4.0-liter V6. Passing power is not one of this van's shortcomings.
So there you have it, although I hope I never have to return to the upscale enclave that is Desert Center, California (pictured), I've learned to kinda like our Dodge Grand Caravan. Maybe I'll drive it again soon before we send her back to Chrysler HQ. Maybe?
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief@ 18,567 miles
October 08, 2008
October 7th, 8:46pm
"That was a pretty good dinner. I wonder if (eeeeeeeeeeek!)."
"What was that?" my girlfriend asked.
"I don't know. Maybe (squeeeeeeeak!). Wait, is that coming from the (gr-eeeeeek!)."
"That doesn't (screech!) good. (creak!)"
No, it doesn't. The amount of groans and creeks coming from the B-pillar is bad. When putting my ear to the area where the sound was coming from, I couldn't tell if it was screeching from the front drivers side door or from the sliding door. Either way, it isn't good.
Is it the dirt from a recent road trip? Bonneville? Or is it just poor assembly? I think it's time for a power wash to eliminate dirt and see if that helps.
I hope that isn't salt from the Flats rotting out the subframe.
Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer
July 30, 2008
My expectations couldn't have been much lower when I fired up our long-term Caravan for the first time last night. We slam this thing mercilessly whenever we post about it -- and unlike certain other unloved cars in our fleet, the Caravan doesn't seem to have a single Mopar fanboy that's got its back.So imagine my surprise whenthe downtrodden Dodge ripped off a lighting-quick 1-2 full-throttle upshift the first time I matted the gas. "What the heck?" I exclaimed, channelling my inimitable high school basketball coach. "What the crap?!"
I floored it again at the next traffic light, andmyinitial impression was confirmed. Thissix-speed bangs off upshiftsabout as quickly as any slushbox I can remember, and it'ssmooth, too. If Hyundai's new Genesis V8 had this transmission, its 0-60 time would bea half-second quicker.
Must bea hand-me-down fromMercedes, eh? There's no way Dodge wouldspend their time and money coming up witha world-class transmission for the Caravan while seemingly cutting every other corner.
EDIT: Herr Magrath points out that Mercedes hasn't ever put a six-speed autobox in any of their cars. Hmmmm...
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 11,831 miles
July 23, 2008
As Jacquot first reportedand Dan Edmunds confirmed, the Dodge Grand Caravan (and almost certainly Chrysler Town & Country) is prone to having a warped bumper. It's a phenomenon I've seen on other DGC's as well. We originally thought ithappened only whenleaving the van in the heat -- which isprobably what initially causes the problem -- but now it permanently looks like it does above.
This sort of body panel warping is not only horrible looking and a sign of terrible quality, it makes opening the tailgate rather difficult as the below videos show.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor@ 11,400 miles
This is what happens when you press the power tailgate button on the key fob. The videos were taken on a temperate (ie NOT HOT) day.
June 27, 2008
Last time our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT was at a track, James posted a video of me 'hot' lapping it, full of equipment, around a shortened version of the Streets of Willow. This time, though, we've done things the right way. We ditched the cones and the water bottles, attached test equipment, and fitted the driver's seat with one of our professional test drivers.
And drive they did! Full results of our track testing after the jump.
0-60: 8.8 (0-60 with a rollout, like a drag strip -- so more aptly, rolling - 60: 8.4 sec.)
1/4-mile: 16.6 @ 83.4 mph
Comments: Some wheel spin from standstill and the steering tugs a little. Gears 1-3 keep the engine on the boil, but 4th is a bottomless pit- dropping revs @ 2,000 rpm.
60-0: 133 feet
30-0: 33 feet.
Comments: Consistently squishy pedal with multi-threshold feel. Plenty of dive and the rear gets awfully light / skittish, ABS is noticeably attempting to distribute brake force.
Handling: (ever the forte of the minivan)
Skidpad: .70 G
Comments: Lots of roll -- so much in fact that the inside front tire comes off the ground (especially in clockwise direction). Steering remains light despite load.
Slalom: 57.9 MPH
Comments: ESP shuts off completely. Steering is slow off center and body motions are too. Light steering is a good thing here, and it's usably precise. Quick turn-in for such a large minivan.
As tested weight: 4,750 lbs
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 7134 miles (as tested mileage)
June 18, 2008
Problem: How can I move six people and their luggage from Los Angeles to San Francisco?
Solution: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.
Yes, this was one of those rare instances when a bunch of people (my parents and my two sons) were all going to the same place at the same time. A poor option would have been to take two vehicles. Instead, we all piled into Big Red and hit the road...
