2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

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Review: 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan


Introduction
Chrysler builds two minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan, that are near twins. Last year, the Grand Caravan and the Town & Country underwent a comprehensive redesign that brought updated sheetmetal, interiors, and powertrains. For 2009, the minivans from Chrysler and Dodge are largely unchanged. Chrysler will also be building the Volkswagen Routan, which is based on the Grand Caravan and Town & Country.

Although some of the Grand Caravan's interior plastic is of the hard and shiny variety and doesn't look as rich as what is offered in some of the competition, the control layout is simple and the gauges are easy to read. The driving position is high off the floor, which gives a commanding view of the road ahead. The Grand Caravan has a soft and supple ride that absorbs bumps without disturbing occupants. It goes down the road with minimal fuss, but anyone expecting anything exciting will be disappointed.

Three engines are offered in the Grand Caravan. Base versions are powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 with 175 horsepower. One rung up is a 3.8-liter V-6 with 197 horsepower, and a 4.0-liter V-6 with 252 horsepower is the top engine. The 3.8-liter and 4.0-liter V-6 engines come paired with a six-speed automatic; base 3.3-liter engines get an old-think four-speed automatic.

Major competitors to the Grand Caravan include the Honda Odyssey, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, and Volkswagen Routan.

Verdict
The latest minivans from Dodge offer the same practicality and livability that made the minivan a popular choice among families in the first place. Interior versatility and the exclusive Stow 'n Go folding seats are excellent, but they mean sacrificing some second-row comfort, as they use a thinner seat. The Swivel 'n Go seats are a bit gimmicky, and there's not much legroom once they're turned around.

Ultimately, although the Grand Caravan is roomy and practical — what minivan isn't? — it finished third in our latest five-minivan comparo, slotting behind the second-place Toyota Sienna and winning Honda Odyssey. The Dodge did acquit itself well in overall features and third-row comfort, however.

What's New for 2009
The Dodge minivans get an optional blind-spot, side-reverse warning system for 2009.

Highlights and Recommendations
The bottom of the Dodge Grand Caravan lineup is powered by a 175-hp, 3.3-liter V-6; in a van that can weigh well over 4000 pounds, this engine is heavily taxed. Moving up to the 197-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 yields more torque and the more efficient six-speed automatic. The 252-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 offers plenty of acceleration at the expense of fuel economy.

You should think long and hard about the practicality of the Swivel 'n Go seats. They might seem like a great idea, but space around the removable table is cramped, and when equipped with Swivel 'n Go, the second-row seats don't fold into the floor. On the flip side, it would be wise to consider the Stow 'n Go arrangement if you think you'll need to haul a lot of stuff, as it allows for the second- and third-row seats to fold into the floor.

Safety
Dual front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, tire-pressure monitoring, anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control are all standard on the Dodge Grand Caravan.

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BB02 - 9/17/2014 5:06:20 AM