by Aiden Eksteen
The "grand" in the Dodge Grand Caravan's nameplate isn't an indication of its value or bearing any longer, but more of its senior age. The fifth-gen minivan has been around for more than a decade now, and its age has caught up to it in more than just its appearance. Over the years, the Grand Caravan has fallen from grace; what started as one of the most practical and versatile family haulers out there, is now matched by the competition - if not utterly surpassed - in terms of aesthetics, comfort, conveniences, technologies, and even safety standards. Nevertheless, despite its age, the Grand Caravan's heart still pumps strong: a 3.6-liter V6 engine with outputs of 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque is paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox. The Grand Caravan isn't expected to make it into the 2021 model year with its discontinuation having already been suspected some time ago - Dodge has already discontinued sales of the aging minivan in 12 American states, a clear indication of its coming demise. With that in mind, the attraction of the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and perhaps even the Toyota Sienna, vastly expands as not only prospering alternatives but better minivans overall.
Dodge has kept the Grand Caravan relatively unchanged for the 2020 model year with the minivan's discontinuation soon to come. This year, the mid-spec SE Plus model comes outfitted with second-row Super Stow 'n Go captain's chairs as standard, with a Super Stow 'n Go in-floor storage bin, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, and with an all-black interior with Cranberry Wine accent stitching featured on the seats. The only other difference for the 2020 lineup is the extended availability of the optional Blacktop Package that has now been made available for the SE Plus and SXT models.
It's been more than a decade since the Grand Caravan transitioned into its current fifth-gen iteration, and its age has certainly started to show. Upfront, the van features a bulky forward sloping hood comprising a black grille and big halogen quad headlights with integrated daytime running lights. The SE Plus and SXT feature a gloss black grille and are further outfitted with front fog lamps. Rolling in the wheel arches of the SE are 17-inch steel wheels with unadorned covers; the SE Plus and SXT ride atop 17-inch alloy wheels varying in style. There are sliding doors on both sides of the minivan.
At an overall length of 203.7 inches, a height of 69 inches, and a width of 78.7 inches, the Grand Caravans dimensions are spot on with most other minivans in the class, including the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, and Honda Odyssey. Its 121.2-inch wheelbase is longer than average though, only beaten by the Pacifica with its 121.6-inch wheelbase. Running ground clearance varies between models at either 5.6 inches or 5.8 inches, which is typical for the class. With curb weights ranging around 4,510 lbs, the Grand Caravan is heavier than the base models of all the aforementioned competing minivans.
Dodge has never been very creative with the color choices they've made available for the Grand Caravan, and once again, there are only a total of six exterior color options available for all three models, including Black Onyx Crystal, Granite Pearl, Billet, Indigo Blue, Octane Red Pearl, and White Knuckle. No one particular color stands out, but we'd recommend either the Black Onyx or White Knuckle as they both work well with the van's black exterior accents and window borders. The optional Blacktop Package reworks the exterior of either the SE Plus or SXT with a blacked-out grille and black headlight bezels. Black side roof rails and body-color running boards are also available.
A 3.6-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine is the Grand Caravans' sole source of propulsion, it utilizes a six-speed automatic gearbox to cede outputs of 283 hp and 260 lb-ft to the minivan's front wheels by default. This powertrain, though middling in its outputs, is ideal for the Grand Caravan, the minivan being a purpose-built passenger transporter. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is hardly worth note, and although not the most important for the class, it's worth saying that independent tests found the Grand Caravan to be slower than most rivals off the line. On the plus side, a maximum towing capacity of 3,600 lbs sets the Grand Caravan slightly ahead of many of its competitors, with most offering a capacity of up to 3,500 lbs, although the Chrysler Pacifica shares the Grand Caravan's figure.
With 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, outputs from the Grand Caravan's 3.6-liter V6 are about average for the class. It's slower than most competitors, however, and not nearly as fuel-efficient either; the six-speed automatic gearbox offers fewer gears to churn through, meaning it doesn't keep the engine operating as efficiently as the more modern gearboxes in the competitors do. Along with the standard six-speed auto, this V6 still competently propels the Grand Caravan around, pulling away from a standstill is more than adequate for the vehicle that it is, and getting up to highway cruising speeds isn't a task that'll turn everyone onboard into retirees. Performance from the gearbox itself is adequate - it delivers smooth shifts, but can be rather slow to downshift when trying to overtake. Overall, the Grand Caravan's powertrain is just fine for motoring the heavy people hauler around, and it feels a little more polished than its age suggests.