It was comfortable, roomy and quick. No one in our family is a light packer and the deep rear well gobbled up all our bags without blocking rear visibility.
And we even stopped for a picnic lunch at the "Sideways" bridge near Gaviota (pictured).
It's amazing how, when you use a vehicle such as the Dodge Grand Caravan, for its intended purpose, your admiration of it grows. Even an uber SUV wouldn't have done the job as well.
A real hit with my Dad were the swivel seats. He spun around and grilled my son about his college courses and life in general. In fact, my Dad several times enthused: "This is a great van!"
I wasn't excited about driving the DGC since it's kind of roly-poly in the curves but, hey, it isn't pretending to be a sports car. I didn't like the dash mounted shifter and once, in the mountains, manual shifting for engine braking wasn't convenient.
On the open road I kept the speed to about 70 mph and, amazingly, didn't get passed. I think folks have made the connection between speed and fuel economy. I averaged 21.2 mpg over 1,244 miles and spent about $263 on fuel. On one tank we were able to go a total of 368 miles -- a record for our Grand Caravan.
Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 8668 miles
June 06, 2008
After my last post, which focused solely on the shortcomings of our long-term 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT, I thought I would find something nice to say about it. So here goes.
Although we haven't taken our long term van to the track yet (maybe next week), the nearly identical van we tested months ago was and still is the quickest minivan we've ever tested...
Despite the Dodge weighing 40 pounds more than the Honda Odyssey in the same test, it scooted to 60 mph in just 8.2 seconds. That's a full second quicker than the Honda. The Caravan was also quick through the quarter mile with a 16.3 second performance at 85 mph. The Honda runs the quarter in 16.8 seconds at 83 mph.
The 2008 Grand Caravan with the big 4.0-liter V6 is the rocket ship of minivans.And that's good.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 5,200 miles
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.
May 15, 2008
After using the Grand Caravan to pick up some cones at the Streets of Willow race track, Magrath and I decided to see what the big girl could do. As the below video shows, the Grand Caravan was a grand disappointment. Through a short-course configuration, the Grand Caravan managed a lap time of 1:14 without the main straightaway -- simply pathetic. Compared to the last few Dodges we've taken to the track, such as the Dodge Viper and Dodge Challenger SRT-8, the Caravan wollowed about with heavy body roll and understeer...
It was also woefully underpowered and the automatic transmission was a let down -- maybe they should offer a manual. Seriously, I thought Dodge was all about performance and excitement. What's the deal?
The next time I go for a few hot laps, I definitely know what I WON'T be driving.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor
All that thwacking about you hear is the sound of about 30 traffic cones and a case of water bottles depositing itself across the interior.
May 06, 2008
I have met the high-plains drifter. And its name is 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.
Turns out there's not a whole lot of, um, vertical things in Nebraska or eastern Colorado. This means that wicked crosswinds just come barrel-assing over the dirt and ram the side of the Caravan full force...
So many steering corrections are needed to keep the Caravan in its shipping lane that I felt like I was filming a green-screen driving screen for a television program. But it's a box right? And it's probably not worse in this regard than any other van. And it was still nimble enough to dodge the tumbleweeds.
May 05, 2008
Here's what I learned in my 825.8 miles of driving today: People in Iowa still wave at perfect strangers.
I was cranking along I-80 somewhere near Des Moines, the Caravan's 4.0-liter V6 mooing lightly. I'd locked in behind a hard-drivinglady driving a ruby-red GMC Envoy. We'd swing left around slow-moving Buicks together and tuck back into the right lane together. We both used three blinks of the turn signal each time we made a move...
It was like an exceedingly boring version one of those Swedish precision driving team -- only without the need for talent. Anyway, when she took an exit she gave me the wave. Not just the thanks-for-letting-me-merge-in-front-of-you motionless raised hand. No, this was a wave, like one you'd give to a, you know, friend or something.
When I'd pull off the expressway to grab some gas, people walking down the street would wave. This dealt a mighty blowto my adolescent fantasy of looking vaguely menacing. How bad could a guy driving a new minivan be anyway? Next time I drive from Detroit to Santa Monica, I'm going to roll in a primer-gray 1971 Dodge Super Bee with blacked-out windows, and maybe get a scar for my face.
The van likes to go 75 mph, which suits me just fine. For those times when the speed limit happens to be less than 75, I have Inside Line's trusty new Passport 9500i Blueradar/laser detector. This handy device saved my bacon twicein Indiana alone.Plus, its readout is -- get this -- blue.