2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Review and Prices
Past and Future Reviews
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan is the best minivan for you if you spend your family’s transportation dollars wisely.
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan continues as a seven-passenger minivan that blends great utility, affordability, and extensive entertainment options – including onboard satellite TV. It’s America’s best-selling minivan and, along with its dressier cousin, the Chrysler Town & Country, helps Chrysler snare 41 percent of the minivan market. The Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are its strongest competitors. All three should be freshened or all-new by model-year 2011.
Should you buy a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan or wait for the 2011 Grand Caravan? Minor equipment tweaks aside, the 2010 Grand Caravan is the same minivan Dodge unveiled for model-year 2008 as the fifth generation of this American perennial. Even as Chrysler sweats out its 2009 bankruptcy, company sources insist the Grand Caravan and Town & Country are on track for model-year 2011 revisions. At minimum they’d get a restyled grille, but they also could gain a highly anticipated new engine. In any event, a minivan purchase is really a life-stage decision. Are you ready? Exploit the buyer’s market and shop the 2010 Grand Caravan. Familial clock is still ticking? Wait to learn how – or if -- the 2011 Grand Caravan evolves.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Changes back to top
Styling: It’ll get some minor technical adjustments, but the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan will look like the 2009 Grand Caravan. Before Chrysler’s financial crisis, industry observers had the Grand Caravan penciled in for a model-year 2011 facelift. If that happens, stylists will revise the grille and maybe the tail, but not the boxy, slab-sided main body design. Dodge touts the look as “contemporary and sheer, with a protective look and athletic stance.” That’s charitable. There’s little visual sense of motion or lightness to the Grand Caravan’s styling. But it does serve a minivan’s central function: provide lots of interior space. Helping the cause is a notably generous wheelbase shared with the Town & Country (and with the Volkswagen Routan, which also uses this basic structure). Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and is a prime determinate in how much room is available for passengers and cargo. At 121.2 inches, the Grand Caravan’s wheelbase is among the longest of any passenger vehicle’s. Its body, however, isn’t significantly longer than that of the average midsize SUV. Indeed, most buyers with sufficient self confidence -- or strong enough domestic demands – to choose a minivan over an SUV find they’ve made the right decision. Minivans have more combined passenger and cargo room than even the largest SUVs. They provide SUV-style elevated seating -- but with better fuel economy, a lower step-in height, and the freedom to move about inside. Have a young family? Don’t tow heavy trailers? Don’t go off-road or fight deep snow? Why are you driving an SUV?
Mechanical: The fourth-generation Dodge minivan offered optional all-wheel drive, but today’s Grand Caravan is front-wheel-drive only. Front-wheel drive groups the powertrain components in the nose for efficient packaging. And it puts the weight of the engine over the wheels that propel the van, for good traction in snow. For 2010, Grand Caravan continues with a choice of three V-6 engines: a 3.3-liter with 175 horsepower, a 3.8 with 197, and a 4.0 with 251. The 3.3 uses a four-speed automatic transmission, the others a six-speed automatic. The only changes for 2010 are in pursuit of better fuel economy. They involve such tuning tricks as finessing the transmission’s shift schedule, or switching to tires with mileage-enhancing tread and compound. A driver isn’t likely to notice the changes, but even a 1- or 2-mpg gain in EPA ratings pays dividends in corporate average-fuel-economy points -- and in advertising. All Grand Caravans come with four-wheel disc brakes and bring two standard features into play during emergency stops. One is antilock technology, which automatically “pumps” the brakes to avoid lock-up and maintain steering control. The second is brake assist, which automatically applies full braking power even if the driver fails to fully depress the brake pedal. And if sensors detect an imminent sideways slide, the standard antiskid system kicks in to apply individual brakes and modulate engine power until stability is restored.
