By Courtney Messenbaugh on September 3, 2013
The Dodge Grand Caravan almost has it all. It has a cabin filled with clever storage spaces and sliding doors that make daily life convenient. There are plenty of entertainment options, and a spacious interior offers a multitude of seating and hauling configurations thanks to Dodge's optional Stow 'n Go second-row seats. Unfortunately, it's also unremarkable to drive, which is a common complaint in the minivan class.
The 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan represents a great value for families, and kids in particular give it a big thumbs-up.
When I say it was unremarkable to drive, I don't mean to sound unjust. It handles fine around town, despite being a little stiff to maneuver. When it comes to mountain driving, however, the 3.6-liter V-6 engine labors noisily to get up the passes.
To my three children, the Grand Caravan was simply the "fancy car." It satisfied their top priorities, the first being the cover, as in kids judge books by the cover and the same goes for cars. With a bright red coat of paint, my test car captured their attention. To them, red equals fire engines, and that's cool. Combined with the always-fierce Dodge grille, the Grand Caravan is an exciting-looking minivan to behold.
The kids' second priority is entertainment, and with the Grand Caravan's available 9-inch overhead video screens — one for the second row and another for the third row — they were sold. It's part of a $2,490 package that includes a Blu-ray player and a backup camera. Fancy indeed.
But the entertainment didn't stop there. An infinitely spacious cabin with endless seating and floor configurations — the second-row Stow 'n Go seats fold into the floor as does the 60/40-split third row — instantly turned the car into my kids' own personal wrestling arena, dance floor and meeting room. Whenever I began to load up the minivan for our day's duties, there I would find them — already in and holding forth.
It's low enough for everyone to easily climb in, and those automatic sliding doors open up a world of wonder for kids. With so much entertainment potential, my children wanted to live in this van.
The bottom line is that the Grand Caravan is a solid choice for value-conscious consumers. Due to large amounts of black plastic and cloth seats that don't exactly cradle you, I wouldn't call it "fancy," but it did make life easy in many ways. My midlevel SXT trim test car was a reasonable $32,875 and came fully loaded with features like a backup camera, streaming Bluetooth audio and Dodge's easy-to-use Uconnect system with navigation.
Between the dual glove boxes, storage under the center stack and a supremely versatile interior, there's passenger and cargo space galore. The cargo area has 33 cubic feet of space with all rows in use. That was plenty of space, but if I needed more, I simply folded a portion of the third row.
The Grand Caravan has three sets of Latch anchors. Two sets are in the second row; the third set is placed in between the middle and outer seats in the third row. When a car seat is installed with the Latch anchors, it occupies two seats — reducing seating from three to two. My kids' car seats all fit well in the Grand Caravan, and installation was easy.
What can I say? It's all about priorities and the Grand Caravan satisfies many of ours as a family.