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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
don't expect sedan-like handing
3.8-liter engine is adequate...the new 4.0-liter engine is a powerhouse
a vehicle for passengers, not for drivers
New York Newsday (via Cars.com)
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.
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.