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2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Performance

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Chrysler's hacked the list of available drivetrains down to one. Each and every Grand Caravan powers along the road to middle school with 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. Handling is nothing remarkable, but 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.)

The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan gets a stronger, more refined powertrain, but there's no driving excitement to speak of.

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