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 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 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 09, 2009
No problem for the Grand Caravan SXT. Well, not a problem so long as you don't mind leaving the gate open a hair
Oh, and not really a problem unless you have about 20-minutes and the freakish gorilla strength required to get the second-row seats out. At one point during the removal I had to use my foot as both a lever and as a stopper to block the tracks from locking themselves again. Swivel 'N Go is a neat parlor trick, but Stow 'N Go is far more useful.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 24,008 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.
I also like the Sirius Backseat TV/DVD player but that requires a subsription fee of $13 per month and alsoadds about $2k to the price. Power sliding side doors are nice for when you have to load kids up for school but one door has already needed repair.In the end I just couldn't spend my own money on this van. I think the Kia Sedona and Honda Odyssey are better minivans and the Buick Enclave and Ford Flex do the job with more style.
Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor
January 02, 2009
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief
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.)
November 19, 2008
After two weeks of living with our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, I must say I have renewed appreciation for the minivan as a vehicle type. No, you can't do big smoky burnouts, but for daily life (with kids) you can't beat it. Following are my top five reasons why minivans kinda rock.
Sliding rear doors: For convenience, you can't beat them. Entry and exit is super easy thanks to the large opening, and it gets even easier with power operation. How many crossover SUVs do you know of that have power-opening rear doors?
Massive interior storage: Besides roomy accommodations for passengers, the heavies of the segment typically offer about 145 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. If you've moved house before, you know that minivans blow pickup trucks out of the water for moving boxes and even many pieces of furniture.
Plentiful storage spaces: Years of evolution has given minivans some of the best storage options in any vehicle. Innovative storage bins and plenty of cupholders are the norm, not the exception.
Safety: You won't find a vehicle segment with better safety scores. Just about every minivan sold has top NHTSA and IIHS crash-test safety scores.
Entertainment: I'd wager the best rear entertainment systems are found in minivans. Our DGC is a particularly good example thanks to its dual display screens and Sirius Backseat TV.
A lot of this is fairly obvious stuff. Yet presented will all this, my wife still says she'll never be caught dead owning a minivan. Rationality and logic, it seems, aren't enough to stem the minivan's sales decline.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
November 11, 2008
Here's one nice touch on our 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT: interior LED lighting. It might be a little hard to tell in the above photo, but the interior white LEDs do give off a brighter and much classier-looking light temperature than incandescent bulbs. (Think of a regular flashlight versus an LED flashlight.) LEDs are used for general illumination plus the reading lights in all of the Dodge's three rows of seating.
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
October 08, 2008
October 7th, 8:46pm
"That was a pretty good dinner. I wonder if (eeeeeeeeeeek!)."
"What was that?" my girlfriend asked.
"I don't know. Maybe (squeeeeeeeak!). Wait, is that coming from the (gr-eeeeeek!)."
"That doesn't (screech!) good. (creak!)"
No, it doesn't. The amount of groans and creeks coming from the B-pillar is bad. When putting my ear to the area where the sound was coming from, I couldn't tell if it was screeching from the front drivers side door or from the sliding door. Either way, it isn't good.
October 06, 2008
Back in May (the last time I drove this van) the Jacquot family used it to haul all our crap out to a triathlon in the Valley of the Dirt People where it was very dusty, verysunnyand miserably hot. Here we discovered the effectiveness of theDGC's cooling system and the poor heat durability of its rear bumper cover. That was a pivotal day for me and for the van.
With a new baby and the need to carry much baby and triathlon accouterment,I had to acknowledge that the stigma of driving a minivan had been overcome by its utility. And the van showedsome of its greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses yet.
Well, it's six months later now and the van has seen many adventures since then. So when I jumped behind the wheellast Friday to head out for another weekend of racing in thedirt I was eager to see how the old girl hasheld up. The news, as you have read here, isn't great. Perhaps most noticeable is the quality of the van's interior. The rattle factor has increased about three fold since my last experience. And there's no shortage of plastic bits which simply aren't fastened together as they should be.
And, as Niebuhr says,the rear shocks are filled with fish oilwhichoffers little damping at any speed.
Still,short of a Honda Element or Mazda5, I'm hard pressed to find a vehicle that can haul three people, two bikes and a ton of stuff as easily and efficiently as this van. And really, neither of those Japanese rivals comes anywhere near matching the vast expanse of real estate available in the DGC.
