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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2008
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.Under the Hood
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
The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SE has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of less than $23,000; the price will climb toward the mid-$40,000 range for a fully loaded SXT model. The base price is among the lowest in the category, but that's in conjunction with the category's weakest powertrain. We expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world transaction prices---before any available incentives---within a few hundred dollars of sticker price. We don't expect the Grand Caravan to retain resale value as well as other stalwarts like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.