In 2014, the Dodge Caravan will mark 30 years in Canada. Introduced in 1984 model year, the Caravan quickly created a new market segment and became the de facto standard for minivans in North America. Currently assembled in Windsor, Ontario the Grand Caravan comes in eight different trim levels for the Canadian market with the Canada value package MSRP starting at $19,985 up to the R/T package at $32,995.
RedlineNorth recently took the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Plus ($27,995 base, $42,730 as tested) on a family trip to Great Wolfe Lodge in Niagara Falls Ontario. Three adults and two kids loaded into the van to escape the mid-winter blahs. As many readers already know the minivan really is the perfect people mover and the Grand Caravan SXT Plus will not only get you and your family from point A to point B, but it will do it with both performance and comfort.
Interior storage in the Grand Caravan is very plentiful. Our test vehicle had the 7 seat configuration with second row captain’s chairs and a third row bench. Adults getting into the third row may require a few yoga moves, but for kids it’s more than adequate. Trunk space in the caravan is surprisingly good, even with the third row seats in their upright position. The luggage for our trip to Great Wolfe Lodge was placed with ease with lots of room left over. Leg room is also plentiful with 40.7 inches of space for the front row, 36.5 inches for the second row and 32.7 inches for the third row.
Minivans, in general, are very good a moving people and goods from point A to point B, but they may not win any style contests. That being said the Dodge Caravan does have some pleasing styling cues, including the black bezel quad lights, and the signature Dodge chrome cross hair grille, as well as the red accents around the interior gauges.
Convenience is where the Grand Caravan excels. The power sliding doors and lift gate along with the interior design made getting in and out of the vehicle a breeze. The infotainment system in the vehicle is Chrysler’s Uconnect system which does a great job of providing information and entertainment and a good job of providing navigation. A one year subscription to Sirius/XM radio is included as part of the Uconnect Hands-Free Group upgrade, which is a nice touch. This coupled with the optional DVD player and fold down LCD screen and the kids were sufficiently entertained on the journey to and from Niagara. Additional nice to haves in the Caravan are the USB charging ports between the second and third row seats and in the central console, along with the three zone climate control and the rear back up camera.
We were pleasantly surprised with the power coming from the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6. It comes with a six speed transmission and is common across all trims levels. Accelerating on the Queen Elizabeth Way heading towards Niagara was a breeze despite a fully loaded van thanks to the 286 HP and 260 lbs of torque. Sight lines were also very good and one could be forgiven for forgetting you are driving a minivan while on the highway. The towing capacity of the Caravan is a respectable 3,600 lbs, for a minivan.
One aspect of the interior design we weren’t necessarily sold on was the placement of the shifter, which is up high on the dash and takes some getting used to. By the end of the week it still didn’t feel right reaching so high to put the van in gear, however, the additional room saved between the front two seats provides for plentiful armrest storage and in that respect is a good trade off.
Fuel efficiency in the Grand Caravan is rated at 12.2L city and 7.9L highway. The vehicle does offer a fuel economizer feature which alters the transmission shift patterns to help improve overall efficiency, and is most advantageous during city driving. This is a nice touch and using this feature we obtained near posted fuel efficiency during our test period.
The Grand Caravan was a 2013 Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and has come a long way since its inception in 1984, but so too has its competition such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. While the base Canada Value package is a bargain, the Caravan faces stiff competition in the higher trim levels. Overall the Grand Caravan is a great family vehicle that offers both performance and convenience and is a worthy competitor in the minivan market segment.
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