2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T Review by Marty Bernstein +VIDEO
The Family Minivan with a Masculine Attitude
By Marty Bernstein
The Auto Channel
Minivans, no matter the brand, have primarily been the family vehicle du jour of and for soccer moms. Generally, guys may value the multiplicity of the inherent utilitarian attributes, features and benefits of minivans… but be seen driving one? Ummm, maybe. But all that is going to change the first time a guy gets behind the wheel of the new 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T. It’s going to be the significant game changer.
My son and I, with our wives, recently took a 1,000+ mile round road trip in the new Grand Caravan from the burbs of Detroit to Washington, DC. We drove over some of best, worst, crowded, orange-barrel-loaded-under-repair or construction streets, roads, highways, expressways, turnpikes and freeways one could encounter during the summer.
A one word review of the experience: Grand! Okay, three words: Dodge Grand Caravan.
This is an all new vehicle inside and out, front to rear and top to bottom. Its look is attitude that literally says “Yeah, I’m a minivan, but don’t mess with me!” in stance and style. It’s sleek where it should be sleek; aggressive where others are passive; broad where it needs to be broad; comfortable where its gotta be comfortable; adaptable where it must be changeable; cool where others are bland and boring; and great fun to drive and ride when most are not.
And macho! There’s no question about it, the new Grand Caravan is mucho macho.
• SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyers Guide
The corporate hype machine issued an accurate statement in a media release, “Our engineers redesigned and retuned virtually every system in the new Grand Caravan’s suspension. That suspension overhaul, combined with a new V-6 engine that delivers best-in-class horsepower, gives Grand Caravan drivers a dynamic driving experience that other minivans in the segment just don’t deliver.” I concur.
Just parked, the Caravan has a distinctive flowing look: From its new front end grill with big headlights and distinctive hood shape to the rear of the vehicle with a new lift-gate, rear “ring of fire” LED tail lights that are dazzling and the new Dodge logo badge. The exterior is a big hint of what lies inside the new Caravan.
Upon opening the door one views a spacious interior with style and sophistication everywhere, not plastic heavy Spartan. Front and back seats are new, larger and more comfortable fully adjustable seats of soft and supple materials with – yea! – folding arm rests. The rear seats feature larger Stow ‘n Go® functionality with a new, easy to use one-touch fold-down flat function. Both wives thought they were terrific.
The front seats are equally comfortable and adjustable for my son’s 6’5” height to my more average 5’10”, and from either points of vantage the usual dials, knobs, buttons and gauges were easy to read, reach and use. The steering wheel has handy-dandy integrated controls for audio, navigation and speed control and for those in cold climates, an optional minivan-first heated steering wheel.
Those who love techno-goodies will enjoy them in the Caravan. The infotainment – audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, iPod, iPad links are super, look good and deliver great results. The navigation system gets my best of the year award! Once set it works like a charm with clarity and up-to-the-minute feedback and driving tips. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was bumper to bumper with massive construction, but the Caravan’s navi alerted us and followed with instructions to an off-the-expensive roadway to a lovely, smooth parallel road without the heavy traffic; thus saving us time and money. Adding measurably to the trip was the rear seat DVD player with individual earphones that allowed for jazz to be played in the front seats.
But even more importantly was the assortment of safety and driver assist features including the usual assortment of air bags and electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring and remote keyless entry. Our vehicle had an optional safety package that includes a rear park assist system, rear backup camera, blind-spot monitoring (I believe this should be mandatory on every vehicle) and rear cross path detection system, rain-sensitive wipers and automatic headlamps. It was a veritable tecno-treasure.
Now to the driving itself: Under the hood is the new 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine that produces 283 hp with 260 lb. of torque. It’s coupled to a very smooth-shifting six speed transmission. Throughout the trip, no matter the topography from flat to hilly to mini-mountains, the Dodge Caravan was responsive and without any struggle to maintain speed on long inclines. Dodge calls it a “high-tech, high-performing and highly responsive motor that hits the sweet spot between power and efficiency” and I do agree as well. It has a rock solid feel with very little body sway or lane-migration for this pretty big vehicle, even though it’s called a minivan. Steering was crisp and reactive without any lag. The Grand Caravan is easy and fun to drive with power to spare.
Watch TACH's exclusive Dodge Caravan promo video
Reasonable mpg numbers of 17 city and 25 highway are attainable and maybe even extended with the with new driver-selectable fuel economizer mode which allows drivers to flip a switch to maximize their fuel economy. In addition, a 12 mm lower ride height, new premium, lower-rolling resistance tires, a new spoiler and reduced brake caliper and rear bearing drag add to the fuel economy.
With good range of colors available in exterior and interior and a starting price of $20,995; the Grand Caravan represents a good value - realize however, optional packages and techno-goodies will add to the bottom line.
For journalistic integrity I must admit I’ve never owned or wanted to own a minivan. Sure I’ve tested many over a few hours during a product introduction, but never a long road trip. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan has changed my attitude about minivans. It is a sleek looking minivan – and that’s not an oxymoron – with an interior that’ll let me keep my machismo intact and drive or ride in comfort. Nice, isn’t it?
