2008 DODGE GRAND CARAVAN SXT Test Drive
The all-new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan re-writes the book on minivans.
This new Grand Caravan is completely new from the ground up with new styling, a new more powerful V6 engine, a new, smoother shifting 6-speed transmission, a new suspension, stronger brakes, and the most innovative, comfortable, multi-functional, safe and technologically advanced interior of any other factory minivan on the market.
Primarily a ‘people and cargo hauler’ like all other minivans, the all-new Dodge Caravan takes the people and cargo hauling experience to new levels of innovation, function, and enjoyment. The new, much advanced interior features comfortable seating for up to seven people with two captain’s chairs in the first and second rows and a three person bench seat for the third row.
It’s what Chrysler designers and engineers did to the interior that really makes the all-new Caravan so appealing to families that enjoy the active lifestyle.
There is much to tell so I’ll leave that for the end and look at the new overall exterior design. It is a more contemporary style with sheer, clean lines and an athletic stance along with distinctive design cues that make the new Dodge Caravan unmistakably a Dodge. Its upscale design cues with compromising Dodge brand values of a bold, powerful, exciting and durable vehicle. It has a grown up style that reflects today’s active lifestyles. The sporty appearance starts with the distinctive crosshair grille on its chiseled front end. Design cues are more contemporary in nature and include clean, sheer lines, streamlined, leaner pillars, aerodynamic side mirrors, wheel forms that go all the way to the bottom of the bodyside, a new body-to-glass proportion similar to the Dodge Charger.
To achieve a more roomier interior, the designers widened the roof by six inches, lowered the Daylight Opening (DLO) drip line, gave the beltline more rake and lowered and pulled out the sill to create a better relationship with the new, larger 17in. wheels with a new five-spoke design to further the athletic feel. The wider roof adds interior head and shoulder room, and the wider, lowered DLO helps achieve the new Charger-like glass-to-body proportion. These design cues result in a Dodge minivan that trades the familiar elliptical shape for one that is contemporary and sheer, with a protective look and athletic stance not previously seen in a Dodge Caravan.
Under the skin is a choice of three engines including a more powerful V6 engine mated to a new, a smoother shifting six-speed transaxle, a new, better handling and comfortable suspension, plus stronger brakes.
Three powertrains offer performance and value for a variety of minivan uses. The 3.3 liter V6 flex-fuel-capable engine is mated to a four-speed transaxle and produces 175hp and 205lb.ft. of torque. The 3.8 liter V6 engine is mated a new six-speed automatic transaxle that produces 197hp and 230lb.ft. of torque. The new, 4.0 liter aluminum V6 engine is mated to the new six-speed automatic transaxle that produces 251hp and 259lb.ft. of torque. The six-speed transmission is a minivan first!
The new front and rear suspension systems improve ride and handling characteristics and vehicle maneuverability. Up front are MacPherson struts, and a front cross-member that is isolated from the body, reducing road noise and harshness. Coil-springs-over shock absorbers also feature upper and lower urethane coil springs isolators that have been optimized for overall ride quality, quietness, quick, precise handling, and have been sport-tuned directionally to handle heavier g-loads. The new stabilizer bar with double ball-joint stabilizer links helps maintain a level of vehicle attitude during cornering for a more comfortable and controlled ride. Double shear brackets and pipe nuts attach the front suspension cross-member to the body to prevent road noise and transmission harshness from entering the passenger compartment.
The rear suspension features a ‘twist-beam’ setup with coil springs, gas-charged shocks, that provides improved rear stability and ride comfort. This setup improves anti-lift as much as 45% for dive, and provides improved levelness, especially on the highway.
The track bar is isolated from the axle and the body for less noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), and improved handling. Self-leveling Nivomat shocks contribute to consistent ride and handling characteristics whether loaded or unloaded, are included with the Trailer Tow Package. The all-new Grand Caravan is the only minivan to feature Nivomat shocks.
Getting the power down to the pavement are new, larger 17X7in. cast aluminum wheels and tires, that are optional, and 16X7in. machined-face cast aluminum wheels and tires standard.
Power rack & pinion steering more precisely steers the Grand Caravan where you want it to go. Enhancing ride control and direction are electronic stability control and traction control.
Quickly slowing the all-new Grand Caravan down from speed are new, larger and strong brakes. Up front are 11.9in. vented, discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while the rear discs measure 12in. are solid and are clamped with single-piston calipers. ABS, and brake assist help you maintain control while braking on wet or slick pavement.
