Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan: First Drive Page 2

Follow Marty

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

A bigger boost, but boundy

Chrysler's hacked down the list of available drivetrains down to one. Each and every Grand Caravan powers down the road to middle school behind a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6, reined in by a six-speed automatic transmission. The Pentastar is to Chrysler now, what the VQ V-6 is to Nissan--only in the new domestics, the Pentastar sounds smoother and more tame, while Nissan's V-6 has gotten more grouchy over time.

The Pentastar generates a huge boost in spec-sheet power figures, with 86 more horsepower accounted for over the old Chrysler 3.8-liter V-6, or 30 hp more than the limited-run 4.0-liter Caravan. There's something more substantial going on underfoot this time around, but the bulky minivan really disguises any dramatic improvements in straight-line acceleration. The off-line impulse of power doesn't exactly follow through in long passes. And the Pentastar doles out its power through a six-speed automatic that's been staged for gas mileage above all else. For a nearly 300-horsepower vehicle, there's very little scrambling going on through the Caravan's front wheels. (All-wheel drive? It's been gone from the lineup since 2008.)

If the mild signs of life are too much to handle, click the Caravan's Economizer switch. It fiddles with shift timing to sip a little less fuel. Fuel economy was 17/25 mpg in the best Grand Caravan last year; the EPA's sitting on the 2011 van's ratings as of this writing, but it's probably a safe bet the numbers won't go down at all--or up significantly.

Toyota's made some mini-waves with the "swagger-wagon" Sienna and a new sport version. Until the Grand Caravan R/T arrives early next year, Dodge's minivan still gets the mid-pack marks for handling it's held since time immemorial, or in Western numerals, since 1984. Gauging the changes in the Caravan's handling and ride updates is tough, too, since your ears account for so much of the new-and-improved perceptions that settle in right away, inside the van.

Chrysler says new steering, better rear-end control, and retuned shocks give the Grand Caravan more nimble feel, along with a lower ride height, but there's a physical distinction between the high driving position of the Caravan and the relatively low-slung Odyssey and Sienna that makes the Caravan feel a bit more upright--i.e., less sporty. Quicker steering isn't any meatier. Tire sizes max out at 17-inchers, putting a damper on most cornering urges. Even with retuned shocks, the Caravan bounds more than it needs to over strings of low bumps. It's resolute, conservative to any response, with a smothering instinct that will shame lots of the moms and dads who actually will drive it, pretty much the polar opposite of the taut, tightly-sprung (well, for a van) Honda Odyssey.


 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (7)
  1. Great interior!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Chrysler is about to be the leader again among the competition, and if we speak about the Honda or toyota minivans, I can tell you that they are CRAP, yes, plain crap. Why don't you say something about the interior materials, quality fit and finish of the interior on those RICE minivans? Haven't you see them? Chrysler RULES remember it, just wait and see it.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. I can't say enough good things about our 2008 Chrysler Town & Country (near twin to the Grand Caravan). If some misfortune befell that van today, I'd buy another 2010 or 2011 just like it tomorrow... well, in this case, Friday.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. Hi had a Chrysler rental van a couple of weeks ago. If the interior is scuh high quality J.Mervich, tell me why it rattled more and felt more plasticy than my 2002 Odyessey. The Chrylser vans are disposable assets. Sadly still POS as they always have been.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. I like the van and was excited to see that someone drove it. Reading the name of this article, "2011 Dodge Grand Caravan: First Drive", leads one to believe that the authors did. However, all the pictures and content are just press release rehash. Bad job guys.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. Alex, not sure what you're missing -- I drove it, I wrote about it. The driving impressions are on page 2. Out of seven vehicles, it's the one I couldn't spare time to shoot.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. J.Mervich must be one of the few Americans left working for Chrysler. My wife and I bought a 08 Grand Caravan several years ago and kept is for a little over a year. We had to replace the brakes (rotors and all) 3 times, a broken tie rod, had major electrial repairs (days and days in service) to name a few of the problems. The guy at the dealer actually told us that Dodge put undersized brakes on it to save money which is why we had to keep replacing them. It also drove like a beast, that's what my wife and I described it as, and the interior rattled louder than you'd want your stereo up with kids in the car to drown it out. We traded it in for an 07 Honda Odyssey and thousands and thousands of miles late we still couldn't be more happier with it! It feels like you're driving a car and the fit and finish is 10 times what the Dodge was. I don't know who you're trying to kid J. the Dodge is crap. We wanted to buy American (found out it was actually made in Mexico) but where burned. I'll still give Ford a look and the new Buick Regals are sweet but I wouldn't touch a Chrysler vehicle with a 100 foot pole.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

More From High Gear Media


 
 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC. Send us feedback.