Features: Adaptable seating configurations and a lengthy list of entertainment accessories sets the standard for the class. Included in the base price is Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go seating system in which the Grand Caravan’s second-row bucket seats fold neatly into the floor. This eliminates the need to remove them. With the third row similarly folded (power operation is available for that), it creates a flat load surface. With Chrysler’s Swivel ’n Go alternative, those second-row buckets turn 180 degrees to face third-row passengers. A removable table between them allows for card games and convivial dining. Multimedia is the byword for a range of Grand Caravan options. These include Chrysler’s Unconnect system, which brings together a 30-gigabyte hard drive, USB iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, a navigation system with real-time traffic monitoring, and Siruis TV satellite streaming video. Available with Swivel ’n Go is a dual DVD entertainment system with 9-inch screens and a third-row monitor; it can play different media simultaneously. Power up/down windows in the sliding side doors, remote engine start, and integrated child booster seats are other useful amenities. A mobile Wi-Fi modem that turns the entire vehicle into a rolling Internet hot spot is a dealer-installed accessory. The aptly named Security Group option gives the driver extra eyes. It includes a review camera that projects on the navigation screen an image of what’s directly behind (tricycle, pet turtle?) when backing up. The option also includes a blind-spot monitor to detect unseen vehicles in adjacent traffic lanes, and Dodge’s Rear Cross Path system to sense vehicles approaching from the sides when you’re backing out of a parking space. If either occurs, a chime sounds and warning icons appear in the outside mirrors. New for the 2010 Grand Caravan are active front head restraints that automatically move forward into a more supportive position during a collision. Standard are head-protecting curtain side airbags for all three seating rows; they’re designed to deploy in side collisions and if sensors detect an imminent rollover.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Test Drive back to top
From behind the wheel: Driving satisfaction in a minivan is defined by making it home from soccer practice without someone spilling something that can’t be easily swabbed up. Dodge has thought of that, and impregnates (sorry) the Grand Caravan’s fabric seats with a lab concoction that renders them stain-repellant and odor-resistant. Of course, the wipe-clean luxury of leather seats is its own reward. But we digress.
To the driver, the Grand Caravan doesn’t feel as connected to the road or as responsive as the almost-sporty Honda Odyssey. But it’s quiet. And it rides nicely on most road surfaces. Wretched pavement can trigger some jarring impacts, and dips and swells induce some float and wallow. But those really are signals that you should just slow down. It’s a message reinforced by body lean and tire squeal in tight corners. An SXT with the sport suspension buttons things down some. But at the speeds you drive with kids aboard, any Grand Caravan furnishes fine maneuverability and cruises the Interstate with impunity.
Dodge forces you to spend for the SXT model to get the 251-horsepower V-6, but this 4.0-liter gets the van off the line smartly and up to speed quickly. Most buyers stick with the 197-horsepower 3.8 V-6. It provides perfectly adequate acceleration for bussing around town and merging with the water park-bound rush. Both these V-6s work in pleasing harmony with the smooth six-speed automatic transmission. With just 175 horsepower, the 3.3 V-6 can feel underpowered. It must work so hard to move a full Grand Caravan that fuel economy probably won’t match what you’ll get with the more-capable 3.8 V-6.
(No change to the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan will significantly alter its performance or passenger accommodations from those of the 2009 model. Statements in this review about performance and accommodations are based on detailed test drives of the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.)
Dashboard and controls: There is a kind of use-it-up, throw-it-away character to the Grand Caravan’s cabin. Families with a wobbly Big Wheel on the lawn or a faded Playskool stove in the basement will recognize it.
The lesson here is not to get picky about the quality of interior surfaces you won’t touch during the daily grind. Sure, the dashboard panels feel like Tupperware, and some cabin walls flex under pressure like the big leaves of plastic they are. But Tupperware and plastic are durable and cost-efficient.
What’s important is that the design of the dashboard is symmetrical and without surprises. Instruments are big and simple. Main controls are plainly marked and easily accessed from both front seats. The navigation system is intuitive, its screen near eye-level. Mounting the climate buttons higher would make things less distracting for a busy driver. And audio adjustments get progressively complex as you ladle on the tech. Read the manual and rehearse your Uconnect before you load the van with impatient kids. Realize, too, that with both DVD screens pivoted from the ceiling into viewing position, the driver’s view of traffic behind is all but eliminated.
The gearshift lever is immediately right of the central instrument cluster. It’s close at hand and doesn’t interfere with the driver’s view or path to any other control. But you need to get used to moving it vertically, like an electrical-box handle. More problematic is the lever’s shaky play and grating action; so too the rickety mounting of the center console. These are things you do touch each day, and they should feel more substantial.
Room, comfort, and utility: Great head room everywhere. Knee room is good, too, but foot space can get tight in the two rear rows. Making your way to the third row requires some baby steps and crouching, and larger people would want a higher seatback for more shoulder support. Heftier passengers may also complain the Stow ’n Go second-row buckets just aren’t roomy enough. Their size is dictated by the requirement that they fold into floor wells. They do this via a kind of reverse-blossoming action, but only after you move the front seats forward for clearance and get accustomed to their release mechanism. But Stow ’n Go is a brilliant solution to the awkward, back-wrenching task of removing big, heavy second-row seats to make room for cargo. You don’t need to find a place to store them. You can redeploy them once you arrive and unload your cargo. And the floor wells double as incredibly spacious covered storage compartments.
