- Strong V-6 power
- Quickly converts from people carrier to cargo mover
- Stow 'N Go's brilliance
- The best infotainment system in the class
- Excellent safety scores and features
- Base cloth, some plastics look cheap
- Ride can get boundy
- Handling's just average
- All-wheel drive long gone
The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is an exceptional value among minivans, but some crash-test scores are cause for concern.
The Dodge Grand Caravan has been Chrysler's family road warrior for generations, ever since it was introduced in 1983 as, simply, the Caravan. The most flexible minivan on the market today, it's also a nine-year-old offering that doesn't keep pace with the latest crash-test scores, while it easily outpoints its rivals with a superior seating system and matches them for features that make long-distance trips go smoothly. It remains one of the best choices for carrying up to eight passengers—and for keeping them entertained along the way.
The Grand Caravan competes with the well-mannered Honda Odyssey and the big, all-weather-capable Toyota Sienna. There are other competitors—Nissan's Quest and the recently returned Kia Sedona—although none of them pack the value found in the Dodge.
The Grand Caravan stays true to the boxy styling theme that it's worn for most of its life, save for the 1996-2007 model years. We liked those egg-shaped vans, but the functional, space-efficient outline of today's minivan pays dividends in its light, airy interior. It's slab-sided and relatively plain compared to the lightning-bolted Odyssey and the low-nosed Sienna, but the Grand Caravan emphasizes glass over sheet metal, affording very good outward visibility. The interior's now up to grade, too—in 2011, Dodge replaced the plasticky cabin trim from the 2008-2010 model years with much more appealing textures, giving it a real impression of quality.
A single drivetrain configuration puts all Grand Caravans on an even playing field. The engine's a 3.6-liter V-6, with a class-leading 283 horsepower, coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, with power shipped to the front wheels only—all-wheel drive left the lineup after the 2007 model year to make way for Stow 'N Go. Smoother here than in most other Chrysler vehicles, the powertrain has just a touch of the V-6 groans, and an abundance of strong low- and mid-range power. Steering and ride are not quite at the level of the Honda and the leaner Nissan Quest, but the Grand Caravan feels composed enough at speed. Our main gripe is that the Dodge bounds over any series of small bumps; the damping really should and could be better.
Minivans are all about utility, and carrying the maximum cargo and number of people, which makes Chrysler's fold-away second- and third-row seats a brilliant idea. The Stow 'N Go seating system is standard on all but the base trim, where it's available as an option. The seats fold flat into spaces in the floor, and when they're in use their homes double as storage bins. To accommodate the disappearing act, the Chrysler seats are thinner and flatter—but we've never heard a kid complain about the seat comfort, and it's tough to beat the flat load floor created when all of the chairs disappear. We've taken our turn in the Stow 'N Go seats without complaint. The Nissan Quest used to have a similar arrangement, but it abandoned the setup for a fold-away third-row seat and fixed second-row seats; the Odyssey and Sienna have sliding, fold-down second-row seats and fold-away third row seats. The Grand Caravan's third-row seat has a power-fold option, too, as do its side doors and tailgate, and converting the space to pure cargo hold takes just seconds, thanks to improvements made recently.
Safety is paramount in family vehicles, and the Grand Caravan has seen its safety ratings dim over time. It gets a four-star rating from the NHTSA, but the IIHS gives it a "Poor" rating in its tough new small-overlap crash test. Each Grand Caravan comes with curtain airbags and stability control. A rearview camera, Bluetooth, and blind-spot monitors are available, and the power sliding doors have gentle closure that rebounds if obstruction is detected.
A base Grand Caravan now costs about $20,000, an incredible bargain for the class—even when compared to economy cars, it's a strong value. For a well-equipped version with satellite radio and other luxuries, the price is still less than $30,000. If you choose, the Grand Caravan can be ushered into the pricing stratosphere with a cavalcade of electronic goodies that's second only to those in the Ford Flex. Top models can be equipped with a media hard drive, navigation, satellite radio, and Bluetooth—even a Blu-ray DVD entertainment system with USB ports for charging, or on-board data service via Chrysler's UConnect Web.
The Grand Caravan earns an EPA rating of 17 mpg city, 25 highway, and 20 combined, which is on pace with offerings from Toyota and Nissan but behind Honda's Odyssey.
Changes are few for 2016, as Chrysler is retiring the Grand Caravan soon for the all-new Chrysler Pacifica.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
The no-fuss Grand Caravan owns its boxy body, and matches it with a functional, attractive cabin.
The Dodge Grand Caravan wears a shape that telegraphs what it's all about: storage. It's a box, without the slightly more curved add-ons applied to the Quest, Odyssey, and Sienna—and that's fine. It's a clean design that's held up well in its nine model years on the market.
