2008 Dodge Grand Caravan Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 30, 2008

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is loaded with practical features that families on the go will use and appreciate, but it’s not the most luxurious minivan out there.

The family-car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied the latest road tests to write this conclusive review of the new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan to offer you a definitive opinion on this practical minivan. This review also compares the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan with other minivans and can give you the best advice, even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan benefits from a stiffer unibody than previous Chrysler minivans, and the improved structure shows in two key areas: its library-like interior quietness and very good ride quality.

Outside and from the front, there's no mistaking the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan for anything other than a Dodge. The Dodge brand's sporty cross-hair grille tells you that there is a little bit of Ram in this minivan. The all-new styling on the Dodge Grand Caravan presents a more squared-off look and represents an edgy departure from the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. Particularly from the rear, the van's boxy design looks as if it were artfully drawn with a drafter's T-square. From the rear, it's hard to tell the Dodge from its slightly less sporty and more upscale Chrysler Town & Country counterpart.

The interior shares the angular style that is so prevalent on the Grand Caravan's exterior, but crafted curves purposefully break up the linearity. With recognition that minivan interiors endure an interminable life with children, hard plastics are used for most every surface that isn't carpeted. The Dodge's white-faced gauges look sporty, and bits of chrome distract you from the...plastic. Storage is excellent, with multiple cubbies, door pockets, and huge under-floor compartments. Especially useful are the LEDs that illuminate the front-door bins.

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Chrysler's corporate 3.8-liter V-6 powered the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan model tested by TheCarConnection.com. Two other V-6s are available: the 3.3-liter and the 4.0-liter. The 197-horsepower powertrain includes a six-speed automatic, and the combination provides more than adequate performance for this class of vehicle. If you want better acceleration without taking a fuel-economy hit, choose the 4.0-liter V-6 with 251 hp. Pass on the 3.3-liter V-6 altogether because of the four-speed automatic that comes with it. The Dodge Grand Caravan weighs over two tons, so power is an important component of overall driving safety and satisfaction.

The Grand Caravan's long wheelbase of 121.2 inches affords a spacious interior with comfortable seating in all three rows. For you experienced Dodge minivan owners, there is no longer a short-wheelbase Caravan model--Dodge simplified things by just going big, so from 2008 and out, the Grand Caravan is the only Caravan. TheCarConnection.com's test vehicle was outfitted with the Swivel 'n Go second-row bucket seats, a feature that we suppose some people will find useful. This option includes second-row seats that can rotate 180 degrees to face the third-row seats. A removable pedestal-mounted table can sprout from the floor in the limited area between the rows. Perhaps the option works for children, but adults will find the face-to-face configuration cramped. With all rows facing forward, seating comfort is very good. The MyGIG entertainment system plus Sirius TV with its roof-mounted twin-screen LCD system should keep kids entertained.

If you were to drive the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan back to back with a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, you'd feel some differences in refinement. The Dodge doesn't quite have the level of polish that the Honda and Toyota do. However, the Grand Caravan does offer more variety in terms of powertrains and available features than either competitor, and the Dodge's price point is significantly lower than either the Honda's or Toyota's. Also, don't even think of asking for Stow 'n Go seats or Sirius TV at a Honda or Toyota dealership.

The 2009 Ford Flex is a different take on the traditional minivan. With its MINI-esque styling and seven-passenger interior, this might be a Ford worth considering if you don't fall in love with the Grand Caravan.

7

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Styling

If you value functionality over trendy appearances, you'll find the 2008 Dodge Caravan an excellent tool for getting you and your family from point A to point B.

For being the quintessential "soccer mom" vehicle, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is easy on the eye--but still leaves something to be desired.

Cars.com likes the newer, blocky shape of the new minivan from Dodge: 2008’s version “really hit the mark with the new styling. It didn't go overboard trying to make it look like something other than a minivan.” Motor Trend attributes its front-end appearance to the influence of "Dodge's 'masculine' Charger and Magnum" and goes on to describe it as having a "broad shouldered...handsome, expensive presence...[it] actually looks mean looming up in a rear view mirror." Even Kelley Blue Book cannot refrain from calling its styling "masculine." ConsumerGuide says it has "fresh styling," while Edmunds calls it "unpretentious.” CNet says it “doesn't break any new ground,” though, and Autoblog says, “the last time we saw sheet metal this flat and unadorned was on a UPS truck.”