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
June 03, 2008
The interior quality of our long term 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is so disappointing, it's difficultfor me to put itinto words. But I'm going to give it a shot.
This van feels like it was designed and assembled by apes. Apes that were pounded mercilesly by bean counters to get more cost out of the poor resulting van's interior...
Apes that have never been in a Honda Odyssey. Apes that have no respect for their customers. Apes that have no problem sleeping at night after selling people a plasticy, poorly put together crapmobile for the ridiculous sum of $40,200.
If I spent that much of my hard earned dollars on this van, the first thing I would do is drive it head long into a bridge abutment. Sure, I'd probably be dead. But at least I wouldn't have to drive it anymore. Or pay for it. And remember, I haven't once complained about the Caravan's nonexistent brakes, or its apparently missing rear suspension, or its 4.0-liter V6 which feels and sounds like it's full of rocks. No, I'm only talking about its interior, which is seemingly without a soft surface, a properly aligned panel or a single switchgear that delivers a pleasing tactile sensation. Hey, what do you want for $40K? Quality?
Instead the Grand Caravan feels like Dodge just doesn't care. Like the company has given up. Take the Caravan's shifter for instance. You must use it every time you drive the car, so it should feel good right?Common sense. But the Caravan's shifter doesn't feel good. It feels like one of my five year old's art projects. Itcrashes into Drive with such a junky clatter you'd swear Dodge forgot to install some bushing or some little piece of something that's supposed to make it not feel that lame. But Dodge didn't forget. Instead the company left it out to save money.
Even the little + sign on the shifter has already jettisoned itself. It seems our Detroit Editor Dan Pundwiped it off with the tip of his index fingerby accident when he was doing a bit of cookie crumb removal. Pathetic. Guess somebody at Dodge realized the permanent ink would have cost extra.
Scott Oldham, Inside Line Editor in Chief @ 5,112 miles
May 22, 2008
I've been eyeing the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan from afar for quite some time. The styling hasn't really grabbed me, but a lot of the features I've heard about sound pretty good.
I finally had my first turn at the wheel. My impressions haven't fully gelled, but here is where my head is at so far:
Ride & handling: Decent steering effort, but on center feel is a bit "thick"--it isn't as precise as I'd like. The ride is pretty smooth, but the rear end bounds up and down way too much when traversing long amplitude waves in the road--the kind you get when crossing bridges, etc. The rear springs feel too soft and the damping too weak. (I used to tune suspensions for two other OEs for a living, including minivans, so I'm not making this up.) And this is empty, folks. It's liable to feel less settled with a load. Third row passengersmight need airsickness bags on the roads I drive going to Oregon.
Engine & transmission: Good in-town and freeway acceleration from the 4.0-liter V6. The transmission upshifts are quick (!) and smooth. Not bad at all, but I still need to check it on a grade. The odd dash-mounted shifter and left-right manual mode make sense, in a way, because you can tap the manual shifter up or down without removing your hands from the wheel.
May 19, 2008
Yesterday the Jacquot family took the long-term Dodge Grand Caravan to the XTerra West Championship in Temecula, California. A far cry from the adventure vehicle the marketing folks had in mind when they originally named the series, the Caravan is better than any SUV when it comes to transporting all the goods of an active family.
May 12, 2008
We haven't had a minivan in our Santa Monica-based test fleet since the 2006 Kia Sedona left nearly a year ago, and I had almost forgetten just how handy they can be.
Last week Detroit Editor Dan Pund drove our new long-term 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan from Michigan to California, and this weekend I usedit to drive my daughter andfour of her friends to a birthday party, then stopped on the way home to pick up nine 12-foot pieces of crown molding from the lumber yard.
The Caravan moved both the kids and the trim with the same amount of ease.
I love minivans...
Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 4,122 miles
May 07, 2008
If this 2,400-mile slog from Detroit to LA has taught me anything, it is the power of willful ignorance and blind faith. When the Dodge Carvavan balked at starting the end of yesterday's drive, I chose to put my fate into the spectral hands of the Dodge Brothers in hopes that the problem would be corrected before today's sunrise. And that's exactly what happened. The Dodge started each and every time I asked it to...
