It's the oldest nameplate in the minivan business, but the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan has one of the most comprehensive sets of entertainment features of any minivan, and some tech gear you can't get in any other family eight-seater.
The 2012 Grand Caravan lineup loses some of the kitschy trim names it brought with its 2011 redesign, and now comes in five different trim levels, including a $21,000 "American Value Package that's priced against many smaller crossover vehicles--thousands less than some of the Japanese-brand minivans. It comes with power windows, locks and mirrors; keyless entry; a fold-away third-row seat; air conditioning; and cruise control. Mid-line versions add power side doors and a power tailgate, with options for more than the usual CD player, while the Crew edition adds a power driver seat, satellite radio, and ambient interior lighting. An R/T model wears monochromatic trim, black leather seating, and gets its own sound system and suspension tuning.
From those basics, the Grand Caravan stands out with options that run the gamut of in-car technology. The latest, cheapest, high-tech piece is a boon for connected families: it's a USB port for 3G dongles that turns the Grand Caravan into a WiFi hotspot. It's a no-brainer versus the more expensive DVD entertainment system, even if you spend for a couple of iPads. Still, we might add on the Caravan's BackseatTV for its three channels of kid-friendly streaming TV.Other features to check out are navigation; satellite radio; Bluetooth (either bundled with an upgraded radio, or an auto-dimming rearview mirror, or heated seats and steering wheel); the DVD entertainment system; and a power package for the side doors, tailgate and pedals on models where they're not included. Remote start and a 115-volt outlet wouldn't be left off either, not on such a high-functioning machine.
Think twice about ordering the new Stow 'N Place roof rails. It's possible, with all this interior room, that all of your stuff will fit inside the Grand Caravan. Rooftop storage bins cut into the coefficient of drag anyway, right?