- Six-speed automatic transmissions
- All-around storage solutions
- Available DVD players and satellite TV
- Overall leader in minivan practicality
- Sometimes raw, plasticky interior
- Styling is a little too pragmatic
- Touch and feel of much less expensive car
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan puts its money on its flexible interior and entertaining features, but its performance is matched and styling bettered by newer competition.
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan is the latest example of a fundamentally sound idea that continues to resonate with families on the go, more than 25 years after its introduction. Not a full-size van, but certainly not a station wagon, the Grand Caravan minivan offers enough seats for eight passengers, a carlike ride, smooth acceleration, and reasonable fuel economy. In Dodge's opinion, it's a "family room on wheels." Redesigned completely in 2008, the Grand Caravan only gets minor drivetrain tweaks this year as Chrysler sorts out its new alliance with Italy's Fiat.
Available only as a long-wheelbase minivan, the latest look for the Dodge Grand Caravan is squared-off and edgy, compared to the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. It's more integrated with the muscular look of other Dodge cars, but the T-squared lines somehow make the Grand Caravan look less impressive and less upscale than previous editions. It's also harder to tell the Dodge apart from its Chrysler Town & Country counterpart. From the front, though, it's obviously a Dodge; the sporty cross-hair grille telegraphs the family links to the Ram truck and the Charger sedan. Inside, the boxy theme prevails again, with lots of hard plastic corners and imposing rectangles dominating the cabin. Light-colored upholstery helps, along with big glass areas, but the interior's moved into a cheap-and-cheerful territory that Dodge had all but superseded with the previous Grand Caravan.
Dodge outfits the 2010 Grand Caravan with a choice of three engines, either a four-speed or six-speed automatic, and front-wheel drive. (All-wheel drive has fallen off the ordering sheet.) Besides the 3.8-liter V-6 that makes up the majority of TheCarConnection.com's experience, two other V-6s are available: a 175-hp 3.3-liter V-6 and a 251-hp 4.0-liter V-6. The two larger engines are teamed to a six-speed automatic, and the combination in either case provides more than adequate performance for this class of vehicle. Pass on the 3.3-liter V-6 and the four-speed automatic that comes with it. The Dodge Grand Caravan weighs more than two tons, so power is an important component of overall driving safety and satisfaction. If you want better acceleration while actually boosting fuel economy, take the big six; it earns 17/25 mpg in EPA testing, while the 3.8-liter six gets 16/23 mpg and the 3.3-liter six manages 17/24 mpg. Handling and ride aren't any better or worse than in most minivans, which makes the performance rating among minivans more a fuel-economy derby.
The Grand Caravan is more solidly built than before, and offers so many interior configurations, it would be the top-ranked minivan for comfort and quality-if only its plasticky interior felt and looked better. All three rows of seats in any Grand Caravan have ample head and shoulder room, with third-row seats offering acceptable space for adults, due to a long 121.2-inch wheelbase. Storage is excellent, especially with the Stow 'n Go seating system that lowers seats into the floor and the Swivel ‘n Go system, with its second-row seats that swivel 180 degrees to face the third row. Order the latter and you'll also get a removable table that installs between the two rows, in-floor covered storage bins, and fold-in-the-floor third-row seating. The Swivel ‘n Go option is only for use by children; adults will find the face-to-face configuration cramped. As for quality, the interior is slathered in hard plastic and carpet that's a nod to the durability needed by families-but a distinct step back from the 1996-2007 minivans that felt richer and looked better than the current Grand Caravan.
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan earns good safety scores, though not best in class. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gives it five-star scores across the board, and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) calls its front and side-impact performance "good." In rear impacts, the IIHS says it's "marginal," which keeps it from being a Top Safety Pick. Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, along with anti-lock brakes, as well as traction and stability control. Available as options are a blind-spot monitor, a rearview camera system, and rear parking sensors. Integrated child seats also can be fitted to the second-row seats.
Because of its vastly reconfigurable interior, the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan gets a great features rating from TheCarConnection.com. It earns the best rating possible because of the long list of options offered for entertaining kids on the road-a public service that shouldn't go unsung. There's a MyGIG entertainment system with a music hard drive and navigation, if ordered; Sirius Satellite Radio and Travel Link real-time information; Backseat TV with a limited palette of kid-oriented, live satellite TV; and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with twin screens that also rotate for viewing in the rear two rows.