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Minivan Review: 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan Review By John Heilig


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THE AUTO PAGE

By John Heilig

MODEL: 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan
ENGINE: 3.6-liter 24-valve V6
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 283 hp @ 6,400 rpm/260 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
WHEELBASE: 121.2 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 203.7 x 78.7 x 69.0 in.
TIRES: P225/65R17
CARGO: 31.1/78.9/140.3 cu. ft. (behind 3rd row/3rd row seats down/3rd and 2nd row seats down)
ECONOMY: 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway/17.7 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 20.0 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,510 lbs.
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna
STICKER: $34,065 (includes $995 delivery, $5,675 options)

BOTTOM LINE: The Dodge Grand Caravan is a good, no-nonsense minivan (excuse me, multipurpose vehicle) without a lot of options, but with all the practicality.

The primary purpose of a minivan is utility. In its lifetime, it will serve as a people mover and/or a cargo hauler. If it can perform these functions with a minimum of fuss, then it is doing its job.

To be politically correct, the Dodge Grand Caravan is now considered a multipurpose vehicle, since minivans have developed a bad connotation among the millennials. Let’s face it, it’s still a minivan, although multipurpose vehicle fits the description as well.

The Caravan does its job well. The 3.6-liter V6 engine has enough power (283 horsepower) to get it into trouble or keep it out of trouble, depending on the circumstances. In addition, it has enough torque (260 lb.-ft.) to spin the front wheels on acceleration even if there is only a hint of gravel on the surface. Maybe it was my fault with a heavy foot, but it seemed as if every time I pulled away from a stop sign I spun the wheels. How’s that for improving the minivan’s image?

Back in the day we used our full-size van for everything. Minivans hadn’t been invented yet. We used it to carry the family from Brownies through college and it served is well.

The Caravan has enormous cargo capacity, probably more than our full-size had. Behind the third row is a deep well with a total capacity of 31.1 cubic feet. The well is great for carrying unwieldy objects like grocery bags, for example.

Fold that third row down (it’s a complicated process, but once you learn it, it isn’t bad) into the well, and you have a flat cargo space with 78.9 cubic feet. If you really want to get serious, the second row captain’s chairs also fold down creating 140.3 cubic feet of cargo area, enough for a bunch of 8x10 chunks of lumber or some big dogs.

In our family van, for example, we tent camped for five weeks and carried all our gear, plus three girls, cross country. At other times, we took out the two bench seats (no simple folding affairs for us) and carried a cord of firewood. A quick vacuuming and it was back to being a station wagon again.

The driver sits behind a comfortable wheel with a colorful instrument panel. The instruments are white on black and white with red pointers and a red halo around the dial. The combination is good in daylight, but even better at night.

The shifter location on the dash took some remembering. I was always grabbing somewhere else. But it frees up space on the center console, which had two cubbies and a pair of cup holders. It is possible the shift the 6-speed automatic manually, and the shifter on the dash helps. The Caravan isn’t a sporty vehicle by any means, primarily because of the high aspect ratio that tends to make it top-heavy. It isn’t as bad as some vans, but it does keep you honest on turns.

Ride quality is good, with comfortable front seats that offer some side support. Fold-down arm rests toward the center of the van help with the comfort. The rear seats have good leg and knee room, with arm rests on both sides. Assist handles above the doors and on the B-pillars aid in entry and exit. The power sliding side doors can be operated with the key fob, which is also the key.

A word about that fob. The “unlock” button is just below the “panic” button. While we didn’t have any problems, I can see where you could easily hit the wrong button and create a minor panic.

Our tester did not have blind spot monitoring or lane departure warning. However, the Grand Caravan does have all the basic attributes one expects in a minivan (oops, multipurpose vehicle). The safety is there, just not with all the extra goodies.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate