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Dodge Grand Caravan ES (2001)

SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyer's Guide

by Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 32,235
     Price As Tested                                    $ 36,145
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 231 cid/3785 cc
     Horsepower                                   215 @ 5000 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               245 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  119.3"/78.6"/200.5"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4499 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  20.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      215/65R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                       88.0
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/23/20         

     0-60 MPH                                       11.1 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          17.7 seconds @ 80.1 mph
     Top-speed                                           102 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

Chrysler invented the modern minivan and still commands a staggering 40 percent of the segment. Our test vehicle for the week is the Dodge Grand Caravan ES with all-wheel drive.

OUTSIDE - The 2001 Grand Caravan has a new shape. Dodge designers gave the new model a side profile that is more wedge-like. The roof and beltline slope up gently front to rear with the D-pillar and lift gate window both being raked forward. It's wider now by two inches, and a "character" line runs the length of the sides just above the fender wells. The corners of the rear fascia are taller to give it a visual lift, the door handles are now lower and the tail lamps are higher. Integrated fender flares are also new for 2001, and our test model rolled on polished five-spoke alloy wheels. Its nose has been revamped with a larger grille opening and the Dodge logo has been relocated from the hood to the center of the grille.

INSIDE - Understandably, a majority of Dodge's revamping efforts went toward Grand Caravan's interior. There are lots of small improvements such as better cupholders, lockable storage drawers and new grocery bag hooks, but there are some major upgrades as well. Power sliding side doors are an option and, for the first time, Grand Caravan buyers can get an optional power lift gate. Like the power side doors, it's activated by pushing either an overhead button or a button on the key fob. And also like those side doors, it can be overridden by simply grabbing the handle for manual operation. A neat cargo organizer behind the rear seats consists of a shelf that rises from the floor, allowing up to 30 pounds of additional cargo to be hauled directly over another cargo space at floor level. Also, the shelf has sides that fold up to reveal three separate bins - a handy feature for items that would normally roll around en route. A three-zone climate control system will make everyone comfortable, while a removable center console is packed with convenience items designed to make life easier.

ON THE ROAD - The Dodge minivan line has found new power, and while the basic Caravan can be ordered with the 150-horse, 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, most of the new vans sold will have V6 power. Both the 3.3-liter and 3.8-liter pushrod V6s have been redesigned for more power and quieter operation. The 3.3 now produces 180 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque, up from 158 and 205 lb-ft, while the 3.8's horsepower has increased 20 percent to 215, with a small boost in torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, though our Grand Caravan ES tester came with optional AutoStick, which allows it to be shifted somewhat like a manual transmission. Our all-wheel drive test model gave good grip on wet pavement, and it worked seamlessly with no driver input needed.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The Grand Caravan rides on a unibody platform that has been strengthened to resist torsional twisting by 20 percent, which contributes to better ride quality. The suspension remains the the same as the previous version with struts in front and a beam axle in back. New suspension geometry has improved its straight-line tracking, while new aluminum steering components have reduced overall weight. A load-leveling rear suspension system keeps things on an even plane when the van is full of passengers, and the rear suspension mounting points are now eight times stiffer to reduce road noise. Close attention to reducing noise, vibration and harshness came in the form of more acoustic insulation, an underhood silencer pad and special cross bracing. Four-wheel disc brakes are now larger and more effective, while an anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, ABS, side-impact door beams, child seat anchor system and front seat belt pre-tensioners are standard. Side airbags are optional.

OPTIONS - Leather seating, $1,250; Customer Preferred Package, (center console, AutoStick, uplevel stereo, auto-dim mirrors, full-sized spare tire, automatic headlamps), $980; side airbags, $350, heated front seats, $250; power lift gate, $250; roof rack, $215.