The Dodge Grand Caravan is all about transporting people comfortably, efficiently and safely, while keeping them entertained. Its designers focused on interior creature comforts, such as the popular Stow 'n Go seating system. Stow 'n Go consists of bins in the floor behind the first row of seats, and folding second-row seats that can be folded into those bins, resulting in a flat load floor for easily carrying larger objects. Or, when the seats are up in the normal seating position, the bins can accommodate toys, games, sporting gear, tools or whatever.
Another popular feature is Swivel 'n Go seating, with second-row chairs that swivel to the rear and a table that fits between those seats and the third-row bench, thus allowing up to five people to face each other around the table. It's great for keeping the kids entertained on a trip, for getting in a little work, or having an on-road conference. Other available features include a video system with one or two rear screens, wireless headphones, and remote control; a spot to plug in a laptop; power sliding side doors and power liftgate; and the capability to download music to a hard-drive sound system. Or, if need be, all the seats can be folded flat and the Grand Caravan can accept a sheet of plywood or some bales of hay.
The Grand Caravan's suspension delivers a nice, smooth ride, though it can sometimes wallow. It's more about comfort and safety than carlike precision. Electronic stability control is standard, and the Grand Caravan has performed well in government crash tests. The handling is a bit cumbersome, not surprising, given the Grand Caravan's size. It doesn't go around corners as well as the Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest. It leans in hard turns, so drivers will have to be careful not to upset whatever activities are going on in back.
Three V6 engines are available. The base engine is a 3.3-liter V6 of 175 horsepower; it is fitted with a four-speed automatic. Next is a 3.8-liter V6 of 197 horsepower. Our preference is the 4.0-liter V6 of 251 horsepower. The 3.8 and 4.0-liter engines have a six-speed automatic. We found the base 3.3-liter engine can struggle with freeway on-ramps. The 3.8-liter engine is acceptable, though we think the 4.0-liter V6 is the best choice.
The few changes for 2010 include front-seat active head restraints, three-zone climate controls are now standard on the SE trim level, a rear-obstacle detection display is available, and the 4.0-liter engine is fitted with a revised final-drive ratio, which improves fuel economy.
The Grand Caravan's unique cargo and entertainment features make it a strong contender in the minivan class. Families will like it, especially because those entertainment features will make for more enjoyable family trips. Which is, after all, the reason the Grand Caravan remains so popular.
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