Tech Review: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan
By Doug Newcomb of MSN Autos
I don't know any guy who gets too excited about a minivan. But if you're a family man like me, there's a good chance that a minivan will be as much a part of your life at some point as Saturday soccer games and birthday slumber parties. After all, when it comes to hauling kids, their friends and their accoutrements, few vehicles are better suited to the task.
While crossovers have been crowding into minivans' traditional territory as a primary people hauler, the standard-bearing 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan comes with the type of conveniences and top-notch safety ratings to make it a perfect mommy mobile. The version I recently tested (with a sticker price of $31,320), also has enough cool tech to appeal to almost any guy's inner gadget geek.
Make it Easy on Mom
The option package also includes venting of the rear side windows from a switch on the driver's door, power-adjustable pedals and a remote start that fires up the engine so that the interior can be heated or cooled before departure. The Power and Entry Group option that also came with our Caravan adds passenger and driver-side power sliding doors, and a power liftgate for $1,995.
These features can prove priceless when you have your hands full and you're trying to herd five first-graders inside. And Dodge conveniently offers three ways that the sliding doors can be activated: from the key fob remote, switches just inside of each door or in an overhead console.
Rip and Roll
About a third of MyGIG's 20 GB hard-disc drive (HDD) can be loaded with MP3 and WMA files, and even jpeg pictures to create digital "wallpaper" on the touch screen. MP3 and WMA files can be ripped to the HDD from a CD or transferred via a flash drive plugged into a USB port on the radio's faceplate.
Gracenote Music Recognition Service incorporated into the system provides artist, album, song title and genre information, and once music is loaded onto the hard drive it can be organized using MyGIG's Jukebox Mode. AM, FM and SIRIUS Satellite Radio are also on tap and a portable media player can be plugged into an aux input on the MyGIG's faceplate. With the addition of an optional USB cable available from a Dodge dealer, an iPod can be controlled directly from the MyGIG's touch-screen.
The Caravan performed dutifully if unspectacularly during everyday driving, but the anemic 3.3-liter V6 left me wanting more power when merging into freeway traffic or climbing a hill. The minivan also felt uninspired when cornering and the brakes over-tasked when asked to quickly halt the 4,300-pound vehicle. At highway speed, interior noise made it difficult to enjoy all the various music options, although at moderate speeds the six-speaker audio system had decent sound.
Family Man Mobile
Doug Newcomb has been writing about car electronics since 1988, as editor of Car Audio and Electronics, Car Stereo Review, Mobile Entertainment, Road & Track Road Gear and as a freelance writer. His new book, Car Audio for Dummies, is available from Wiley Publications. He lives in Hood River, Oregon.