Inside, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is “rather space-shuttley with its boxy, line-y interior design,” Mother Proof says. “This square theme abounds in other Dodge models; it’s not exactly warm and inviting.”

Outside and from the front, TheCarConnection.com editors say, there's no mistaking the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan for anything other than a Dodge; 2008’s sporty cross-hair grille tells you that there is a little bit of Ram in this minivan. The all-new styling on Dodge Grand Caravan presents a more squared-off look and represents an edgy departure from the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. Particularly from the rear, the van's boxy design looks as if it were artfully drawn with a drafter's T-square. From the rear, it's hard to tell the Dodge from its slightly less sporty and more upscale Chrysler Town & Country counterpart.

According to TheCarConnection.com’s minivan experts, the interior shares the angular style that is so prevalent on the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan's exterior, but crafted curves purposefully break up the linearity. With recognition that minivan interiors endure an interminable life with children, hard plastics are used for most every surface that isn't carpeted. The Dodge's white-faced gauges look sporty, and bits of chrome distract you from the...plastic. Storage is excellent, with multiple cubbies, door pockets, and huge under-floor compartments. Especially useful are the LEDs that illuminate the front-door bins.

8

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Performance

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan rides well in all forms and has surprising handling, but the 4.0-liter V-6 is the clear winner here.

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan does its job well, but unless you opt for the bigger engine, don't expect a sporty driving experience.

The base 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has a 3.3-liter engine that puts out a mere 175 horsepower, which Consumer Reports anticipates would struggle with the bulk of this Dodge; 2008’s version weighs in at two-and-a-quarter tons. Cars.com points out that it’s only offered with a four-speed automatic, too. The gear selector itself “looks like a center-console shifter but is located high on the dashboard, to the right of the gauges,” they note, to make it easier for drivers to select gears manually. This engine/transmission combination is good for 24 mpg on the highway, not much more than the next-largest engine. It is flex-fuel compatible, though.

Kelley Blue Book points out the midline 197-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 has much more power: "[it] had no problem transporting the medium-size loads to which we subjected it." It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, a first in the minivan class; Automedia says of the new gearbox, “it operates so smoothly that gear changes are barely noticed.” Autoblog drove this version and didn’t find anything special about its power: “While it drove alright for a vehicle that weighs around 4,300 pounds, it's no tire-smoker, that's for sure,” they write.

Kelley Blue Book adds that "for an additional $630 and no sacrifice in EPA fuel economy figures," you can get the more powerful 4.0-liter V-6. It “[serves] up 251 horsepower and 259 pound-feet of torque,” Motor Trend notes. CNet reports, “The EPA rates the Grand Caravan with the 4-liter V-6 at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. We averaged around 17 mpg overall, with our mileage dipping well below 16 in the city.” Consumer Reports observes, “The 3.8- and 4.0-liter engines are a bit noisy and not very fuel efficient,” but Car and Driver calls this version of the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan a “strong performer.”

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan handles fairly well for a tall, long-wheelbase vehicle. Consumer Reports thinks “the addition of rear coil springs improves ride comfort, but the rear can be buoyant on the highway.” Autoblog calls it a “smooth rider,” and Car and Driver notes, “brake-pedal feel is superb.” Automedia agrees that “Ride quality in a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT is outstanding, at least on smooth pavement,” and observes that it has “more confident handling than before, with especially positive steering.”

TheCarConnection.com has spent many miles, with kids and without, in both the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan and its upscale cousin, the 2008 Chrysler Town & Country. The best advice? If you want better acceleration without taking a fuel-economy hit, choose the 4.0-liter V-6 with 251 hp. Pass on the 3.3-liter V-6 altogether because of the four-speed automatic that comes with the base Dodge; 2008’s Grand Caravan weighs over two tons, so power is an important component of overall driving safety and satisfaction.

7

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has a wide range of seating options, and most give riders plenty of room. Interior materials aren’t the best, though.

With the 2008 Grand Caravan, Dodge provides comfort to match the minivan's reputation as an all-around family car.

Room and convenience is what the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has to offer. Cars.com likes the Stow 'n Go second-row seats, “which fold into the floor,” and Car and Driver calls them “a masterpiece of accommodating design.” Motor Trend and other sources also note the newly optional Swivel 'n Go second-row chairs [that] flip around 180 degrees." Mother Proof says the new feature is “fun,” but had difficulty removing the optional table that also fits between the second- and third-row seats. Autoblog notes that the third-row seat “flips backwards for tailgate seating that's more comfortable than any bare-metal pickup truck bed.”