The 2008 Dodge Caravan features 37% high strength steel for optimum structural performance. Advanced steels incorporated in the body provide excellent impact performance, improved ride and handling characteristics, enhanced body stiffness and reduced NVH. Body structure stiffness is increased 10% on the new minivan compared to last year’s model. The increased stiffness provides less ‘road shake’ and improved ride comfort for all passengers. Increased body structure stiffness was achieved by optimizing the body panel stiffness at the suspension and power-train mount attachments to reduce vehicle vibration. An additional Patch Constrained Layer (PCL) also was added to the rear wheel house to stiffen it and reduce road-induced noise, while a plenum was added to the instrument panel bracket to reduce steering-column shake at idle. In addition, a rail-to-sill brace was added at the C-pillar to reduce seat shake, and the steering column was redesigned to increase stiffness for a more solid steering feel.
A number of features in the new Caravan were designed to minimize wind noise. The all-new roof rack crossbows have a more aerodynamic shape, the all-new front doors have a rolled frame design to improve sealing and all-new wiper blades are positioned below the air stream to minimize wind noise. The new Caravan also features larger, aerodynamically shaped mirrors for better viewing and wind flow, as well as thicker side door glass to reduce wind noise.
Furthermore, the interior quietness on the new Caravan was improved with acoustic treatments such as additional seals and body fillers, engine box treatments including an under-hood silencer and shock tower silencers, more dash panel PCL coverage and an upgraded inner dash silencer to further reduce engine noise. Thicker carpet underlayment was added to reduce road and interior noise levels, while integrated seals with sill cladding also help reduce road noise.
This new Grand Caravan accelerates faster, handles more nimbly, gives a smoother ride and stops quicker. There is no vibration or flex when traveling over poorly paved roads. This aspect of the Grand Caravan is as good as you will get in 2008.
Inside it is quiet and smooth riding as Chrysler puts ‘fun-in-function’ to enjoy all of the 35 new and improved offerings only available in the all-new Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. All industry firsts!
Inside is more comfortable and roomy than ever before. The new ‘Swivel ‘n Go’ seat system offers families options not available in other minivans such as conversational seating, a place to play games or have a family meal on the run.
A key ingredient in the seating and storage mix is the all-new Swivel ‘n Go seat system with second-row quad chairs that rotate 180-degrees to face rearward for conversational seating. An easy to setup or remove table fits between the second and third rows to create a ‘kitchen table’ atmosphere that is great for playing games, eating on the go or working from the road. Second-row covered storage bins and a third-row 60/40 bench seat that folds into the floor are included in the Swivel ‘n Go system. The second-row quad seats are available with a minivan-first integrated child booster seat. The swivel features also allows easy entry and exit for children who need to be buckled into child seats or adults who just want easier entry and exit from the second row of the vehicle.
The new Caravan continues to offer the industry-exclusive Stow ‘n Go seating and storage system that revolutionized the minivan segment when it was introduced in 2004. With the industry’s only fold into the floor second-and third-row seats, the Caravan can go from a seven-passenger minivan to a two-person cargo van that can carry a 4ft.X8ft. sheet of plywood in less than 30 seconds.
Both the Swivel ‘n Go and Stow ‘n Go seating and storage systems are available with a minivan first one-touch power-folding third-row seat that can be folded into four different positions with a single push of a button.
A third seating option in the new Caravan offers second-row covered storage bins with a removable bench seat and a fold-in-the-floor third-row 60/40 bench seat. Integrated child safety seats are available with the second-row bench seat. This gives the Caravan seating for eight. In addition, the Grand Caravan is the first minivan to offer power side windows to get more ventilation into the rear seating areas as needed. YES Essentials stain-resistant, odor-resistant and anti-static fabric seats offer easy clean-up and peace of mind when traveling. First and second-row heated cloth or leather seats offer flexibility and functionality for customers with active lifestyles.
Two front consoles are available in 2008. The standard console features four removable, dishwasher-safe cup holders and a center storage space. The console is low to the floor for easy pass-through capability. The optional premium sliding front console features multiple storage areas (including one large enough to hold a purse), 12-volt power outlet and four cup holders. The innovative design allows it to slide rearward in two different sections. For instance, one section can remain forward servicing front-row passengers, while the other section can slide rearward to service second-row passengers. The cup holders in the top of the console can be loaded and then slid back to the second-row passengers. DVDs, headphones or other items can be stored in the lower section of the console, which also can slide rearward for the second-row passengers to access. A total of 21in. of rearward travel occurs when both the upper and lower sections are moved rearward. The console is removable for easy pass-through.