Swivel ’n Go is a great concept but comes with some compromises of its own. Its second-row seats are slightly roomer than with Stow ’n Go, but rotating them puts their backrests against those of the front seats. This forces rear-facing occupants to sit bolt upright or front seaters to compromise their backrest angle. The table isn’t in ideal proximity to all four rear seats. And Swivel ’n Go’s second-row can’t fold into the floor wells to create extra cargo space.
Cargo space is a Grand Caravan highlight. Even with every seat occupied, a wheel-barrow-sized depression in the floorpan behind the third row swallows stacks of luggage. Separately or together, the left and right sides of that third-row bench back-flip neatly into this well, leaving a carpeted load surface. Drop the Stow ’n Go second row as well, and you create a wide, tall cargo bay with a long, low, flat floor accessible by huge side doors and a big liftgate. No SUV can match it. The dashboard, consoles, and cabin walls house a wealth of bins, cubbies, cupholders, and pockets. These are repositories for small, sticky things you won’t see again for years.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Prices back to top
The 2010 Grand Caravan continues in base SE and uplevel SXT models. Sales split about evenly between the two. Dodge had not released 2010 Grand Caravan prices in time for this report, but affordability is central to this minivan’s success, so they won’t change much from 2009 levels.
The Dodge Grand Caravan SE was priced from $25,050 for 2009. (Base prices listed here include Dodge’s mandatory $820 destination fee.) SE standard features include the 3.3-liter V-6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, and cruise control. Power windows in all doors, power locks, and heated power mirrors are also standard. So are remote keyless entry, a rear-window wiper/washer, and 16-inch tires with wheel covers. Standard seating consists of two front buckets, the Stow ’n Go second-row buckets, and a three-person third-row bench that’s split 60/40 and folds into the floor. The standard audio system has a mini-plug for iPods and other MP3 devices.
The Dodge Grand Caravan SXT was priced from $29,145 for 2009. It includes the SE equipment and adds the 3.8 V-6 and six-speed automatic. It gets alloy wheels, a roof rack, and fog lamps. Inside, the SXT adds to the SE rear-seat climate controls and a separate rear air-conditioning system. An eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment and power-adjustable gas and brake pedals are SXT standards. The sliding side doors gain power operation, too.
About 70 percent of Grand Caravan buyers stick with Stow ’n Go seating. Swivel ‘n Go is an option priced around $500. But to order it on an SE, you also must purchase an option group priced around $1,800. This piggy-back package does include useful items, such as the tri-zone climate controls with rear air conditioner, plus the alloy wheels. A small percentage of Grand Caravan buyers opt for a third seating option. It costs around $225 and replaces the Stow ’n Go buckets with a two-passenger bench seat. This bench has two integrated child seats, though it doesn’t fold into the floor.
Power sliding side doors are an affordable luxury you’ll learn you wouldn’t want to live without. Same goes for the convenience of a power liftgate. All are controlled from buttons on the dashboard and on the van walls, and – very usefully – on the keyfob. The power sliders and liftgate are part of several options groups, including a package for the SXT that costs around $1,750 but also includes leather upholstery, a sport suspension, and 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. To get this package, you must also order the 4.0-liter engine. This V-6 is available only on the SXT and costs about $650.
Among other add-ons exclusive to the SXT are the Security Group (around $1,450), and Unconnect ($900-$1,300, depending on other equipment). A single-screen rear DVD entertainment system can be added to the Grand Caravan SE for around $1,400. The dual-screen system is an SXT option at around $2,200.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Fuel Economy back to top
The Dodge Grand Caravan was laudably fuel efficient, even before the gas-mileage wizards went to work on the 2010 models. In fact, the 17/25 mpg (city/highway) rating of the 2009 Grand Caravan with the 4.0-liter V-6 tied it for best fuel economy among all minivans in 2009. Only the Honda Odyssey equaled it, and it couldn’t do it without a high-tech V-6 that shuts off some of its cylinders to save gas.
Grand Caravans with the 3.8-liter V-6 were rated at 16/23 for 2009. Those with the 3.3-liter V-6 were rated at 17/24. The 3.3 V-6 can also run on E85 ethanol fuel, but mileage drops to 11/16.
EPA ratings for the 2010 Grand Caravan were not released in time for this report. But in trying to improve the fuel efficiency of an existing model, where altering the vehicle’s size is impossible and reducing weight difficult, engineers consider a 1-mpg improvement a success and a 2-mpg gain reason to pop the bubbly.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Safety and Reliability back to top
The Dodge Grand Caravan scores very well in government crash-test ratings. The tests award a maximum of five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions.
The Grand Caravan scores five stars for protection of the driver and passengers in both frontal and side impacts. In government assessments of rollover resistance, the Grand Caravan rates four stars on the five-star scale.
