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Expert Reviews 1 of 4
By Jim Flammang
March 5, 2004
Vehicle Overview Redesigned front-wheel-drive minivans from DaimlerChrysler may look similar to their predecessors, but the differences inside take precedence. More than 15 new features appear on 2005 models; the most notable is the Stow ’n Go fold-flat-into-the floor configuration for the second- and third-row seats. These models are the first minivans to have both seats fold into the floor. They can be folded down with one hand in as little as 30 seconds.
Built on an all-new platform, the Dodge Grand Caravan comes on a longer 119.3-inch wheelbase. Stow ’n Go seating is standard in the SXT model and optional in the SE. Dodge Caravans, which are built on a shorter 113.3-inch wheelbase, will not be offered with Stow ’n Go seating.
Side curtain-type airbags protect outboard occupants in all three rows of seats, and the driver gets an inflatable knee blocker. Developers claim the 2005 minivans are 16 percent quieter than their predecessors. Rear parking assist with an audible warning and a rear overhead display is available.
DaimlerChrysler introduced its 2005 models at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show in January; sales begin early in 2004. The Chrysler Town & Country is similar to the Grand Caravan, but Chrysler’s version has a more upscale interior. DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group invented the minivan more than 20 years ago and has sold more than 10 million. Today’s minivan market share for Chrysler and Dodge models is 38 percent.
Exterior The styling of the new Grand Caravan is similar to the previous version, but the 2005 models have an entirely new underbody. Trevor Creed, senior vice president of design, refers to the process as “designing our minivans from the inside out.”
Dodge’s familiar crosshair grille sits up front in a U-shaped design with black bars. The minivan grille is similar to the one on the new Dodge Magnum wagon. A new front fascia contains a molded-in license plate pocket and new fog lamps. New bodyside moldings on the SXT feature chrome inserts. Aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires on the SXT, while the SE rolls on 15-inch steel wheels.
Interior All Grand Caravans seat seven occupants. DaimlerChrysler claims that the new models offer as many as 256 possible seating configurations. Bucket seats are installed in the second row, and the third row features a 60/40-split bench seat that can be folded partially or completely.
With Stow ’n Go seating, the headrests do not need to be removed in order to fold down the seats. When the second-row seats are upright, two storage bins with integrated lids provide an additional 12 cubic feet of storage space. Standard cargo net bags adjust to fit each storage bin. Outboard breakaway cupholders remain intact when the second-row seats are folded. Split-bench tailgate seating is possible by flipping the third-row seat rearward, and the liftgate can provide protection against the elements.
Super High Density Foam cushions, developed for astronauts by NASA, are used in Dodge’s minivan seats. The second-row seats move fore and aft with 100 mm of travel, recline up to 40 degrees and have 13 positions. The third-row seatbacks recline up to 39 degrees and feature 12 positions. By pulling a single strap, the second-row seat tumbles out of the way for entry to the third row. A grained look highlights the center stack bezel on the SE, while the SXT gets a carbon-weave design.
Three adjustable and removable bins fit into an overhead rail system, and one can hold an optional DVD entertainment system’s screen. A navigation system with a 4.2-inch screen is also available. Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 26.4 cubic feet. With all of the seats removed, the minivan can hold 167.7 cubic feet.
Under the Hood A 180-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine is installed in the SE, and the SXT gets a 3.8-liter V-6 that generates 215 hp and 245 pounds-feet of torque. Both minivans are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Safety Antilock brakes are standard. Side curtain-type airbags protect occupants in all three rows of seats. An inflatable knee blocker helps protect the driver. Multistage front airbags and a BeltAlert reminder are standard. LATCH child-safety seat anchors are installed in the second row of all Grand Caravans and in the third row of models equipped with Stow ’n Go seating. A door-alert system that indicates when the sliding door is moving will be added during the 2005 model year.