Full 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan Review
What's New for 2014
The Dodge Grand Caravan drops its Crew trim level for 2014, but otherwise is largely unchanged.
We live in a global economy, but the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan is the minivan to get your patriotism pumping. It was Dodge, after all, that invented this genre in 1984, striking that perfect balance between industrial-strength work vans and less versatile wagons and hatchbacks. The original Caravan's overnight success spawned legions of imitators, and a few from Japan have become formidable rivals. But the Dodge will always be the one that started it all, and that's got to count for something.
The Grand Caravan was treated to a thorough overhaul for 2011, and those powertrain and interior updates remain appealing three years later. There's class-leading power under the hood, respectable frugality at the pump and modern technology in the cabin, as well as cleverly designed second-row seats that fold into the floor at the flick of a lever. Furthermore, a base Grand Caravan is considerably cheaper than its import-brand competitors.
In other respects, however, the Grand Caravan comes up a bit short compared with the competition. Although that recent update did wonders to help the Grand Caravan's attributes, the van still suffers from a lack of refinement. It's particularly noticeable on the road, where you'll find that the engine is noisier and the transmission doesn't shift as smoothly. In addition, the Dodge's ride isn't as comfortable or composed.
How important this is to you will likely depend on your priorities. We certainly suggest comparing the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan (and its Chrysler Town & Country twin) to the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna, as they provide smoother engine and transmission performance, higher interior quality and a more comfortable ride. And even though all three lack the Grand Caravan's easy-to-configure seating, the Odyssey and Sienna offer eight-passenger capacity versus the Dodge's seven.
The 2014 Grand Caravan may still be the patriotic choice, but it's got its work cut out in other respects.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan is a seven-passenger minivan offered in four trim levels: American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT and R/T.
The attractively priced AVP provides a decent equipment roster that includes 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power front windows, dual-zone air-conditioning, a second-row reclining/folding/removable bench seat, an overhead console, a conversation mirror and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SE adds body-colored door handles/side molding, rear privacy glass, tri-zone climate control (with rear air-conditioning), second-row captain's chairs with the Stow 'n Go fold-into-the-floor feature, a front floor console and a six-speaker audio system.
The SXT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, power rear windows and a larger floor console. Also standard is the Power Convenience Group, which includes a power liftgate, power sliding rear doors and power-adjustable pedals.
Stepping up to the loaded R/T nets you 17-inch alloy wheels with special tires, a body-colored grille, a performance-tuned suspension, remote start, automatic headlights, foglights, black interior accents, unique interior lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather first- and second-row seats, power front seats (with driver lumbar adjustment), a rear overhead console, a trip computer, a 115-volt power outlet, a 6.5-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and an upgraded nine-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a USB port and 28 gigabytes of digital music storage.
A variety of other packages and individual options are available depending on trim level. The SE's and SXT's main package is a single-DVD entertainment bundle that adds the R/T's standard touchscreen and audio system along with a 9-inch second-row display screen and an HDMI input. The SXT can be outfitted with a Dual DVD/Blu-ray Entertainment package that boasts 9-inch screens for both the second and third rows as well as the touchscreen display, rearview camera and a few other standard R/T features. A more affordable Uconnect Hands-Free Group offers Bluetooth audio connectivity.
Also of note is the SXT-only Blacktop package, which features 17-inch aluminum wheels, a black grille, foglamps, leather interior accents, premium cloth seats and silver accent stitching.
The R/T is eligible for the Blu-ray system as well, and all Grand Caravans with the touchscreen can be equipped with an integrated Garmin navigation system. The R/T's Driver Convenience Group adds Bluetooth audio connectivity, heated front- and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and second- and third-row window shades. The Safety Sphere Group (also R/T only) adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan features a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels.
In Edmunds testing, a Grand Caravan with the 3.6-liter engine accelerated from zero to 60 in 8 seconds, an average jaunt for a minivan. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.
Standard safety features for the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan include stability control, antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, a driver knee airbag, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Optional features include a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking and cross-traffic sensors and a rearview camera.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Grand Caravan came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet -- a bit longer than average for a minivan. An R/T was better, with a 119-foot stop.
In government crash testing, the Grand Caravan was given an overall score of four out of five stars, with four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Dodge Grand Caravan was awarded the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Grand Caravan's interior features decent if unexceptional materials and build quality, making it broadly competitive in this segment. Its seven-passenger seating matches the Quest, but falls one passenger short of the Odyssey and Sienna. The front seats are supportive, but even drivers of average height will notice that the driver seat doesn't slide far enough rearward to accommodate their legs comfortably. The second-row seatback cushions tilt rearward to better accommodate long-legged passengers. The third-row seatback cushions are reclined even more dramatically, creating a potentially odd sensation for passengers riding back there. One nice feature, though, is the "tailgate" function in SXT and R/T models that allows you to flip the third-row seats so they face backward for stationary lounging with a view -- useful at kids' soccer tournaments.
Unlike minivans that require removal of the second-row seats for maximum cargo capacity, every Grand Caravan except the AVP features standard Stow 'n Go second-row seats (they're optional on the AVP). Stowing the seats couldn't be easier -- you simply pull a lever and down they go, flipping forward into the floor. The third-row seats fold backward into a deep cargo well and require additional steps to transform. Luggage space behind the third row is a generous 33 cubic feet. Stowing the second- and third-row seats opens up 143.8 cubes, which is comparable to other minivans.
The 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan accelerates and handles rather well for a minivan, but there's a coarseness to its character that's largely absent from the Japanese-brand competition. The V6 engine is powerful enough, but it gets noisy under hard acceleration and the automatic transmission doesn't always shift as smoothly as we'd like. The Odyssey, Sienna and Quest still deliver more refined performance, and their suspensions smother bumps more capably. The Dodge's steering also feels pointlessly heavy at times, requiring more effort without adding feedback or precision. These don't have to be deal-breakers, but some drivers will be sensitive to such shortcomings.