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- Highs Bargain price, folding Stow 'n Go seats, did we mention bargain price?
- Lows Cheapo interior materials, lackluster fuel efficiency, antiquated tech, uncomfortable second-row buckets.
- Verdict Its low cost of entry nets the basic minivan virtues but little more.
Reluctant to say goodbye to its family-hauling icon, Dodge has decided to continue offering the Grand Caravan for 2019 even though it is badly outclassed by both its rivals and its corporate sibling, the Chrysler Pacifica. As the least expensive new minivan on the market, the Grand Caravan has a single selling point: thrift. Its low-rent interior offers space for seven or eight passengers and its cargo capacity is good, but buyers in the market for a high-tech infotainment package or a suite of driver-assistance features should look elsewhere. You get what you pay for, and depending on your point of view, the Grand Caravan is either a shrewd value or a clearance-rack has-been.
What's New for 2019?
Nothing. Aside from the IndiGo Blue exterior paint color added for the 2018 model year, the venerable Grand Caravan enters the 2019 model year packing its reputation for thrift and little else.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
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While other minivans focus on luxury—Chrysler's Pacifica can crest the $49,000 mark when fully equipped—the Grand Caravan sells on value. A fully spec'd SXT model will struggle to hit $40,000 with every conceivable accessory included. It's the value van, and as such we'd zero in on the middle of the lineup and select the midrange SE Plus trim. It adds plenty of features versus the base SE, among them the Blacktop Appearance package (aluminum wheels, gloss-black exterior trim, black upholstery, leather steering wheel and shift knob), automatic headlamps, and Bluetooth phone and streaming audio. The Grand Caravan SE Plus starts at $30,810, saving nearly $20,000 compared with a loaded Pacifica. That extra cash might be better allocated to college savings plans for the occupants of the second and third rows.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Proven V-6 engine, 3600-pound tow rating, unobtrusive personality.
Dislikes: Transmission reluctant to downshift, noisy ride, less than impressive fuel economy.
Regardless of trim level, there is but one powertrain option: a naturally aspirated 283-hp V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Offering familiarity above all else, the proven powertrain has no secrets to tell. Although of pedestrian pedigree, the Grand Caravan's engine emits a surprisingly baritone growl when the driver is deep into the throttle. Sadly, the exhaust note doesn't translate into surprising performance, as the Grand Caravan returned the slowest zero-to-60-mph time of all the recent minivans we've tested. That said, it's more than adequate for the task at hand. While the six-speed transmission suffers a little gear envy with the eight-, nine-, and 10-speed automatics offered by competitors, it shifts smoothly and rarely makes a fuss, the exception being its reluctance to downshift during passing maneuvers.
Likewise, the ride quality and handling are innocuous with the exception of the occasional harsh jolting of the chassis from larger road imperfections. Body roll is managed admirably for a top-heavy vehicle, and the Grand Caravan feels poised through corners and relaxed when cruising. Well-weighted steering gives the driver a brief sense of engagement. While the brake pedal feels firm underfoot, its 180-foot stopping distance from 70 mph puts it in the middle of the pack.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Considering the amount of gray whiskers on its carryover powertrain, it comes as no surprise that the Grand Caravan's EPA fuel-economy estimates lag behind those of most of its more modern rivals. It did especially poorly in our real-world highway fuel-economy test, registering just 22 mpg—3 less than its 25-mpg EPA rating—at a steady 75 mph. Adding insult to inefficiency, the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna all beat their EPA estimates by at least 2 mpg in the same test.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Pleasant outward visibility, low load-in height.
Dislikes: Dated design, cheap plastics, outdated infotainment.
Not many vehicles are more practical than a minivan for people and cargo carrying, and while that's still true of the Grand Caravan, it's truer of its rivals. And that's okay, since the Grand Caravan offers a commanding outward view, plenty of cargo space, and ample small-item storage throughout the cabin.
We applaud Dodge for offering an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch screen and auxiliary input as standard equipment, but in this case, less would have been more. The system is so antiquated that even a basic AM/FM radio would be simpler and more satisfying to use. Most of the popular infotainment features are optional, and, remarkably for a 2019 model, neither Android Auto nor Apple CarPlay is available at any trim level.
The Dodge's party piece? Its trick rear seats that can fold into underfloor bins when not in use and convert the Grand Caravan into a hollowed-out cargo hauler. The Grand Caravan shares the brilliant Stow 'n Go system with the Chrysler Pacifica. While the standard folding third row retracts into a cavity aft of the seat, the available second-row folding seats disappear neatly into underfloor storage bins. With all seats folded, a large, flat load floor makes for easy carrying of bulky cargo—and no heavy seats had to be yanked out to effect the transformation.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Safety is often a key consideration for minivan shoppers, but unfortunately the Grand Caravan's safety chops are hindered by lackluster crashworthiness results and a dearth of driver-assist tech. Awarded a four-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it failed to earn a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Although it earned a Good rating in most of the IIHS's tests, a Poor result in the small-overlap test is disappointing. It could be worse, but its rivals all do a lot better. Less forgivable is the absence of driver-assistance features. While traction and stability control, tire-pressure monitoring, and the mandatory backup camera are standard on all Grand Caravans, increasingly common features such as lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, parking assist, and more aren't even available on the SE, SE Plus, and SXT trims. The GT trim, a model reserved only for fleet customers, does offer the rudimentary Safety Sphere package, which bundles blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors into one underwhelming option. Key safety features include:
- Standard seven air bags
- Standard traction and stability control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
In keeping with the Grand Caravan's minimalistic theme, warranty coverage is limited to Dodge's standard 3-year or 36,000-mile limited and 5-year or 60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Maintenance is on the owner's dime from day one forward.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance