2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Review and Prices
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is the best minivan for you if you want a value-priced seven-seater that doesn’t skimp on connectivity, convenience, or utility.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan gets a refocus on popular equipment combinations with a new budget base edition and no-cost extras added to other models. The result is a terrifically appealing range of features that merits this minivan a place on any value-conscious family’s automotive shopping list. Among the highlights is the new-for-2012 American Value Package model that includes all the basic power accessories, plus cruise control and roomy accommodations for seven starting at just $21,990. That’s priced lower than the average five-passenger midsize car.
Should you buy a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan or wait for the 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan? Buy the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan if you need a minivan now. The 2013 Grand Caravan isn’t apt to change in any way worth waiting for, and it’ll be one year closer to the end of this design generation’s lifecycle, which likely will end in model year 2014 or 2015. That means quicker depreciation on a 2013 Grand Caravan.
2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Changes back to top
Styling: The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is cosmetically unchanged after a freshening for model-year 2011. It retains a rectangular profile that’s not particularly stylish but maximizes interior space. The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan’s styling differs only modestly from its near twin, the more upscale Chrysler Town & Country. Helped by a large Dodge crosshairs grille design, the Grand Caravan is designed to look sportier than the more expensive Town & Country.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan again features seven-passenger seating and continues the attractive and functional interior upgraded it received for model-year 2011. That included a new instrument panel, dashboard, and steering wheel, plus higher-quality materials. It continues with rear sliding side doors (including standard power windows) that simplify ingress and egress. A large rear liftgate facilitates cargo loading and unloading. Power operation for the sliding doors and liftgate is standard on top-line Grand Caravan Crew and R/T models and optional on the midgrade SXT version.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan lineup consists of five models. In ascending order of price and features they are: the American Value Package (AVP), which replaces last year’s base Express model; the SE, which replaces the Mainstreet model; the new SXT; and the carryover Crew and performance-flavored R/T versions. Visual distinctions include door handles and molding that are black on the AVP model and body colored on the others. The Crew and R/T come with fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels, versus 16-inch alloys on the SXT and 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers on the AVP and SE. The R/T also is the only Grand Caravan with a body colored grille.
Mechanical: The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan continues to share its basic structure, powertrain, and virtually all components with the Chrysler Town & Country. Yet a third version of this minivan is available as the Volkswagen Routan, though with slightly different styling and suspension tuning.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan’s only engine is again Chrysler Group’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, also found in 13 total Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models. In the 2012 Grand Caravan (and 2012 Town & Country), the engine has 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque – most of any minivan, on both counts. By comparison, the 2012 Toyota Sienna has 265 horsepower, the 2012 Nissan Quest 260, and the 2012 Honda Odyssey 248. A six-speed automatic is again Grand Caravan’s only transmission; it includes a driver-selectable “economizer” mode that changes its shift points to improve fuel economy.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is front-wheel drive, a layout that masses engine and transmission at the front of the vehicle. This promotes efficient interior packaging and places more weight over the drive wheels, which helps maintain traction on wet roads and in snow. The Sienna continues as the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive (AWD) to further improve foul weather performance. To get a seven-passenger Dodge with AWD you’ll need to look at the full-size Durango or midsize Journey crossover SUVs.
Features: As before, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan offers a lengthy list of novel and practical features. Primary among these is the company’s innovative Stow ‘n Go seating configuration in which the third-row bench seat and second row captain’s chairs fold flat into the floor for flexible and expansive cargo-carrying capability. A one-touch flip-down feature – Dodge dubs it Super Stow ‘n Go – quickly folds the second-row seats for easier access into the rearmost row. When the second-row buckets are upright they leave dual covered storage bins in the floor; these are handy for keeping items like cameras and purses out of sight when the vehicle is parked. The third-row seat is split 60/40.
New for 2012 are a new Sapphire Blue interior lighting scheme and an available quad leather seat option for R/T models. Also new is the Stow ‘n Place roof-rack system that lets owners stow the roof bows in the side rails when they’re not using them and snap them into place when needed. The ability to stow the roof bows reduces aerodynamic drag and wind buffeting for better overall fuel efficiency.
As in the past the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan continues to offer a variety of entertainment and connectivity features. These include Chrysler’s Uconnect system that combines voice-activated navigation with a premium audio system. Uconnect incorporates USB iPod and Bluetooth interfaces and a hard drive for digital media storage. Also optional is a dual-screen DVD entertainment system available with two separate in-vehicle subscription-based satellite TV systems: Sirius Backseat TV with three kid-oriented channels and FLO-TV, which includes multiple sports, news, and entertainment channels.
Also continuing is a dealer-installed option that turns the Grand Caravan into a rolling WiFi hot spot. It connects laptop computers, iPads, and other devices to the Internet and requires a paid data plan. Among other noteworthy options are a heated steering wheel and a large center storage console with ambient blue-green lighting to make finding items easier at night.
As befits a family oriented vehicle, the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan’s assortment of safety features is plentiful. They include standard head-protecting curtain side airbags for all outboard seating positions; they’re designed to deploy in side collisions and in rollovers. The driver also gets a knee airbag. Antilock brakes are standard to aid control in emergency stops and traction and antiskid systems improve grip on takeoffs and in turns, respectively. A rearview camera is available for safer and easier parking, along with blind-spot monitoring to warn of unseen vehicles in adjacent lanes or when backing from a parking space or garage.
2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Prices back to top
Base-price range for the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan is $21,990-$30,990. That makes the 2012 Grand Caravan lineup the least expensive among minivans, with only the “mini-minivan” Mazda 5 costing less. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2012 Grand Caravan is $995.)
The 2012 Grand Cherokee American Value Package model starts at $21,990. Referred to in some Dodge sales materials as the SE-AVP model, it comes with air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, cruise control and other features.
