KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Although it's been overshadowed by the SUV as the symbol for family transport in third-millennium America, large numbers of families still opt for the arguably more functional minivan. Chrysler is widely credited with inventing the modern minivan and is now the only domestic manufacturer left in the game, as GM and Ford have effectively replaced their slow-selling minivans with three-row crossover SUVs. For the 2009 model year, the 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 nine-inch 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 leader to feel somewhat richer.
What's New for 2009
The SE trim receives more standard equipment including Stow 'n Go seating, cruise control, power second-row window and third-row vents and body color door handles. SXT trims now offer Dodge's Blind Spot Monitoring System, Rear Cross Path Warning System and rain-sensing wipers.
If you've found the ride and handling of other minivans too soft or too firm, you might appreciate the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan's balance between highway comfort and around-town responsiveness. We also appreciated the much-improved steering and braking response from the optional sport tuned suspension package (SXT). Equipped with the 3.8-liter V6, the Grand Caravan had no problem transporting medium-size loads, but for an additional $700 and no significant sacrifice in EPA fuel economy figures we prefer our test vehicle's 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 2009 Grand Caravan much more satisfying from behind the wheel than its predecessors and commendable for a people-mover of its stature.
In addition to the comprehensive uconnect 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.
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.
After more ovoid third- and fourth-generation models, the newest Grand Caravan returns to the boxier roots of the first couple of iterations. The squared-up sheetmetal and prominent chrome trim give the 2009 model a look that's bolder and more sophisticated at once, and counters the stereotypical minivan look. Power-operated side windows give second-row passengers a less claustrophobic ride, while the SXT trim provides a standard roof rack with integrated cross rails.
Notable Standard Equipment
A base-equipped 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan SE includes air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, stain resistant cloth seating, Stow 'n Go second-row seating and a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), 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 uconnect gps 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, Blind Spot Monitoring System and the Cross Path System, which warns of traffic crossing paths when backing up. Also available is a power liftgate, power sliding doors and power-folding third-row seat. Second-row seating options include rearward-pivoting Swivel 'n Go seats, integrated child booster seats, and manual sunshades. A comprehensive entertainment system offers two independent video displays with a swivel third-row monitor.
Under the Hood
The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan no longer offers a four-cylinder engine, which is probably a good thing because we can't even say we'd want to regularly haul around full loads with the base powertrain. Comprised of a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission, it offers very little gain in the way of improved fuel economy. The lager V6 engines are teamed to six-speed automatic transmission which permits them relatively decent fuel economy with more power and smoother operation.
175 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
205 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (gasoline), 11/16 (E85)
197 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
230 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23
251 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
259 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan SE has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $25,000; the price will climb past $40,000 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.