It's a pragmatic shape, with few details to distinguish it from the Chrysler Town & Country. The Dodge crosshair grille is its most recognizable difference from its sibling, and LED taillights are a cue shared with the more sporty offerings in the Dodge lineup.
Inside, the pleasant reworking from the 2011 model year still looks fine and functions well. With the improved finishes that came in 2011, the Grand Caravan comes off as more substantial than it has in the past—back in the years when the same cabin had lots of hard, grainy plastic. The lack of clutter and the slim, relatively low dash lend it an airy feel.
Behind the front row of seats, you'll find most of the grainy plastic is still there—where it can resist scuffs and scratches and sticky foods.
For those who want to add a little attitude back into their minivan, Dodge is again offering the Blacktop package, which appeared for the 2014 model year. It includes 17-inch silver-painted wheels with gloss-black pockets, a gloss-black grille, black headlight housings, and an all-black interior, including the headliner and unique seat cloth, as well as silver stitching on the door panels and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
With gutsy acceleration and predictable handling, the Grand Caravan acts a lot younger than its true age.
Chrysler makes it simple to order a Dodge Grand Caravan, at least from a driving perspective. The minivan is offered in one basic flavor—with front-wheel drive, a 6-speed automatic transmission, and a powerful V-6 engine.
All-wheel drive hasn't been an option since 2008, when Stow 'N Go took over the space where the extra driveshaft would live.
The V-6 is the top performer in its class, according to the spec sheet, with 283 horsepower. Rivals are close, but none of them has the Dodge's sense of vivid acceleration. The 3.6-liter Grand Caravan V-6 snaps to attention via its 6-speed automatic, and though it's not the smoothest engine in its class, it's a very strong performer that also delivers up to 25 mpg highway. (We've seen even higher figures in real-world driving.) Torquey and responsive at low and mid-range speeds, the drivetrain duo is up to the task of hauling a full load of passengers or cargo.
The Grand Caravan's handling is predictable and engaging, in the league with the Nissan Quest and Honda Odyssey. Ride quality is almost cushy compared to rival vans, but even with retuned shocks the Caravan bounds more than it needs to over strings of low bumps. It's more content to smother, which makes its handling a neat metaphor for the kind of parenting minivans are built to support. There's an R/T version that comes closer to the buttoned-down feel of a Honda Odyssey, thanks to distinct suspension tuning, though the Odyssey's steering feel still gets more kudos from our editors, as does its overall road feel.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Comfort & Quality
With its clever fold-away seats, the Grand Caravan outpoints every other minivan on flexibility.
With its inventive and ultimately flexible seating system, the Dodge Grand Caravan has the most useful interior among all minivans. Some might take issue with the comfort of the second and third row of seats that results from the design, but it's hard to argue with a vehicle that can carry eight adults, a full-size sofa, or a mix of people and cargo.
In the first two rows of seats, everyone from adults down to car-seat passengers will feel comfortable in the Grand Caravan. There's ample space in every dimension. The front seats could use more firm support—the seats are fairly spongy, especially when covered in the base fabric. Conversely, the second-row bucket seats are very firm, and thinly padded, so they'll fold into the floor; adult comfort is good for a couple of hours, but they're not as plush as some of the airline-style seats offered on competitors. (Base vans have a second-row bench seat that's pretty rudimentary, too.)
The Stow 'N Go system is where the Grand Caravan continues to shine. It's a set of fold-away seats in the second row that can be used as chairs, or tucked away into the floor with the flip of a lever, leaving behind a flat load floor (all Grand Caravan third-row seats do the same thing). Only the Grand Caravan's Chrysler sibling offers the same level of practicality. These Stow 'N Go seats have flatter cushions than many other vans on the market, which allows them to fit into their hiding places, but they're still pretty comfortable. When the captain's chairs are in use, the storage bins are useful as covered stowage for large amounts of cargo, before you even open the liftgate. (If you don't get Stow 'N Go, the in-floor storage is still included.)
The third row in the Grand Caravan is best suited for children, but smaller adults can fit in a pinch. It also folds away—either manually or with the optional power-folding system—to create more cargo space when needed. We miss the pop-up picnic table and Swivel 'N Go second-row seats, but the rest of the excellent space remains intact.
When all the seats on a Stow 'N Go-equipped Grand Caravan are folded away, it boasts the most cargo space in the segment, with a seatless bay designed to accommodate 4-by-8 sheets of building materials.
For interior storage, we'd opt for the movable, and removable, "super console" that's on the Dodge's options list. It adds many cubic inches of covered space between the seats—it's a virtual Tupperware for music players, spare change, even the odd French fry gone rogue. On a meta level, it's a box within a box. What's not to love about that?