Base price for the 2012 Grand Caravan SE is $23,990. It includes all the AVP equipment and adds such upgrades as solar glass, three-zone manual climate control, additional interior storage bins, flootmats, and six instead of four speakers.
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT is priced from $27,940. It gets $1,800 in no-extra-charge equipment for 2012, including dual power sliding doors, power liftgate, power-adjustable pedals, plus an expanded center console and the Stow ’n Place roof-rack system. That makes the 2012 SXT the only minivan in America priced less than $30,000 to include power dual sliding doors, power liftgate and power-adjustable pedals.
Base price for the 2012 Grand Caravan Crew model is $29,490. Among its standard features are the 17-inch aluminum wheels, bright chrome exterior accents, a 6.5-inch touchscreen media center and backup camera, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, Sirius XM satellite radio, ambient interior lighting and automatic temperature control.
The 2012 Grand Caravan R/T starts at $30,990 and includes the distinctive monochromatic exterior treatment, black leather upholstery with red accent stitching, and nine speakers with amplifier and subwoofer. It has a handling-tuned suspension and its 17-inch aluminum wheels are of a unique design.
The Grand Caravan Crew and R/T models also include $820 in no-extra-charge equipment for 2012, including remote start, power liftgate and security alarm.
Among key 2012 Grand Caravan options is the Driver Convenience Group for Crew and R/T models. It costs $795 and includes among its features a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, and Uconnect.
Optional on SXT, Crew, and R/T models is the $1,395 Entertainment Group includes a DVD player with a second-row overhead 9-inch video screen, wireless headphones, video remote control, and an upgraded audio system. Equipping the AVP, SE, or SXT with the Unconnect Handsfree Group costs $690 and brings Bluetooth phone connectivity, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and satellite radio.
The rear park assist, blind-spot monitor, rear crosspath detection is optional on the Crew and R/T as part of the Safety Sphere Group. The package also includes rain-senstiive wipers and automatic headlamps and costs $1,300.
2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Fuel Economy back to top
EPA gas-mileage estimates for 2012 models were not released in time for this review, but expect the Caravan EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Dodge Grand are 17/25/20 mpg city/highway/combined. That’s good for a vehicle with this much utility and power, but places the Grand Caravan (along with the Town & Country) behind the majority of minivans by 1-2 mpg in city and highway ratings.
2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Release Date back to top
The 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan went on sale in autumn 2011.
What's next for the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan back to top
The Dodge Grand Caravan is likely to receive its next major revision in model-year 2014 or 2015. However, the company’s corporate controller, Italy’s Fiat Group, is rushing to revise or replace a flurry of Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep models as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s also expanding its Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands into the U.S. market. So the precise timing of the next-generation Grand Caravan may be in flux.
What’s more certain is that the Grand Caravan will be the sole surviving minivan from a corporate family that once included the Plymouth Voyager in addition to the Town & Country. The Voyager was discontinued a decade ago and Fiat has announced that the next-generation replacement for the Town & Country won’t be a minivan at all but a crossover SUV. The move is in keeping with Fiat’s plan to push Chrysler into premium-brand territory. Reports say the Chrysler crossover could take inspiration from the Mercedes-Benz R-Class seven-passenger SUV. It could well retain the Town & Country name and be built on the underbody design of the next-generation Grand Caravan. But it would have different styling and would offer all-wheel drive in addition to front-wheel drive.
The 2012 Grand Caravan traces its basic design to model-year 2008, when Chrysler debuted the fifth generation of the original American minivan. The concept dates to model-year 1984, and a cultural revolution that put millions of families in big boxes on wheels. Many buyers of course migrated to SUVs, and later to car-based crossover SUVs. As for the sixth-generation Grand Caravan, expect sleeker styling and better fuel economy – perhaps with an available four-cylinder engine that could be turbocharged – and an even wider range of connectivity possibilities, likely built around smartphone-linked systems.
2012 Dodge Grand Caravan Competition back to top
Honda Odyssey: The segment leading Odyssey was redesigned for model-year 2011 with distinctive – at least for a minivan -- styling that includes a crisply angled “lightning bolt” beltline. Ride and handling are first-rate, the interior exceptionally roomy, comfortable, and well-designed.. While Odyssey’s 248-horsepower V-6 doesn’t make this the quickest minivan, it does make it the most economical at an EPA rated 18/27/21 mpg city/highway/combined with the five-speed automatic transmission and 19/28/22 in more expensive models with the six-speed automatic. Base-price range for the 2012 Odyssey is $29,205-$44,655.
Toyota Sienna: Also benefitting from a major makeover for 2011, Sienna comes with a choice of an adequate 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a peppier 266-horsepower V-6. Rated fuel economy differs little either way at 19/24/21 mpg and 18/25/21 mpg, respectively. The Sienna SE model has a sport suspension and larger wheels and tires. Optional all-wheel-drive is a class exclusive; it’s teamed with the V-6 and earns a 17/23/19-mpg rating. A factory installed power operated Auto Access Seat extends out and down to the curb to accommodate the infirm or elderly. Base-price range for the 2012 Sienna is $25,870-$41,380.
Kia Sedona: This South Korean offering challenges the Grand Caravan on a value-priced basis, but the Dodge is the better buy because it’s more modern and refined and is available with far more features. Still, Sedona should be available with attractive discounts and is covered by a much longer warranty than the Grand Caravan. The only engine is a 271-horsepower V-6 engine. Rated fuel economy is 18/25/21 mpg. The oldest vehicle in the segment, Sedona is due for a full redesign in module-year 2014. Base price range for the 2012 Sedona is $25,700-$29,999.
UPDATED BY CHUCK GIATMETTA