2009 Dodge Grand Caravan Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
June 21, 2009

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan has some innovative features and seating options, but it's no longer at the head of the class in performance or refinement.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven several different versions of the Grand Caravan in order to give you this expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests for the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

Although the Dodge Grand Caravan underwent a complete redesign last year, the 2009 version receives a myriad of upgrades, including two minivan firsts: Blind Spot Monitoring and a Rear Cross Path system available on SXT models. All 2009 Grand Caravans receive an updated braking system, larger nine-inch DVD screens, and perforated leather seating with French-seamed stitching.

The year-old styling on the Dodge Grand Caravan presents a more squared-off look and represents an edgy departure from the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. Particularly from the rear, the van's boxy design looks as if it were artfully drawn with a drafter's T-square. From the back, it's hard to tell the Dodge apart from its slightly less sporty and more upscale Chrysler Town & Country counterpart. Outside and from the front, there's no mistaking the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan for anything other than a Dodge. The Dodge brand's sporty cross-hair grille tells you that there is a little bit of Ram in this minivan.

Besides the 3.8-liter V-6 that TheCarConnection.com has the most experience with, two other V-6s are available: a 3.3-liter and a 4.0-liter. The 197-horsepower powertrain includes a six-speed automatic, and the combination provides more than adequate performance for this class of vehicle. 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 it. The Dodge Grand Caravan weighs over two tons, so power is an important component of overall driving safety and satisfaction.

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The Grand Caravan gained a stiffer unibody from last year’s overhaul, which benefited the Caravan in two ways: improved ride quality and a library-like interior. The interior shares the angular style that is so prevalent on the Grand Caravan's exterior, but crafted curves purposefully break up the linearity. With recognition that minivan interiors endure an interminable life with children, hard plastics are used for most every surface that isn't carpeted. The Dodge's white-faced gauges look sporty, and bits of chrome distract you from the...plastic. Storage is excellent, especially with the Stow ’n Go seating standard on SE models.

With all rows facing forward in the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, seating comfort is very good. The Grand Caravan's long wheelbase of 121.2 inches affords a spacious interior with comfortable seating in all three rows. For you experienced Dodge minivan owners, there is no longer a short-wheelbase Caravan model; Dodge simplified things by just going big, so the Grand Caravan is the only Caravan.

Some buyers will find the innovative, optional Swivel 'n Go second-row bucket seats useful. This option includes second-row seats that can rotate 180 degrees to face the third-row seats. A removable pedestal-mounted table can sprout from the floor in the limited area between the rows. Perhaps the option works for children, but adults will find the face-to-face configuration cramped.

The Dodge Grand Caravan has top five-star and "good" ratings in frontal and side impact, but an IIHS rear-impact rating of marginal—based mostly on seat geometry—keeps it from being a top achiever. Front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are all on the standard-features list, while useful safety options include a Blind Spot Monitoring System and Rear Cross Path System.

The MyGIG entertainment system plus Sirius TV with its roof-mounted twin-screen LCD system should keep kids entertained, while Sirius Travel Link capabilities bring traffic information and other useful services for adults in navigation-equipped versions of the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.

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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

Styling

For being the quintessential "soccer mom" vehicle, the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan is easy on the eye, but still leaves something to be desired.

TheCarConnection.com editors say there's no mistaking the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan for anything other than a Dodge. Not every reviewer finds the new styling to be appealing, though.

Motor Trend attributes its front-end appearance to the influence of "Dodge's 'masculine' Charger and Magnum" and goes on to describe it as having a "broad shouldered...handsome, expensive presence...[it] actually looks mean looming up in a rear view mirror." Even Kelley Blue Book cannot refrain from calling its styling "masculine." ConsumerGuide says it has "fresh styling," while Edmunds deems it "unpretentious.” CNet claims it “doesn't break any new ground,” though, and Autoblog comments, “the last time we saw sheet metal this flat and unadorned was on a UPS truck.”

Cars.com likes the newer, blocky shape of the minivan from Dodge; 2009’s version “really hit the mark with the new styling. It didn't go overboard trying to make it look like something other than a minivan.”

MotherProof says the inside of the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan is “rather space-shuttley with its boxy, line-y interior design.” The review also notes, “This square theme abounds in other Dodge models; it’s not exactly warm and inviting.”

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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

Performance

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan does its job well, but unless you opt for the bigger engine, don't expect a sporty driving experience.

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan rides well in all forms and has surprising handling, but the 4.0-liter V-6 is the clear winner here. The sport-tuned suspension on SXT models and upgraded brakes throughout the model lineup will help improve overall performance.

