By KBB.com Editors
Although it's been overshadowed by the SUV as the symbol for family transport in third-millennium America, almost a million families opted for the arguably more functional minivan as recently as 2006. Chrysler is widely credited with inventing the modern minivan and will soon be the only domestic manufacturer left in the game, as GM and Ford effectively replace their slow-selling minivans with three-row crossover SUVs. For the 2008 model year, the all-new Dodge Grand Caravan and its slightly ritzier Chrysler Town & Country sibling arrive with attractive seating and entertainment options to compete with the remaining minivans from Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia.
With features like an available Swivel 'n Go setup that configures into a table for four people and dual, independent video monitors that can display DVD movies, video games or satellite-based SIRIUS Backseat TV, Chrysler's fifth-generation minivan is the obvious choice for satisfying rear-seat riders.
While the Grand Caravan's ride and handling are well-balanced, you may prefer the softer Toyota Sienna or the more eager Honda Odyssey. Also, while the Grand Caravan's interior has been greatly improved versus its predecessor, we expected the category's newest entry to feel somewhat richer.
Beneath the surface of its boxier, more masculine styling, the fifth-generation Grand Caravan offers improved powertrains, more contemporary interior styling and class-exclusive options like satellite TV (offering three family channels) and clever second-row seating options. The shorter-wheelbase Caravan model is no longer.
Driving Impressions If you've found the ride and handling of other minivans too soft or too firm, you might appreciate the Grand Caravan's balance between highway comfort and around-town responsiveness. We also...appreciated the new model's much-improved steering and braking response. Equipped with the 3.8-liter V6, our test vehicle had no problem transporting the medium-size loads to which we subjected it, but for an additional $630 and no sacrifice in EPA fuel economy figures we'd probably spring for the 4.0-liter V6 option. We'd likely look elsewhere in the segment before settling for the 175-horsepower base V6. The Grand Caravan isn't as nimble in parking lots as the exceptionally tight-turning Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Overall, we found the fifth-generation Grand Caravan much more satisfying from behind the wheel than its predecessor and commendable for a people-mover of its stature.
In addition to the comprehensive MyGIG infotainment system up front, Chrysler's newest minivan offers dual, independent rear video screens that allow second- and third-row passengers to watch two different DVD movies, play video games or even watch the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network Mobile via SIRIUS Backseat TV.
Swivel 'n Go Seats
Although not without legroom challenges, the Swivel 'n Go seating option, that comprises rear-swiveling second-row captain's chairs and a hideaway, removable table, takes the concept of the rolling family room to a new level. The fold-flat Stow 'n Go seating system introduced on the previous generation is also available.
Sharing sheetmetal, powertrains and all but a few features, the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country are most differentiated by unique interior styling. Whereas the Town & Country combines wood-like and bright trim in conveying a more sophisticated persona, the Grand Caravan's sportier gauge cluster and heavier use of black suggest a more athletic nature. Available conveniences include Stow 'n Go and Swivel 'n Go second-row seating, integrated child booster seats and a class-exclusive power-folding third-row seat. Loading and unloading is predictably easy and the accommodations are comfortable.Exterior
After more ovoid third- and fourth-generation models, the all-new Grand Caravan returns to the boxier roots of the first couple of iterations. The new sheetmetal and more available chrome give the new model a look that's bolder and more sophisticated at once, and counters the stereotypical minivan look. Black trim on the SE gives way to body-color and bright trim on the SXT.
A base-equipped 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE includes air conditioning, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, standard cloth seating, a second-row bench seat and a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat. Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability and traction controls plus front and three-row side-curtain airbags.
The Grand Caravan's most sophisticated option is a hard-drive-based MyGIG system that offers navigation with real-time traffic information and features MP3/WMA music and JPEG image uploading, auxiliary audio input, voice-recognition, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity and more. Other notable options include backup sensors and a rearview camera, a power liftgate, power sliding doors and power-folding third-row seat. Second-row seating options include fold-flat Stow 'n Go or rearward-pivoting Swivel 'n Go seats, integrated child booster seats, power windows and manual sunshades. A comprehensive entertainment system offers two independent video displays.
The all-new Chrysler minivans lose the previously-available four-cylinder engine and gain the category's first six-speed transmission. We wouldn't want to regularly haul around full loads with the base powertrain, comprised of a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission, especially for very little gain in the way of improved fuel economy.
175 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
205 lb.-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24
197 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
230 lb.-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
251 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
259 lb.-ft of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
By mskier on Tuesday, March 10, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "car starts making lots of noises around 75,000"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've been driving Caravans since 1984, starting with 4-speed manual trans on floor (that's right). I take them into deep snow with 4 snow tires to top of VT, great cars; stow'n go seats are very good, drop the middle seats and kids sleep on the floor, plenty of leg room. Have had good luck with my vehicles despite complaints by others. Could be because I take good care of them and don't beat them. Front seats are designed to cup your body like a baseball glove vs. arched lower-back seats in Odyssey and Sienna. For long drives this makes a huge difference. No, I don't work for Dodge or Fiat, just a loyal customer going back to 1970's slant six engines in Dodge vans and Darts"
7 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Teri on Saturday, March 07, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,621overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "inside only has 1 small (tiny) hole in drver's sea"
Cons: "CV joints clicking barely, right rotor not the bes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Needs CV Joints they're clicking real quietly right now. Back passenger tail-light still works at least, but the light cover is glued, but at least still works. Small (tiny) dent on the right of the rear light.....I mean tiny."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Ford lover on Friday, February 20, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 66,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "about 18 to 19 mpg in everyday driving"
Cons: "no heat vent to warm up feet area"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Only bought it to carry my handicapped dad around, but do really like it. Comfortable, drives good and has been very dependable with no mechanical problems."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Ole Fred on Sunday, February 15, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great combination of sports car and dump truck"
Cons: "Poor cruise control speed maintenance on hills"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Not eye catching; blends in with the crowd. Excellent acceleration, braking and handling. Cruise control loses 5 mph on highway hills (most annoying feature of vehicle). Interior is spacious, comfortable and well laid out. Lots of space for cargo and passengers. I'll keep this until one of us dies (me or the van)."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Festus on Friday, February 06, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good mileage, good acceleration, good traveling ca"
Cons: "brakes, supsension noise, flaky tranmisson."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"Had to replace brake rotors.....suspension noise in rear cannot be found nor solved. Car drives ok, good mileage..but seems cheap...lousy resale. Previously had a 98 Gr Caravan. Great vehicle. Bought an 05 and hated it...traded it with 2000 miles...for a 2008...had transmission issues, lousy rear suspension. Traded that for the 2011...transmission is flaky. Most likely will NOT buy another. EXCEPT--they are (minivans) the most sensible vehicle on the market and can't find an equal for the price. A true conundrum.."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Momma G on Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "cheap, convenient stow and go seats"
Cons: "it's just a mini van"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Adequate transportation for a family of six and their stuff. Our SXT has some convenient features but lacks a lot of little things that would make it a really nice vehicle. You get what you pay for. Unfortunately they don't hold their value very well so unless you pay cash or put a LOT down you'll be upside down in your loan really fast."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful