February 24, 2009
Can't let the guys be the only ones posting about taking a long-term car to the Tour of California, can I? But unfortunately, the only at-the-race pic I could have taken of the Dodge Grand Caravan would have been on the fourth floor of a parking garage in Pasadena. I figured I'd spare you that beauty shot and wow you with a beauty shot of the minivan's third row instead.
On Saturday, the DGC was our chariot to the penultimate stage of the 2009 ATOC, where the racers completed five exciting laps of the Rose Bowl. With four adults and 3-year-old in a child seat on board, I took the opportunity to get to know that third-row while my husband took a turn at the wheel.
Other than a bit of outboard side bolstering, the bench seat back there is pretty much flat and permanently reclined at a slight angle. The recline was the worst of it for me, since I prefer to sit more upright. I found myself leaning forward in my seat as much to listen to what the grownups were talking about as I was to avoid looking up at the ceiling.
But I did enjoy having three cupholders and other small storage spots at my disposal back there and when someone needed something from the cargo area (Lara bars! Fruit leather! Drink box!) I could just reach back to the cooler and yank it out. The third-row climate control vents (three-zone A/C is part of the optional Package 28N) were also greatly appreciated when the heat from all those bodies made the atmosphere a little muggy.
Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, Edmunds.com @ 26,292 miles
February 12, 2009
Last week I took our Caravan in for a routine oil change. The on board computer requested it.
I drove it to Buerge Chrysler Jeep in Los Angeles because they're close and because they have an express lane that promises a quick in-and-out experience while you wait. (You know, the way it used to be before they realized they can drag an oil change out to three hours of billable work.)
It took an hour to their 25-minute claim and when I was checking out, my service advisor told me there was a recall on the power-steering hoses. They didn't have the parts in stock but they're on order. I should be getting a call sometime this week about 'em.
Total cost: $27.84
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 23,500 miles
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 14, 2009
I started up the Dodge Grand Caravan thismorning to the unwelcome sight of its tire pressure warning light. A broke out my tiregauge and a quick check of the pressures confirmed my fate.Three tires were at spec and one was down 10 psi.
Ilive within 2miles of a tire shop andthe leakerhad plentyof airto survive the trip without my having to mount the spare.SoI drove over,had the tire patched and was ready to leaveafter 30 minutesand $17.18.
As I walked back to the Caravanthis guy in hisInfiniti i35 pulled into the driveway. His mangled tire clunglifelessto the rim, which was visibly damaged itself. "The tire looked low" he told the approaching mechanic "so I drove straight over." This brings me to my gripe.
A lot ofpeople check their tire pressures by the bulge of the sidewall. By the time a tire "looks low" it is already too late.To drive on it at this point is risking safety, tire replacement costs and in the case of this guy, wheel replacement costs. Why don't drivers understand this? Spendthe $20 foratire pressure gauge. And check your tiresregularly. Spread the word.
So how many out there carry a tire pressure gauge in yourcar - - and use it?
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 24,374 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.
December 09, 2008
Had the opportunity to carpool with another one-kid family to a parking-starved section of town this weekend. Perfect opportunity to put the DGC through its family-hauling paces. After cinching two child safety seats into the captain's chairs and a quick Rochambeau tourney to see who would sit in the third row (moms won!), the gang (four parents, two almost-3-year-olds) headed out. The kids were quite happy in their car seats (they could actually reach across the aisle and grab each other's fingers), but the dads complained about the tight squeeze between the captain's chairs on the way to their final destination of the third row seat. (For reference, the space between those captain's chairs is about the length of my hand.)
Up front, I was happy with my ability to handle many of my passengers' needs without having to leave the driver seat, thanks to the various control buttons at my disposal. "Are these little windows back here? Can I get them opened while we wait?" called my husband from the third-row as we waited for our friends. Sure thing (thanks, Rear Vent Window Button on the driver's armrest). "Can we get some air back here?" he called again after we were on our way. Yes, you can (thank you, Rear Climate Control button). When we arrived at our first stop (and every subsequent stop), three quick stabs at buttons above the rearview mirror opened both rear sliding doors and the rear hatch so kids could be unbuckled and supplies could be retrieved before anyone even had to ask.
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.