What's New for 2010
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan gains active front-seat headrests across the lineup and standard tri-zone manual climate control on SE models.
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan has history on its side, if nothing else. Chrysler invented the minivan, after all, and the "DGC" is the latest in its long line of continually improving family haulers. Sadly, one thing that hasn't improved with this latest Grand Caravan is its interior materials and build quality. It's a shame this Caravan isn't put together properly, because otherwise, it's a pretty competitive product.
We had the chance to spend a lot of quality time with the current Grand Caravan by virtue of our long-term testing program, in which we procure vehicles for a full year and run up as many miles as possible. During our year with a 2008 Grand Caravan, we ran into an extraordinary number of quality issues, including constant squeaks and rattles, a finicky radio, a moody passenger-side sliding door and rear bumper plastic that warped to such an extent that we couldn't open the tailgate (or "failgate" as we called it). It wasn't just us, either; our consumer reviews of the Grand Caravan reveal many similar complaints.
That's a real shame, because when the Caravan is judged on its features and performance, it acquits itself rather well. The optional Swivel 'n Go rear captain's chairs allow passengers to congregate around a table for a card game on the go (though they're only available on the top-of-the-line SXT with leather for 2010), and the standard Stow 'n Go system enables both the second-row chairs and the third-row bench to fold flat into the floor. A dual-screen rear entertainment system, Sirius Satellite TV and hard-drive audio storage are also available.
As expected, the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan also offers the usual minivan attributes of abundant passenger and cargo space. And we're fans of the powerful yet fuel-efficient 4.0-liter V6 option and its quick-witted transmission -- one of the best powertrains in the minivan business. Unfortunately, these attributes are overshadowed by the Grand Caravan's quality issues and other faults like low-quality interior materials and a feeble base engine. Getting a smoking deal on a DGC might help to offset all this, but in general, rivals like the top-rated Honda Odyssey, the luxurious Toyota Sienna and the value-minded Kia Sedona are superior choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan is available in three trim levels: C/V, SE and SXT. The C/V is a stripper intended for commercial use only. The more common SE comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, tri-zone manual climate control, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt steering column, Stow 'n Go second-row seats, stain-repellent cloth upholstery, a flip-down kiddie mirror and a CD/MP3 player. The SXT adds a larger engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, an eight-way power driver seat with manual lumbar adjustment, power-adjustable pedals, power and remote-operated sliding side doors (optional on SE), second-row power windows and third-row power vent-style windows (also optional on SE), an overhead console with storage bins and ambient lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and satellite radio. With the optional 4.0-liter V6, the SXT gets a sport-tuned suspension.
Optional equipment is plentiful but typically grouped in a confusing array of packages. The SE can be equipped with a second-row bench seat, while both trim levels can be optioned with a power tailgate. However, for 2010 only leather-upholstered SXT models can be outfitted with the Swivel 'n Go second-row seats, which include a removable table. Integrated child booster seats can also be added to Swivel 'n Go. The Caravan can also be equipped with an upgraded audio system with a 30GB hard drive for digital music storage, touchscreen controls, satellite radio and a rearview parking camera. An optional rear DVD entertainment system includes the upgraded stereo plus a 9-inch flip-down screen, remote control, two wireless headphones and a 115-volt outlet.
With the SXT, the rear DVD entertainment system includes a swiveling second-row flip-down screen. Also optional on the SXT is the Premium Group that adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, a power-folding third-row seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone connectivity with an iPod interface (also a stand-alone option on all trims), and a nine-speaker audio system. The Family Value Group adds second- and third-row sunshades, a sliding front center console and remote engine start. Stand-alone options on the SXT include a sunroof, heated front and second-row seats, a navigation system with real-time traffic, and Sirius Satellite TV with Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel (as of this writing).
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan is equipped with one of three V6 engines. The base SE trim gets a 3.3-liter V6 good for 175 horsepower and 205 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is standard. Fuel economy for this engine -- at 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined -- is disappointing given its meager output.
The SXT comes standard with a 3.8-liter V6 that produces 197 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque and gets 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Optional on the SXT is a more modern 4.0-liter V6 rated at 251 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque, as well as a superior 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. Both SXT engines come with a six-speed automatic. The 4.0-liter Grand Caravan goes from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which is quick for a minivan.
The Grand Caravan comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, active front headrests and full-length side curtain airbags. Optional on both the SE and SXT trims are second-row integrated child booster seats (requires Swivel 'n Go). Optional on the SXT is the Security Group, which adds rear parking sensors, a blind-spot monitoring system and Rear Cross Path. The latter feature audibly warns drivers of cross traffic in both directions to help prevent a side-impact collision. A rearview camera is also available.
In government crash tests, the 2010 Grand Caravan scored a perfect five stars in all frontal- and side-impact categories. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Grand Caravan also scored the best possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Grand Caravan's interior design theme is plain but functional, with high-mounted audio controls for easy visibility and operation. In general, though, the Grand Caravan's materials quality is worse than all its competitors, and build quality is not up to par.
Aft of the comfortable front seats, there are various seating choices. The standard Stow 'n Go setup features a pair of captain's chairs that disappear into the floor along with the third-row bench, creating a perfectly flat load floor and up to 140 cubic feet of cargo room with no hernia-causing seat lifts. Unfortunately, Stow 'n Go's short seatbacks aren't as comfortable as conventional chairs.
The optional Swivel 'n Go seats are more comfy, and as their name suggests, can be spun around to create a trainlike face-to-face traveling experience for second- and third-row passengers. A pole-mounted table can be fitted in between both rows with Swivel 'n Go for family activities. Other innovative features include two rear video screens (one that swivels), a power-folding third row, plenty of under-floor storage, Sirius Satellite TV, ambient cabin lighting, a pop-out cargo-area-mounted flashlight and a driver-seat umbrella holder.
The 2010 Grand Caravan's handling will be adequate for most owners, particularly in sport-tuned SXT trim. Still, the Grand Caravan remains a step or two behind the Honda Odyssey in terms of ride and handling refinement. The interior is quiet at highway speeds, and the 4.0-liter V6 makes the Grand Caravan one of the swiftest minivans available, with its six-speed automatic ripping off impressively quick shifts. The 3.8-liter V6, however, delivers only adequate acceleration and worse fuel economy than the 4.0-liter unit. As for Grand Caravans with the ancient 3.3-liter engine, we'd say don't bother -- they're sluggish and marginally less efficient than the muscular 4.0-liter SXT.