Modest but meaningful revisions to the powertrain controller units in the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country equipped with the 4.0-liter V6 have boosted the EPA mileage ratings of these vehicles by eight percent overall from the 2008 figures. In addition to bumping official city/highway stats from 16/23 mpg to 17/25 mpg, Chrysler says the process also adds a bit more snap to their off-the-line acceleration. Interestingly enough, the mileage numbers on the more advanced overhead-cam 4.0-liter six now exceed those of the available 3.8-liter pushrod V6, which carries over at last-season's 16/23 mpg marks. According to Chrysler, the efficiency gains were all electronic in nature, the result of very effective reprogramming and recalibration of the computer modules of both the engine and the six-speed automatic transmission.
While Chrysler's minivan duo continues to dominate a market segment that it has ruled for a quarter century, the relentless one-two attack of greater and stiffer competition -- including the recent arrival of Volkswagen's new Chrysler-derived Routan -- plus a declining buyer base means the automaker now finds itself fighting considerably harder for every sale. Adding this extra measure of both responsiveness and efficiency to at least the top-line Chrysler Town & Country Limited and Dodge Grand Caravan SXT models should definitely up their potential buyer appeal. The obvious question is why Chrysler didn't just make these changes for the 2008 season, when it launched this latest generation of people movers?