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
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
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.
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
July 07, 2008
I was heading to the airport two weeks ago and instead of leaving a LT car at the airport for six days, I carpooled home with Magrath. Upon discovering he had the Caravan, I slid open the rear door, Swiveled 'N Goed one of the Captain's chairs and yelled out "To Masselin Ave Jeeves!"
I shot the below video to showcase what it's like to ride backwards in the Caravan, but generally it's like riding in a train. I suddenly felt so Continental -- I actually took up smoking and ate a baguette later. Also, the Swivel 'N Goprovides ridiculous leg room as the video shows, while raising the third row creates an ottoman (the footstool, not a Turkish guy). Throw in reversable dual video screens and this is quite the nifty vehicle to be a passenger in. To drive it and/or own it? Not so much.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 11,211 miles
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