Respect the box.
That's what Dodge seemed to say with the return of the rectangular Grand Caravan, back in 2008. The prior generation of minivans were popular, egg-shaped vehicles with--dare we say it?--a dash of sex appeal. For reasons left unclear, Dodge reverted to squared-off form and only lightly reskinned the Grand Caravan when it was refreshed in the 2011 model year.
So while Toyota's tarted up the Sienna with a racy-low front end, and Honda's baked a lightning bolt into the side of the Odyssey, Dodge has stuck by the box as its minivan outline. If anything, it telegraphs what the Grand Caravan is all about--a functional masterpiece, with only a little varnish applied. It no longer looks downright cheap, which the 2008-2010 minivan did, but it also looks dated compared with the up-and-coming Japanese minivans.
That said, there are a handful of small touches faired in nicely on the one-box body. The headlights are rounded suggestively, while the Dodge crosshair grille has been plumped up. The R/T's few distinctive touches connect a little more directly to the usual Dodge buyer and their more brash tastes. The LED taillamps that ring the tailgate mimic the ones on the Charger sedan, where the comparison ends, definitively.
Moving inside through the front-hinged doors, the Caravan's dash and door panels have bailed on the grainy plastics of the 2008-2010 model years, for something more substantial. From the sliding side doors back, not much has changed—it's still crayon-and-vomit-proof—but facing the senior family members is an uncluttered, upgraded dash with better materials all around.
The detail that snags: the Caravan's chintzy base cloth upholstery, which feels a little fuzzy, and looks a bit like something out of a 1980s Korean car. Leather's worth the upgrade, but it's an option only on the top two trim packages.