They say you get what you pay for, and few vehicles illustrate that better than the Dodge Grand Caravan. If you're looking to transport the maximum number of people for the minimum amount of cost, the Grand Caravan is the way to go. It undercuts the next-cheapest seven-passenger competitor by a lot of money, even with tons of options piled on.
So where does the Grand Caravan belie its bargain price? Certainly not in the level of equipment: Even the most basic model comes well equipped with features like tri-zone climate control and a rearview camera. Chrysler's exclusive Stow 'n Go seats, which fold down into storage compartments in the floor, remain a star attraction.
No, the low price is reflected in two key areas. First is interior design: This iteration of the Grand Caravan was designed about a decade ago, and the interior was last updated in 2011. Materials quality, surprisingly, is fine ? 2011 was the year Chrysler aimed to eliminate the cheap feel of its cabins ? but the look and feel is yesterday's news. The Grand Caravan's touchscreen doesn't get the wonderful UConnect interface found in other Chrysler products, and the interface it does get feels like it comes from the Stone Age. (A larger screen with a slightly better interface is due late in the model year.)
Second is the lack of refinement in the driving experience. The engine is pretty good: It's Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, here tuned for 283 horsepower. But the six-speed automatic transmission to which it is tied is guilty of the occasional rough shift, and the whole powertrain is noisy under full power. The EPA estimates the Grand Caravan's fuel economy at 20 mpg combined (17 city/25 highway). The ride is smooth enough, though the suspension doesn't deal with bad pavement as well as the competition. Other vans do a better job of soaking up the bumps, and they also steer and handle better, instilling more confidence in the van's ability to swerve out of harm's way than does the Grand Caravan. Crash-test scores, while still very respectable, also aren't quite as good as most other vans.
In terms of value for money, though, the Grand Caravan is difficult to beat. Dodge offers four trim levels: SE, SE Plus, SXT and GT. The SE is lavishly equipped, while the SE Plus adds a few items of interest to private owners (as opposed to the rental fleets that will buy the SE). The SXT adds more appearance and comfort features, while the GT is intended to deliver a sportier driving experience. It's the only trim level to offer advanced safety features, though such features are not nearly as advanced as those offered by competing minivans. Which one is best suited for your needs? Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.