To put these crash-test results in perspective, every minivan tested by the government matched the front, side, and rollover scores of the Grand Caravan, with one exception. That exception was the Toyota Sienna, which was rated four of five stars for driver protection in a frontal collision. Every minivan tested rated four of five stars for rollover resistance.
Quality and reliability ratings are more of a mixed bag. In initial quality, the Dodge brand is ranked below average by J.D. Power and Associates (JDPower.com), the leading automotive consumer survey firm. The highest rank attained by the Dodge brand in the surveys is “about average” for overall design, for the design and dependability of the body, and for the mechanical quality and dependability of the accessories.
Grand Caravan owners surveyed by J.D. Power rated their minivan below average overall for initial quality; they rated it “about average” only in powertrain and in body and interior quality.
Having debuted for model-year 2008, the current-generation Grand Caravan is too new to be included in J.D. Power dependability surveys that poll buyers after three years of ownership. However, the 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan topped all other minivans in the J.D. Power survey for overall dependability, earning the highest possible marks from owners.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Release Date back to top
Chrysler’s bankruptcy, its shift in corporate ownership, its shuttered assembly plants – all could affect the release date of the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan. This is one of the company’s core products, though, so it’ll strive to get the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan into showrooms during autumn 2009.
Incidentally, the “Grand” in Grand Caravan identifies the sole survivor of the 2008 redesign. That’s when Dodge decided to dump the short-wheelbase version of its minivan. It was called, simply, the Caravan and had a 113.3-inch-wheelbase. The Caravan accounted for only about 10 percent of Caravan/Grand Caravan sales, and wasn’t long enough to accommodate Stow ’n Go or Swivel ’n Go. Some Caravan buyers gravitated to the seven-seat Journey crossover midsize SUV that Dodge launched for 2009.
What's next for the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan back to top
The all-new next-generation Grand Caravan won’t be ready until model year 2013 or 2014. A mid-cycle freshening of the current generation for model-year 2011 would create a Grand Caravan that looks only a little different from the 2010 model, but one that could perform much differently and link to more social and information media.
The shape of the main body section wouldn’t change. But smoother front-end styling would help aerodynamics, which would aid fuel economy. The 2011 Grand Caravan could also be among the first Chrysler or Dodge vehicles to get a member of the company’s new “Phoenix” family of modular V-6 and V-8 engines. A likely candidate for the Grand Caravan is a 3.6-liter V-6 that could produce 280 horsepower with better fuel economy than any of today’s Grand Caravan engines.
Chrysler is also developing broader applications for its Uconnect system. The 2011 Grand Caravan could feature some of these. Among possibilities is the ability to downloading movies and music. Uconnect could be the interface for a “teen setting” that would warn you if your Grand Caravan is being driven erratically or beyond a specified range. Other future possibilities include video linking and remote control of some accessories via your cell phone.
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Competition back to top
2010 Honda Odyssey: The benchmark for minivan performance and style is redesigned for the first time since 2005. It gets a new body with a revamped cabin that boasts a bit more passenger room. Front-wheel-drive continues, as does suspension tuning intended to keep Odyssey the best-handling minivan. Set aside for now are plans for a diesel V-6 option that might have returned 30 mpg on the highway. That leaves a gas V-6 of about 250 horsepower and ratings around 17/25. Expect a base price range of $27,000-$42,000 for the redesigned 2010 Honda Odyssey.
2010 Toyota Sienna: This is the final year of this 2004-vintage design. An all-new version launches for model-year 2011 with new styling and more third-row-seat room. No radical changes under the hood for 2010, but a gas-electric hybrid version could be on tap for model-year 2012. Toyota might also continue offering class-exclusive all-wheel drive in addition to the standard front-wheel drive. Sienna has traditionally been cushier and more conservative than the Odyssey, but is likewise a darling of upscale import buyers. It has a 245-horsepower V-6 rated at 17/23 with front-wheel drive, 16/21 with all-wheel drive. Base prices span about $25,500-$34,000.
2010 Kia Sedona: Value-conscious shoppers have discovered this roomy, solidly built minivan from Kia, the spunky brand owned by South Korean powerhouse, Hyundai. Sedona comes in short- and longer-wheelbase form, both with seats for seven and a 244-horsepower V-6 rated at 16/23. Driving manners are competent if unexciting, and resale values lag the pack. But comfort is competitive, warranty coverage extensive, standard features comprehensive, and base prices tempting. The abbreviated-length version, which is about the size of the former Caravan, begins around $22,000. The longer version, which is Grand Caravan-sized, starts around $25,000. Sedona is due some styling updates for model-year 2011.