Now it is possible that I'd imagined the problem. I had spent a lot of time on the road and was, by last night, feeling a bit, um, unhinged. But neitherI nor any of my imaginary passengers believe this to be the case. We'll mention the incidents to the dealer when we take the van in for its first oil change, something the its computer is already demanding.
We averaged 20.8 mpg for the whole trip, which is a decent figure, although a couple of mpg below what the EPA predicted. With an internal hard drive, a CD player, an auxiliary input for my iPod and satellite radio at my command, I never once had to scan local radio for something decent to listen to. The van's developed a luxuriant goatee of 10 state's worth of bugs. Withsix cupholders in easy reach, I managed to surround myself an impressive array of digital devices, canned coffee beverages and assorted debris.In this regard, the van is anenormously convenient vessel forlongdayson the open seas.
Late today, I noticed a crumb on the "+"markingat the base of theautostick shifter.Iwiped it off with the tip of my index finger and ended up taking off the top section of the "+" so it now looks like a very small, uppercase "T."That shouldn't happen.
Good luck in California, Caravan. It's been...convenient knowing you. --Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit
April 22, 2008
Our long-term Grand Caravan has a whopping $12,665 in optional equipment. So when I couldn't find the buttons for the memory mirrors and seat, I assumed that, like virtually everything that's come into my possession,Ihad just misplaced them.
So for a week, I'd go to hop into the van crank my knees on the lower dash, compress my thighs on the lower portion of the steering wheel and curse the size differential of my wife who, it can be revealed, is petite,and your author, a descendentofovergrown Black Forest-dwelling oafs. Reluctantly, I checked the owner's manual...
And there it was on page 157, an illustration of the Driver Memory Seat Switch (with a handy black arrow pinpointing its location on the door panel just aft of the door handle).
How did I not see tha...er, wait.There's no buttons on my door panel. It's just an uninterrupted expanse of cheapish plastic. I consulted the optionssheets. Nope, no mention ofmemory seatsin any of the Premium Interior Groupsor the omnibus Customer Preferred Packages.
This is because, although the vehicle is available with a power-folding third row seat, second-row seats that swivel 180 degrees, a hard drive as large as that of my antiquated iPod and various other doo-dads that I haven't figured out yet, the Dodge Caravan is not available with memory seats. Confirmation of this comes from a public relations professional in Auburn Hills, MI. He noted that it is available on the Chrysler Town & Country and will be offered on the VW version of the van, both of which are built in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. All Caravans are built in St. Louis and our PR man reckons that the option's unavailability is to reduce build complexity in that plant. Hmmm. He was sure to clearly state that the option was not available for "'08." Oh, so it'll be added for '09? "I can't say that," came the response.Um, okay.
April 07, 2008
Of the adult pleasures disallowed to young children, such as coffee-drinking and unrestricted use of the more colorful words of Anglo-Saxon origin, you can now add Swivel 'n Go.
Maybe it should go without saying, but if your children are young enough to need a child seat or infant carrier, you may not use Chrysler Corp's newest gee-whiz seats. Oh, you can Swivel them 'n not Go. Or you could Go 'n not Swivel...
But not both at the same time. Your carefully engineered, regulated and tested rear-facing infant seat becomes a forward-facing seat with one spin. This renders the feature all-but useless for young families.
Sure, you could move the child seat(s) to the third row and put older kids and adults in the backward-facing second row, but then you'd just have to move the child seat(s) to the second row when it's just you and the kids otherwise your toddler won't be able to kick the back of your seat. And let's stop being ridiculous: The last thing parents want to do is unlatch and reinstall car seats over and over again because it remains a giant pain in the butt.
Understand, Chrysler never claimed nor implied that you could use Swivel 'n Go with child seats. We mention all of this in the spirit of public service for which Inside Line has become so famous. --Daniel Pund, Senior Editor, Detroit @ 1047 miles
April 04, 2008
For the time being, I possess infinite powers--powers to delight and confound.You see, with our new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan (referred to as "the big, red truck" in our household), I have the seemingly telekinetic power to command doors to open and close without ever touching them! This blows my two-year-old daughter's mind. "Magic door!" she squeals each time I surreptitiously give a double-press to the door buttons on the Caravan's key fob. Those power-sliding doors are high on the list of cool things in her world--right up there with multicolored popsicles and video-on-demand cartoons...