Grand Caravan fights back with innovation
The long-wheelbase Grand Caravan from Dodge features the company’s Stow ‘n Go system, which can fold the second- and third-row seats flat into the floor. It’s optional on the base model and standard on the step-up SXT model.
With the seats in their upright positions, large in-floor storage bins can swallow 340 litres of stuff. The 60/40-split third-row set-up can also be reclined and even reversed to create convenient tailgate seating for picnics and other outdoor events.
The Stow ‘n Go system is one of the features that helps make this minivan so useful. It might sound very simple to have the seats fold flat into the floor, but doing so in such a clever fashion as Chrysler has concocted, makes one wonder why no one thought of this before. It offers several advantages: the seats are never in the way; there are no more cumbersome benches to leave behind; and folding all the seats into the floor provides a very useful 4083 litres of cargo space.
Compared to a regular Caravan, the Grand has a 152 mm longer wheelbase and a 290 mm longer body.
A 170 hp, 3.3-litre V6 engine powers the base model and hauling a 1742 kg curb weight feels a bit sluggish.
The Grand Caravan SXT gets a more powerful 200 hp, 3.8-litre V6 engine. Though its 1962 kg is heavier than the base model, it suits the van much better than the smaller V6. Power is adequate and fuel consumption doesn’t suffer much.
We put our tester through intense long-distance driving — the kind a family would do when going on vacation. We covered a little over 2,500 km in seven days, mostly highway, but we did manage a few in-town forays and clocked about 300 km on winding country roads.
Our SXT came with the power sliding door group, removable centre console, power sunroof, 8-way power driver seat, power liftgate, upgraded radio, and the very child-friendly rear seat video system. These options bumped the price of our SXT to $42,220.
It should be noted, the ‘07 SXT is priced at $31,240 (some $4,495 lower than our test subject), so a similarly-optioned Grand Caravan today would run around $37,725.
We came out of our test with a far better understanding of why this vehicle is the preferred choice of many families. Whether the cargo bay was loaded with photo equipment, empty, or with the benches up and a few adults on board, the handling was always sane and comfortable.
After a 900-plus km stretch between Windsor and Montreal, we were still in very good shape and found the ride to be both enjoyable and comfortable.
A redesigned 2008 Caravan/Grand Caravan is expected this fall, but there’s no reason to wait. Pricing is fair, interesting financing and leasing options are available, and the vehicle is well designed.
If your needs call for more room than a station wagon can provide, then this Grand Caravan will fit the bill just fine.
Dodge Grand Caravan SXT