By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/8/2011
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is locked in a struggle to regain turf it has lost to newer, sleeker, and more affordable competitors. A new pricing structure and more standard equipment across the line are only part of Dodge's battle plan, which it hopes will put the 2012 Grand Caravan minivan back on top of a segment essentially invented by Dodge. If its lackluster exterior styling isn't a put-off, there is much to like about the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan. The Grand Caravan includes some segment exclusive features such as the efficient Stow 'n Go second-row seats that fold into the floor, and a best-in-class horsepower rating from its 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. For those who need a purely work-oriented van, Ram carries a non-passenger version of the Grand Caravan (dubbed the Ram C/V) fitted with numerous options catering to your every delivery-oriented need.
If your minivan shopping list is all about functionality, features and price, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is bound to be an attractive option.
If you're looking for a minivan with a bit of an edge, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan's rather conservative styling probably won't float your boat. Both the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna hold far higher resale and reliability ratings (as well as price tags), and the Sienna is the only van in this segment to offer the option of all-wheel drive (AWD).
The 2012 Dodge Caravan minivan carries over largely unchanged for 2012. A new American Value Package (AVP) is offered creating the lowest-priced minivan in the segment. The AVP package has a host of features including second- and third-row Stow 'n Go seating, cruise control, and a V6 engine.
Thanks to last year's extensive overhaul of its suspension, steering and transmission, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is one of the best-handling and most enjoyable minivans on the road today. Of course, much of the Grand Caravan's thrill comes from its potent 283-horsepwoer V6 engine, which has tremendous pulling power yet achieves world-class fuel economy ratings of 17-mpg city and 25 highway. Low-end torque is what is required to move a heavy object quickly from a standing stop and the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan has it in spades. An ample helping of sound-deadening material and a stiffer chassis help minimize outside road and wind noise as well as calm squeaks and rattles. The thin Stow 'n Go seats may look a bit stiff, but they are actually quite supportive and comfy, designed with special foam cushions that help fight fatigue on long trips. Although we found the Grand Caravan easy to drive, its somewhat wide turning radius makes U-turns and tight parking maneuvers a bit more burdensome.
Uconnect hard-drive navigation
With navigation by Garmin, Sirius Travel Link and a 30GB hard drive for music storage, the voice-activated navigation system does everything except drive (and it probably won't be long before we see that). You can even add a mobile Wi-Fi unit to the system, transforming your Grand Caravan into a rolling internet hot spot.
Perfect for a day at the game or a shaded family picnic, the Grand Caravan's third-row seat can be flipped 180 degrees backward, creating a comfortable couch on which to perch your weary bones.
While the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan's exterior doesn't thrill us, its interior is a different story altogether. The large one-piece dash and detailed instrument clusters are among the nicest in the minivan world, featuring soft-touch surfaces, chrome bezels and colorful backlighting. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan is loaded with storage areas, and on Crew and R/T trims, with an available "super console" between the front seats. This Super Console is large enough to hold 1-liter drinks or hide a large purse. Soft surfaces abound in the Grand Caravan, as do little details like premium stitching on the seats and clever overhead lighting throughout the cabin. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan's Stow 'n Go seating folds completely into the large floor wells, which can be used to store more stuff when the seats are in place. The third-row seat can be stowed or flipped back 180-degrees to create the perfect perch for tailgate parties. Among the Grand Caravan's more desirable options is a heated steering wheel, a power-folding 60/40 bench seat, built-in rechargeable LED flashlights and heated second-row seats.
Where it was once on the cutting edge of minivan design, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is now behind the curve. Although some nice exterior upgrades last year help add a bit more character, the overall boxy shape and flat sides stand in stark contrast to the elegant flowing features of the Nissan Quest and Honda Odyssey. Unique to the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan is its Stow 'n Place roof-rack system featuring swiveling roof-rack crossbars that can stow away in the side rails, thus helping to reduce drag and wind noise when not in use. The Grand Caravan's large sliding side doors can be power operated and fitted with roll-down power windows (SXT, Crew and R/T trims). Rear shaded privacy glass covers most of the side glass, and, on upper-level trims, the rearmost glass panel can be vented for better airflow.
A base 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SE-AVP includes keyless entry, heated side mirrors, 2-zone manual air conditioning, rear wiper/washer, rear defroster, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, Stow 'n Go second- and third-row seating, AM/FM/CD/MP3 4-speaker stereo with steering-wheel audio controls and auxiliary audio input jack, cloth seating and 16-inch steel wheels with wheel covers. All models feature a 3.6-liter V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, electronic traction and stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Standard safety equipment includes front, front side-impact and full-length side-curtain airbags.
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan offers four additional trims beyond the base SE-AVP: SE, SXT, Crew and R/T. Each trim adds various features that are standard on some and optional on others. Among the more notable options are the Stow 'n Place roof rack, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, leather seating surfaces, a power liftgate and the Uconnect GPS hard-drive-based navigation and entertainment system featuring 30GB hard drive, Garmin navigation and voice-command feature. Other options of note include an Infinity 506-watt 9-speaker audio upgrade, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, satellite radio, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, rearview monitor, Uconnect Web mobile Wi-Fi Hot Spot, rear backup sensors, Blind Spot Monitoring system with Cross Path protection, manual sunshades, rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable pedals and power sliding side doors.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan offers only one engine choice: a 3.6-liter V6 engine developing a class-leading 283 horsepower. We think this is one of Dodge's best V6 engines to date and a long overdue requirement for the Grand Caravan. The new 6-speed automatic shifts seamlessly and, unlike in some other minivans we've tested, resists the urge to hunt around for the perfect gear. The new V6 is also E85-compatible, meaning it can run on a combination of gasoline and ethanol.
283 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 (gasoline), 12/18 (E85)
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SE-AVP has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $22,000; the price will climb past $38,000 for a fully loaded Crew or R/T model. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan's base price is among the lowest in the category, yet it features the most powerful standard engine. By comparison, the Toyota Sienna V6 costs about $4,000 more, while the entry-level Honda Odyssey will set you back nearly an additional $7,000. We expect our Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to reflect real-world transaction prices – before any available incentives – within a few hundred dollars of sticker price. And, although the 2012 Grand Caravan minivan may have a cheaper entry price, we don't expect it to retain resale value as well as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.