As is expected from a minivan purposed with transporting passengers and their cargo, the Grand Caravan's construction is wholly based around delivering a comfortable ride. The minivan manages to remain compliant and stable throughout most scenarios as its balanced suspension absorbs most typical road imperfection and undulations that would be encountered on a daily basis. More substantial obstacles will send a noticeable shudder through the cabin, but no more or less prominently than its competitors. Engine and outside noise are adequately isolated from the cabin, and the overall experience is up to class expectations.
We note the Grand Caravan's suspension as balanced- while the ride quality it delivers is good, it also manages to keep the minivan composed and stable through the bends. Despite being a boxy and weighty vehicle, the Grand Caravan never feels overly top-heavy and doesn't exhibit too much body roll when taken through turns. There are adequate levels of feedback provided through to the driver via the steering wheel and accelerator and brake pedals, which together, make the Grand Caravan a rather pleasant and relaxed minivan to cruise down a straight or scoot around town in. Its size and shape don't necessarily make for easy maneuverability in tighter spaces, however.
Purchasing the relatively affordable Grand Caravan may save you some money initially, but it'll certainly start costing you more over time with how inefficient it is in terms of fuel consumption. With the EPA returning gas mileage estimates of 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined for the Grand Caravan, pretty much every other minivan proves more frugal - both the Chrysler Pacifica and Honda Odyssey return estimates of 19/28/22 mpg and the Toyota Sienna returns 19/26/21 mpg. With the Grand Caravan's 20-gallon gas tank topped up, the powertrain should offer a combined cruising range of around 400 miles before running out of fuel. If there's one advantage in the Grand Caravan's engine, it's that it's flex-fuel capable, meaning it can run on both gas and E85 fuel.
The Grand Caravan's cabin elicits mixed impressions; while the overall build quality is passable, the visual overview is definitely dated. The infotainment touchscreen is only 6.5-inches in size, which is relatively small for today's standards. Its control buttons as well as the climate control buttons, are all bulky and dated-looking, too. The cabin's materials are inconsistent as well, where some areas feature quality, soft-touch elements, most surfaces are covered in a hard touch, low-grade plastic. On a more positive note, the cabin's passenger room is expansive and the Stow 'n Go seating and storage system is exceptional for seating and storage versatility and practicality overall. The driver's seat in the SE Plus and SXT is the only seat that features eight-way power-adjustability.
Passengers will find plenty of room throughout the inside of the Grand Caravan, with ample head and legroom offered in all rows. The cabin layout is ergonomic and the driver is positioned with a good view out front and with no interrupted rearward sightlines. The front seats offer ample levels of comfort too, they're nicely cushioned and contoured, and the driver's seat features decent levels of adjustability. The second and third-row seats aren't quite as comfortable though, as they're designed with the capability of being folded away into the floor, meaning thinner cushioning. Ingress and egress are easy enough to and from any of the seats, thanks to the sliding doors and sliding middle-row seats.
In the base-spec SE model, there's a rudimentary urethane steering wheel and gear shift knob and seats are upholstered in a common cloth seating upholstery, featured in Black while the dash and door panels are a Light Graystone. Both the SE Plus and SXT feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, and, new for the 2020, in the SE Plus is an all-black interior with silver stitching on the premium cloth upholstered seats. The seats in the SXT are upholstered in a black leatherette upholstery with silver accent stitching or in a Black/Light Graystone combo. In terms of cosmetics, the Blacktop Package simply throws in some black accents to the cabin.
Practicality and versatility are perhaps the only areas in which the Grand Caravan has managed to stay competitive, with 31.1 cubic feet of cargo room offered up within the cargo area behind the last row of seats, beaten by rivals like the Toyota Sienna with 39.1 cubes. That's enough room for all rear occupants to cram their sports bags in, with space to spare. Dodge incorporated some handy Stow 'n Go second and third-row seats into the Grand Caravan, these fold flat right into the floor of the minivan, opening up cargo room to 78.9 cubic feet behind the second-row, and to a grand total of 140.3 cubic feet behind the first row.
