2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T: The New Chrysler Man Van?

February 9, 2011

Just a few days away from the opening of the 2011 Chicago Auto Show (February 11-20) and smack in the middle of a brutal winter in many parts of the nation, Family Car Guide is struck by the look of the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T that debuts this week at the annual Windy City auto show. Although we didn’t coin the “man van” descriptor (Bloomberg reports Chrysler uses that internally), we do think that the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T certainly looks the part of a vehicle that might draw more male buyers.

Why the change? What’s so special about the Grand Caravan R/T that men may find appealing? According to Ralph Gilles, Chrysler chief designer, in a Bloomberg interview, the whole thing is “an experiment.” Chrysler, recognizing that “mommy-mobile” minivan sales are slipping, is apparently pulling out all the stops with Grand Caravan R/T to boost sales by going after a different type of buyer.

As Gilles said in the interview, “Is it possible to make the minivan appeal to the guy who needs the minivan but who used to have the sports car?”

Is it possible, indeed.

Family Car Guide will have more on the new man van as details come out, but here’s what we do know. Chrysler is refreshing its entire minivan lineup for 2011-- Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country -- with refreshed exterior and interior styling, powertrain changes, discontinuance of a number of formerly optional features and including as standard numerous safety and convenience items.

Key to the new lineup’s powertrain is the all-new 283-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that achieves up to an EPA-rated 25 mpg highway. In fact, this is the only engine in the lineup, as Chrysler has discontinued the 3.3-, 3,8-, and 4.0-liter V-6s.

Chrysler says Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country feature more than 40 safety features including new driver-side knee blocker airbag, front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Town & Country models have standard rearview camera, rear obstacle detection, blind-spot alert and “Rear Cross Path” (a feature which activates when the transmission is in reverse and detects any traffic moving toward the vehicle).

Inside, both minivan brands feature the new and industry-exclusive Super Stow ‘n Go seating and storage system with one-touch fold down button and larger, more comfortable seats. There’s also the new Stow ‘n Place roof rack system and heated steering wheel (a minivan first).

Specific man-van Dodge Caravan R/T features include performance-tuned suspension, nine-speaker sound system with 506-watt amplifier, and red-accent stitched black interior. The man van will arrive in dealer showrooms in the second quarter. No prices have yet been announced.

Hmm, can’t wait to see this man-van in the family driveway. Guess the kids will have more reason to hang out with Dad if it all goes as Chrysler hopes with the new 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T.

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[Bloomberg, Automotive News, Chrysler, Chicago Auto Show 2011]

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