Used 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

After a one year hiatus, all-wheel drive returns to the lineup, available on SE and LE models. Traction control is newly available, and an enhanced accident response system will automatically unlock the doors and illuminate the interior when an airbag deployment is detected. A Sport decor group is newly available on Grand Caravan SE.

Vehicle overview

If there is a perfect family vehicle in existence, it is the Dodge Grand Caravan. What's the data say? The average American has two kids and spends a little more than $20,000 on a new car or truck. The Dodge Caravan fits into this scenario better than Velveeta in a grilled cheese sandwich.

We like the Grand Caravan SE because it is the most flexible trim level. You can go with the bare-bones edition, or add luxury items like remote keyless entry, CD player with premium sound and a security alarm. A third way to spec an SE model is with a Sport Option Package, which includes a firmer suspension, alloy wheels, foglights and monochromatic trim. Oddly, the 3.8-liter V6 engine cannot be purchased on an SE model, which means the most sport your Sport can attain uses the 158 horsepower churned out by the 3.3-liter V6 that comes with the package. Still, a Caravan Sport is the raciest minivan you can buy, short of popping an extra four grand for the LE model and its 3.8-liter V6.

Step up to LE trim level, and you buy your ticket to a stronger engine, traction control, trip computer, snazzy trim and leather seating. At the top is the ES, which adds alloy wheels, foglights and a monochromatic paint scheme.

Grand Caravan offers several thoughtful details, but the most important are the easy-out rolling seats and the innovative driver-side sliding door -- a feature that makes so much sense, it's amazing that no one tried this before. Chrysler Easy-out seats are a snap to release and remove, though lifting the seat from the rear of the van may still require two sets of biceps. The driver-side sliding door offers the convenience of loading kids and cargo from either side of the Caravan. Also intriguing is the windshield wiper de-icer, which also comes standard on the LE.

Cupholders not only are numerous, they "ratchet down" to a smaller size. Except for an overabundance of climate controls and an oddly shaped column gearshift, the attractively curved dashboard is a pleasure to consult. Seats are soft but reasonably supportive, with moderate side bolstering.

Light steering response gives the Grand Caravan an undeniably carlike feel, with an exceptionally smooth ride. Highly maneuverable and easy to control, the minivan delivers just a hint that you could exceed its capabilities, as when rounding a sharp curve. A 3.0-liter, 150-horsepower V6 serves as the base engine, with a 180-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6 optional.

With its combination of innovative features and carlike ride and handling qualities, the Grand Caravan deserves consideration from anyone looking for a family hauler.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.