Cars.com describes the layout of the interior and different seating options: “The standard second-row bench seat and a manual 60/40-split folding third row (with the bench, the same bins in the floor that would accept folded Stow 'n Go seats, were they installed, provide covered storage); Stow 'n Go second-row captain's chairs with the manual folding third row; or Swivel 'n Go rearward-facing second-row seats with the manual third row.”

There are plenty of bins, boxes, and storage areas elsewhere in the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan; Car and Driver calls the big center console “rickety.” And most reviewers come down hard on the materials used on the dash and door panels of the Dodge; 2008’s interior “has a cheap-motel look about it, too, with plastic gestures everywhere—obvious plastic, blatant plastic,” Car and Driver adds.

Despite these drawbacks, Washington Post gives a positively glowing review, advising car buyers to go for the top-of-the-line Caravan SXT, calling it "luxurious ... like being in your living room or a family room." ConsumerGuide agrees, acknowledging the Grand Caravan as "possibly the quietest minivans." Motor Trend likes the “convenient LED reading lamps [that] dot the cabin, and there's an available overhead 'halo' light that bathes the interior in soft blue.”

TheCarConnection.com’s editors add that there is no longer a short-wheelbase Caravan model Dodge; 2008’s model range only comes as the Grand Caravan. Also, with the Swivel 'n Go second-row bucket seats and removable pedestal-mounted table, adults will find the face-to-face configuration cramped. With all rows facing forward, seating comfort is very good.

9

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Safety

You'll be hard-pressed to find a safer vehicle than the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan.

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is nearly at the top of its class in terms of safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has tested the new Chrysler minivan, and it awarded the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan five stars for both frontal and side impacts, in addition to a rollover resistance rating of five stars.

Cars.com reports that in the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability system are both included as standard equipment, as well as front, side, and curtain airbags. According to Motor Trend, the curtain airbags protect all three rows of passengers.

An integrated booster seat is offered in Swivel 'n Go versions, Cars.com reports. Also on the safety options list: “a sonar ParkSense audible system and the ParkView rearview camera,” they add. Autoblog tested a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan with the backup camera, and “using it was worse than trying to watch football on one of those 6-inch TVs sold at drug stores,” they wrote.

10

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Features

The 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan has all the features you expect in a minivan—and many more, including in-car satellite TV.

There is no shortage of features available for the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, not the least of which are “a removable, cordless, rechargeable flashlight in the cargo area, power sliding doors and rear hatch, adjustable pedals and overhead LED reading lights for all three rows of seating,” Autoblog reports.

The most innovative option, available only on Chrysler products, is Sirius Backseat TV. Cars.com describes it in mild terms as a "new way to keep the kids entertained." With this option, you get the three most popular kids channels free for the first year on two separate overhead LCD screens, each of which can broadcast a different channel. “Sirius TV only gets three channels: Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network,” though, CNet observes.

Parents in the front are not forgotten. There’s an available MyGIG entertainment option that stores up to 20GB of music and video, which can be uploaded via anything with USB capability. “MyGIG lets you access music by artist, song, album, genre, and year, among others," CNet says. “It's a full-featured music player, and we found that it worked very well.”

Finally, for all the real "soccer moms" who cannot be without their cell phones, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan can be equipped with Bluetooth wireless capability. There’s also an available navigation system that offers Sirius’s Travel Link service, which pipes information on traffic, weather, movie listings, and sports scores into the car’s screen. The Washington Post calls it a “navigation, telecommunications, and an audiovisual entertainment system that will ignite your senses more than a stay in a $1,000-a-night room in the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel and Casino."

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August 22, 2015
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan 4-Door Wagon SXT

Our 4th Dodge Mini van, Like it.

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Our 4th Dodge Mini Van, Engine and transmission dependable, Pretty normal for maintenance, no glarring problems. Emission control module went out at 140,000 miles but all is well since then. Has 165,000 miles... + More »
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April 14, 2015
For 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

Great way to move people and large quantities of about anything.

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We've had our Grand Caravan SXT since it was about a year old and only 16k miles. Now we have only 60k miles and its 7 years old. We basically use it just for long distance trips or for enclosed hauling. We... + More »
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