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 trim level. A new leatherette (vinyl) seat option is bundled in the SXT Plus package, which was new for 2015.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
The Grand Caravan doesn't fare well in the newest crash tests.
Dodge has updated the Grand Caravan's safety gear regularly over its eight years on the market in its current form. However, the aging structure underneath the minivan doesn't perform well in the newest crash tests.
The NHTSA says the Grand Caravan merits a four-star overall rating. With individual scores of four stars for rollover resistance and front-impact protection, the Grand Caravan is outdone by the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, and Kia Sedona.
The more troubling tests come from the IIHS. In its latest small-overlap test, which simulates a collision with a telephone pole, the Grand Caravan earns a "Poor" rating, which eliminates it from consideration as a Top Safety Pick. The minivan earns "Good" scores for front, side, and roof-strength tests, as well as for its head restraints and seats.
Standard equipment includes the mandatory dual front airbags and stability control; the Caravan's curtain airbags extend protection to all three rows of seats. The stability control system now includes trailer sway control, which applies anti-lock braking to selected wheels to correct against motions induced by towed vehicles.
Safety-system options include parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-path detection, and automatic headlights. And thanks to the boxy design and vast greenhouse, outward visibility in the Grand Caravan is very good.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Base Grand Caravans are a bargain; when fully optioned, few vehicles can compete with the Dodge's features list.
With the Grand Caravan, Dodge has an aging vehicle that offers more features than most of its newer rivals. It's been kept up to date admirably with technology and luxury touches that dress it up better than almost every product in the Chrysler lineup.
The Grand Caravan is offered in four basic trim levels: AVP, SE, SXT, and R/T. On SE and SXT editions, Dodge has added Plus packages, which bridge the gaps in features on those mid-range models, without requiring drivers to buy the more expensive R/T.
In its base trim, the Grand Caravan is outfitted as well as any economy car, down to the price tag of about $20,000. All versions come with air conditioning; power mirrors, locks, and front windows; a removable second-row bench seat; fold-away third-row seating; cruise control; and keyless entry. AVP Caravans are among the best values in the car market, period, and outpoint almost every seven-seat crossover on the list of standard features.
Options on this trim level are relatively few. They include Stow 'N Go seats for the second row, which we highly recommend, and the Uconnect Handsfree group, which bundles satellite radio with Bluetooth audio, voice control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The Grand Caravan SE gains a front floor console, three-zone climate control, and a six-speaker audio system. The SE Plus tops off that package with a black interior with silver accents; power for the second-row windows and third-row vent windows; and 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The best value in the lineup is the SXT. It has most of the features from the trim levels above, and adds a power liftgate and sliding side doors. SXT Plus vans have a leatherette interior, automatic headlights, Uconnect Handsfree, and some exterior and interior dress-up items.
At the top is the sporty R/T, with color-cued trim, black leather seats, and a special suspension and audio system.
On the options list, the Grand Caravan lists some truly useful features that will be a boon for connected families. There's navigation; Bluetooth (either bundled with an upgraded radio, or an auto-dimming rearview mirror, or heated seats and steering wheel); the second-row 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.
There's also an available 3G USB dongle that transforms the Grand Caravan into a wi-fi hotspot; it's a no-brainer versus the more expensive DVD entertainment system, even if you spend for a couple of iPads. However, high-definition families might be swayed by a Blu-ray DVD entertainment system, offered on SXT and R/T models. It includes an HDMI input, a screen above each of the second and third rows, a 115-volt outlet, and two USB ports for gaming and recharging electronics.
We'd configure a Grand Caravan with Stow 'N Go, power sliding side doors and a power tailgate, steering-wheel audio controls, and a 115-volt outlet. But we'd think twice about ordering the Stow 'N Place roof rail system. With all this interior room, the Grand Caravan can carry most families' belongings and members inside.
2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Gas mileage is average, but we've noted higher figures in real-world driving.
The Grand Caravan's fuel economy is strictly average among minivans, a trade-off balanced by its powerful powertrain.
The Dodge minivan, like its older Chrysler sibling, comes in just one configuration. It teams a 6-speed automatic with a 3.6-liter V-6 putting out 283 horsepower. There's an Eco switch on the dash that adapts shift patterns to try to maximize fuel economy.
When it's all tested and tallied, the Grand Caravan earns an EPA rating of 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined. That puts it on the behind the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, but off the pace of the Nissan Quest, which manages 23 mg combined.
We've observed figures as high as 28 mpg when driving on flat interstates at a steady 75-mph cruise, laden with a full cargo hold.
There's no hybrid or diesel edition of the Grand Caravan, and with the Chyrsler Pacifica on its way, the Grand Caravan won't be updated.