Kelley Blue Book says that "for an additional $630 and no sacrifice in EPA fuel economy figures," you can get the more powerful 4.0-liter V-6, which 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 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan a “strong performer.”

Kelley Blue Book points out the midline 197-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6 has much more ferocity, showing "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.” In driving this version, Autoblog finds nothing 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 report.

Cars.com points out that the smaller 3.3-liter is 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.

Autoblog calls the Dodge Grand Caravan a “smooth rider,” and Car and Driver notes, “brake-pedal feel is superb.” Automedia agrees: “Ride quality in a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT is outstanding, at least on smooth pavement.” They also observe that it has “more confident handling than before, with especially positive steering.”

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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

Comfort & Quality

The comfort and utility of the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan match the minivan's reputation as an all-around family car; if you're looking for top-class materials, this isn't the place, though.

Although its interior materials aren’t the best, the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan has a wide range of seating options, and most give riders plenty of room. Interior design is another strong point; however, the Grand Caravan fails to wow up close.

Motor Trend likes the “convenient LED reading lamps [that] dot the cabin, and there's an available overhead 'halo' light that bathes the interior in soft blue.” Motor Trend and other sources also note the newly optional "Swivel 'n Go second-row chairs [that] flip around 180 degrees." MotherProof says the new feature is “fun,” but has difficulty removing the optional table that fits between the second- and third-row seats. Autoblog remarks that the third-row seat “flips backwards for tailgate seating that's more comfortable than any bare-metal pickup truck bed.” Cars.com likes the Stow 'n Go second-row seats, “which fold into the floor,” and Car and Driver calls them “a masterpiece of accommodating design.”

“The standard second-row bench seat and a manual 60/40-split folding third row (with the bench, the same bins in the floor that would accept folded Stow 'n Go seats, were they installed, provide covered storage); Stow 'n Go second-row captain's chairs with the manual folding third row; or Swivel 'n Go rearward-facing second-row seats with the manual third row,” says Cars.com about the layout of the interior and different seating options.

Most reviewers come down hard on the materials used on the dash and door panels of the Dodge; the interior “has a cheap-motel look about it, too, with plastic gestures everywhere—obvious plastic, blatant plastic,” says Car and Driver, adding that the big center console is “rickety.” Despite these drawbacks, Washington Post gives a positively glowing review, advising car buyers to go for the top-of-the-line Caravan SXT, calling it "luxurious ... like being in your living room or a family room." ConsumerGuide agrees, acknowledging the Grand Caravan as "possibly the quietest minivans."

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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

Safety

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan is nearly at the top of its class in terms of safety, and it offers some high-tech safety options.

With excellent crash-test ratings and the addition of a Blind Spot Monitoring System and a Rear Cross Path System, the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan will leave you hard-pressed to find a safer vehicle.

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan was awarded five stars for both frontal and side impacts, in addition to a rollover resistance rating of five stars, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to Motor Trend, the curtain airbags protect all three rows of passengers. Cars.com reports that in the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, anti-lock brakes and an electronic stability system are both included as standard equipment, as well as front, side, and curtain airbags.

Autoblog tests a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan with the backup camera, and “using it was worse than trying to watch football on one of those 6-inch TVs sold at drug stores,” they conclude. An integrated booster seat is offered in Swivel 'n Go versions, Cars.com reports. Also on the safety options list: “a sonar ParkSense audible system and the ParkView rearview camera,” they add.

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2009 Dodge Grand Caravan

Features

There is no shortage of great features for the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, but most of them are optional.

The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan has all the features you expect in a minivan—and many more, including in-car satellite TV. Autoblog lists “a removable, cordless, rechargeable flashlight in the cargo area, power sliding doors and rear hatch, adjustable pedals and overhead LED reading lights for all three rows of seating.”

Sirius Backseat TV is one of the best features on the Dodge Grand Caravan. With this option, you get the three most popular kids channels (Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network) free for the first year on two separate overhead LCD screens, each of which can broadcast a different channel. Cars.com describes it in mild terms as a "new way to keep the kids entertained."

For the adults up front there’s an available MyGIG entertainment option that stores up to 20 gigabytes of music and video, which can be uploaded via anything with USB capability. “MyGIG lets you access music by artist, song, album, genre, and year, among others," CNet says. “It's a full-featured music player, and we found that it worked very well.”

Last but not least, the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan can be equipped with Bluetooth wireless capability. There’s also an available navigation system that offers Sirius’s Travel Link service, which pipes information on traffic, weather, movie listings, and sports scores into the car’s screen. The Washington Post calls it a “navigation, telecommunications, and an audiovisual entertainment system that will ignite your senses more than a stay in a $1,000-a-night room in the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel and Casino."

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8.2
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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 9
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