Tires and Wheels
• Painted alloy wheels
• 17 x 6.5 in. wheels
• Steel spare wheel
• P225/65R17 tires
• All season tires
• Underbody mounted spare tire
• Temporary spare tire
Roof and Glass
• Variable intermittent wipers
• Privacy glass
• Rear defogger
• Power opening rear quarter windows
• Rear window wiper
• Auxiliary transmission fluid cooler Doors
• Rear liftgate door
• Width: 78.7 in.
• Height: 67.9 in.
• Length: 202.8 in.
• Ground clearance: 5.6 in.
• Front track: 65.6 in.
• Rear track: 64.8 in.
• Wheel base: 121.2 in.
• Cargo capacity, all seats in place: 33.0 cu.ft.
• Maximum cargo capacity: 143.8 cu.ft.
• Maximum towing capacity: 3600 lbs.
• Maximum payload: 1540 lbs.
• Gross weight: 6050 lbs.
• Curb weight: 4510 lbs.
• Angle of approach: 13.4 degrees
• Angle of departure: 17.5 degrees
• Black Side Roof Rails
• P225/65R17 BSW All-Season Tires
Mechanical Engine & Performance
• Base engine size: 3.6 L
• Cam type: Double overhead cam (DOHC)
• Cylinders: V6
• Valves: 24
• Valve timing: Variable
• Torque: 260 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm
• Horsepower: 283 hp @ 6400 rpm
• Turning circle: 39.1 ft.
• Base engine type: flex-fuel (FFV)
• Drive type: front wheel drive
• Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
• MacPherson strut front suspension
• Torsion beam rear suspension
• Front independent suspension
• Stabilizer bar stabilizer bar
• Fuel type: flex-fuel (FFV)
• Fuel type: flex-fuel (unleaded/E85)
• Fuel tank capacity: 20.0 gal.
• Range in miles (cty/hwy): 340.0/500.0 mi.
• EPA mileage est. (cty/hwy): 17/25 mpg
Mechanical Options• Trailer Tow Group
• Load Leveling and Height Control
• Engine Block Heater
Safety & Security
• 4-wheel ABS
• Front, rear and third row head airbags
• Dual front side-mounted airbags
• Child seat anchors
• Emergency braking assist
• Ventilated front disc / solid rear disc brakes
• Rear door child safety locks
• Engine immobilizer
• Front fog/driving lights
• Auto delay off headlamps
• Dusk sensing headlamps
• 2 front headrests
• 2 rear headrests
• Passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation
• Front seatbelt pretensioners
• Stability control
• Traction control
• Electronic brakeforce distribution
• Front multi-adjustable headrests
• Rear height adjustable headrests
• Post-collision safety system
• Passenger head restraint whiplash protection system
• Driver head restraint whiplash protection system
• Tire pressure monitoring
• Basic: 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
• Drivetrain: 5 yr./ 100000 mi.
• Roadside: 3 yr./ 36000 mi.
• Rust: 5 yr./ 100000 mi.
• Front head room: 39.8 in.
• Front hip room: 58.4 in.
• Front leg room: 40.7 in.
• Front shoulder room: 63.7 in.
• 8-way power passenger seat
• 8-way power driver seat
• Driver seat with power adjustable lumbar support
• Height adjustable driver seat
• Height adjustable passenger seat
• Bucket front seats
• Rear hip Room: 65.0 in.
• Rear head room: 39.3 in.
• Rear leg room: 36.5 in.
• Rear shoulder room: 64.1 in.
• Folding rear seatback
• Reclining rear seats
• Manual folding split-bench third row seats
• Rear ventilation ducts with fan control
• Remote power door locks
• Power mirrors
• Heated mirrors
• 2 one-touch power windows
• Adjustable pedals
• Cruise control
• Front console with storage
• Front, rear and 3rd row cupholders
• Front door pockets
• Overhead console with storage
• Retained accessory power
• Front seatback storage
• Power steering
• Universal remote transmitter (for garage door, security system, etc.)
• 12V front, 115V rear and 12V cargo area power outlet(s)
• Tilt and telescopic steering wheel
• Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel
• Rear view with wide-angle
• Interior air filtration
• Three zone climate control
• Cargo area light
• Front and rear reading lights
• Leather trim on shift knob
• Leather steering wheel
• Front and rear floor mats
• Dual illuminating vanity mirrors
• Trip computer
• External temperature display
• Low fuel level warning
In Car Entertainment
• Mast antenna
• Infinity premium brand speakers
• 9 total speakers
• 506 watts stereo output
• AM/FM in-dash single
CD/DVD with CD MP3 Playback stereo
• Sirius satellite radio
• Auxiliary MP3 audio input
• 1 subwoofer(s)
• 12 Months of provided satellite radio service
• Radio data system
• Pre-wired for phone
• Media Center 730N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV
• Entertainment Group 1
• MOPAR UConnect Web
• Security Group
• Quick Order Package 29N
• Driver Convenience Group