Seat system and consoles aren’t the only fresh ideas in the new Grand Caravan. Additional storage options are found in the dual glove boxes that offer the most glove-box storage space in the segment, full-length front-door map pockets and useful storage spaces in the front doors. In addition, mesh seat pockets on the second-row bucket seats can hold cell phones, music players or handheld game system as well as a beverage, while an improved overhead console with four storage bins can house headphones. There’s also an umbrella holder next to the driver’s seat. Thirteen cup or bottle holders, including new bottle holders molded in the sliding passenger doors offer passengers plenty of locations to place their beverages when traveling. But wait, there is more.
Entertainment versatility in the all-new Grand Caravan is unmatched by competitors and features an available industry-first SIRIUS Backseat TV. SIRIUS Backseat TV is satellite TV that offers three channels of family programming: Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Cartoon Network Mobile and Nickelodeon Mobile. A dual-DVD system that can play different media at the same time is another minivan-first! With this feature second-row passengers play a game system. Or second and third-row passengers can watch different movies or play different gaming systems at the same time. Or one row can listen to an iPod or MP3 player and another row can watch SIRIUS Backseat TV or a movie. All can be done with wireless headphones, allowing front-row passengers to enjoy any AM-FM stereo radio station, CDs, or a SIRIUS satellite station. Dual A/V jacks, a 12-volt power outlet and a 115-volt inverter in the second-row C-pillar make aftermarket game-system converter kits a thing of the past. A ten-speaker premium surround-sound audio system with a minivan-first subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier also is available. It keeps getting better!
In addition, MyGIG multimedia infotainment system is available and is a CD/DVD/HDD/MP3 satellite radio/navigation system that features a 20-gigabyte hard drive that can store six gigabytes of music or approximately 1,200 songs. MyGIG is one of the most versatile entertainment system available and includes personalized backgrounds, voice-activated commands, touch-screen functionality, available real-time traffic and navigation, a USB port, a jukebox feature for personalized music play lists and the ability to watch a movie or SIRIUS Backseat TV while the Caravan is in park.
The all-new Dodge Grand Caravan also features an ambient halo lighting package that includes a soft, greenish-blue halo light in the headliner. This is package with pinpoint LED reading lamps in all three rows for a modern automotive interpretation of airplane passenger lights. The movable LED pinpoint lights allow passengers to read, play games or finish homework without disturbing the driver. The halo lighting creates a soft, greenish-blue light that lets passengers make eye contact when having a night-time conversation. LED map lights in the front door allow the driver and front passenger to easily see the compartments at night.
Second-row power windows, third-row power vents and second-and-third row retractable sunshades offer passengers comfort in any seating position. The sunshades can even be deployed when the second-row windows are down.
Available remote start, power sliding passenger doors and a power liftgate with a new D-pillar mounted liftgate button offer easier entry and exit.
Standard equipment coming in the all-new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, not mentioned above, includes AC with 3-zone temperature control with air filtration, rear seat A/C and heater controls, 8-way power front seat, 2nd. row Stow ‘n Go seating storage /with tailgate seats, Stow ‘n Go 2nd. row buckets with rear 60/40 bench seat, power windows/door locks with front express down/driver express up, 2nd. row power windows, 3rd row power vented windows, remote keyless entry, leather wrapped/tilt steering wheel, cruise control, fog lamps, overhead console with wide-angle mirror, illuminated front cup holders, left rear quarter trim storage bins, sun visors with illuminated mirrors grab handles above each passenger door, and thick-cut pile carpeting with floor mats.
Options, not mentioned above, includes security alarm, heated/leather trimmed seats, sport handling suspension, engine oil cooler, and a new key that has no metal end and goes into a dash-mounted receptacle to easily start the minivan.
Standard safety features include advanced multi-stage front airbags, supplemental side curtain airbags for all three rows, 3-point safety belts for all seats with front pretensioners and load limiters, front/rear crumple zones, energy-absorbing steering column, steel beams in each door, power adjustable pedals, tire pressure monitor, variable intermittent wipers/washers with rear intermittent wiper/washer and defroster.
The only thing that I found disappointing in the new Dodge Grand Caravan is the fact that the interior is made of hard plastic material that is not pleasurable to the touch.
Other than that, you can’t beat the styling, available power, sport-tuned suspension and interior versatility, functionality and enjoyment inside on your way to your destination.
Overall length: 202.5in.
Overall width: 78.7in.
Overall height: 68.9in.
Liftover height: 24.4in.
Ground clearance: 6.1in.
Fuel tank: 20 gallons
Towing capacity: 1,800 lbs.
Cargo volume: behind front seats-144.3cu.ft./behind second-row seats-83cu.ft./behind third-row seats-32.3cu.ft.
Turning circle: 39.1ft.
Curb weight: with 4.0 liter V6-4,483lbs.
EPA mileage specs: 16mpg/city, 23mpg/highway