There are also a handful of small-item storage points dispersed throughout the cabin, including expansive front door side pockets with large bottle holders, two large cupholders in the center floor console, which also comprises an array of small-item storage cubbies. There's also a dual glovebox. In the rear of the cabin, second-row occupants get a door side cupholder and seatback map pocket each, while third-row occupants get three cupholders and numerous small-item storage trays.
There aren't many features that come standard in the Grand Caravan, especially in the base-spec SE model: a urethane steering wheel and shift knob already hint at its sparseness, front occupants get manually-adjustable front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, moving rearward sees a fixed second-row bench and a 60/40-split Stow 'n Go third-row bench. There's also three-zone manual climate control, a rearview camera, and cruise control. A remote start system allows the driver to warm up or cool down the SE Plus before climbing in. Once in, there's a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and second-row Stow 'n Go captain's chairs to appreciate. Dodge outfits the range-topping SXT with a few extra conveniences including a Super Console, dual power sliding doors, and a power liftgate.
The Grand Caravans infotainment setup is relatively weak too, with an outdated 6.5-inch touchscreen and stock six-speaker sound system covering only the basics, such as AM/FM radio and CD/DVD/MP3 compatibility. There's no standard inclusion or availability of either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, either. There's an auxiliary input jack for streaming audio from a compatible device, and a 28 GB hard drive for storage. In all but the SE model, there's also the Uconnect Hands-Free Group which comprises steering wheel audio controls, voice command, and SiriusXM radio connectivity. A nine-inch overhead, rear-seat DVD entertainment system is available to option in, as is an onboard navigation system.
Two recalls were commissioned for the 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan, one pertaining to the insufficient coating on the rear brake caliper pistons which resulted in reduced braking performance, and the other to seat strikers which would potentially fail in the event of a crash. The 2020 Grand Caravan hasn't been recalled for any issues, and J.D. Power accorded the current year model a Great Quality and Reliability rating of 71 out of 100. The Grand Caravan is covered by Dodge with a standard three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Safety ratings for the Dodge Grand Caravan aren't ideal considering its purpose as a family minivan. The NHTSA availed the fifth-gen Grand Caravan with an average overall safety rating of four stars out of five. The IIHS awarded the Grand Caravan with four scores of Good, and two of Poor, focusing on the small overlap in the front on the driver's side and the standard headlights as points of concern.
Dodge's standard safety consignment for the Grand Caravan is dismal, to say the least. One would expect a comprehensive fitment of driver-assist technologies and active safety systems in a minivan that's been solely purposed with transporting passengers. But, the Grand Caravan comes only with a typical consignment of seven standard airbags, including a driver's side knee airbag, an integrated rearview camera, cruise control, and trailer sway damping. The essentials are also there, including a second-row child seat anchor system, electronic stability control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring would have been appreciated on a vehicle of this size.
Over the last decade, the Dodge Grand Caravan has fallen behind significantly in terms of advancing design, modern technologies, and current safety standards - all paramount factors for a segment purposed with routinely hauling passengers. Even its highly practical and versatile Stow 'n Go seating and storage system has been matched or outclassed in newer minivans, some of which are offered at similar prices as well. There's not much more to say about the Grand Caravan then: it's ridiculously outdated and, at this point in time, completely unworthy of any family's hard-earned money. We'd recommend literally any other minivan over the Grand Caravan, and with its discontinuation on the horizon, it's best to shop elsewhere.
For all of its faults and shortfalls, the Dodge Grand Caravan still holds some appeal in more than just it's practicality and versatility - it's competitively affordable too. With a starting MSRP of $27,290 on the base-spec SE model, it's one of the most affordable minivans out there with only the Chrysler Voyager coming in a little cheaper. The SE Plus model, with its additional features, comes in with an MSRP of $30,090; for a few more features and conveniences, the top-of-the-line SXT model is available at a sticker price of $32,790. All prices are excluding any tax, registration or licensing fees, and exclude Dodge's destination charge of $1,495.
There are only three Grand Caravan models to choose from for the 2020 model year: the SE, SE Plus, and the SXT. Under the hood of every model is a 3.6-liter V6 engine that's coupled to a six-speed automatic gearbox, working to power the minivans front-wheel-drivetrain.
On the SE, there are 17-inch steel wheels with covers, quad halogen headlights, and daytime running lights. On the inside, there's a urethane steering wheel and shift knob, cloth upholstered seats, manually-adjustable front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and three-zone manual climate control. A 6.5-inch touchscreen and six-speaker sound system cover infotainment, with a rearview camera, cruise control, and trailer-sway control covering safety.
The SE Plus is upgraded with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, and front fog lights. It's installed with a remote start system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, second-row Stow 'n Go captain's chairs, and with Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth.
Moving up to the SXT sees leatherette upholstered seats with suede inserts, three-zone automatic climate control, dual power side sliding doors, and a power liftgate. It also gets a bright Stow 'n Place roof rack and a Stow 'n Go Super Console.
There aren't many available packages or standalone options available for any of the Grand Caravan models, which is very disappointing considering the sparse features list.
What there is, is a Uconnect Hands-Free Group available for the SE, outfitting the SE with Uconnect voice command and Bluetooth audio streaming capability, a remote USB port, SiriusXM radio connectivity, and with steering wheel mounted audio controls, all for $915.
A Blacktop Package is available for the SE Plus and SXT. For $995, this appearance package equips the Grand Caravan with 17-inch fully-black-painted wheels, a black grille, black headlamps bezels, and a rear fascia scuff pad, and deletes the roof rack.
The top-tier trim can be optioned with the $995 Single DVD entertainment system. It comprises a nine-inch second-row ceiling-mounted video screen, a DVD console, a remote charge-only USB port, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, a video remote control, and wireless headphones.
With the SE Plus coming outfitted with a selection of meaningful feature upgrades, including a remote start system, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and Stow 'n Go second-row captain's chairs, it's the model we feel keeps its value proposition over the competition, while also carrying some appreciable features over the base-spec SE. We also like the addition of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob as well as the Uconnect voice command and Bluetooth capabilities, which are added to the infotainment setup. Apart from that, the SE Plus is also fitted with a few better exterior and interior constituents than the SE, including alloy wheels.
With the Chrysler Pacifica having debuted in 2017, it's already a promising alternative to the decade-old Grand Caravan. In fact, the Pacifica is the class's best-ranked minivan on CarBuzz, and at a starting MSRP of only $34,045, we'll state right now that it's the vehicle of choice here. Its powertrain comprises a slightly more powerful V6 that's chained to a nine-speed auto, this makes the Pacifica the more fuel-efficient option with gas mileage figures of 19/28/22 mpg. In terms of practicality, the Pacifica is as, if not more, inclined to impress, also coming equipped with the Stow 'n Go seating and storage system. Features are plentiful in the Pacifica as well, and its infotainment setup far more up to today's standards in quality and functionality. The Pacifica has also been ranked as a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS and returned a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, partly attributed to its greater selection of standard-fit driver-assist technologies. Put simply, the Pacifica is better than the Grand Caravan in every way.
At just over $31,000 for the base-spec model of the Toyota Sienna, it's a bit more expensive than the Grand Caravan, but from behind the wheel, it feels that way too, presenting a noticeably more premium impression overall. Also, the Sienna comes equipped with a far more polished powertrain, a V6 and eight-speed auto, together powering either an FWD or AWD system. That's more gear ratios, meaning better fuel economy (19/26/21 mpg), and the option of AWD traction, which isn't offered for the Grand Caravan at all. The Sienna takes the cake for practicality too, offering upwards of 39 cubes of cargo room behind the rear-most seats. Points are given to the Sienna for its vast selection of features too, a more contemporary infotainment system with greater functionality, and a significantly better driver-assist and safety consignment, including Toyota's Safety Sense suite of driver aids. If it isn't clear to you, the Toyota Sienna is well worth the few extra dollars.
Check out some informative Dodge Grand Caravan video reviews below.