The Dodge Grand Caravan was the first family minivan. Its enduring presence on the road is the closest any of us might get to the wistful nostalgia of family road trips and days gone by. Of course, nothing gold can stay, and the Caravan is reportedly to be set out to pasture after 2018. Future generations will never know the joy of an economy ride for the whole family in quite the same way. The final model Caravan has little in the way of the standard features that come standard in other models. And buyers shouldn't expect an abundance of bells or whistles. The Dodge Grand Caravan is the very definition of budget vehicles for the cost-conscious family.
What's new for 2018?
Not much, to be honest. As the Grand Caravan is about to be retired, Dodge hasn't set out to reinvent the wheel with this model. Indeed, they haven't done much apart from offering a new exterior paint color for 2018, named IndiGo Blue. There were a few changes for 2017, most notably the reduction of trims from six to four. The trims include the SE, SE Plus, SXT and GE and all come with a 3.6 liter, V-6 engine attached to a six-speed automatic transmission and deliver 238 hp. All around, there's a lot less under the hood than the Chrysler Pacifica, for example, but the numbers are in line with most other in the Caravan's class. It goes from 0-to-60 in 7.8 seconds which will never be mistaken for blazing speed, but the power and handling are the same as they ever were and while it may not be fancy, the reliability of the Grand Caravan is part of what makes it legendary.
How loaded is a fully loaded Grand Caravan?
Well, if you're comparing it to a 1989 Caravan, it's pretty well stocked. If however, you've got it side by side with a Pacifica, or a Honda Odyssey, or a Toyota Sienna (or just about any other minivan in the class), the Caravan is a few generations behind in its modcons. The last interior redesign was in 2008, and it shows. The interior cabin is comfortable if not extravagant, and spec sheets highlight the numerous cup holders scattered throughout the cabin, which gives potential buyers a bit of insight into what they should expect. Infotainment comes in the form of an early version of Fiat Chrysler's UConnect touchscreen, and it has all of the sophistication of a Commodore 64. USB ports in the cabin offer some power charging capabilities for passengers, and while these features in no way rival the more advanced designs of other car makers, the price difference is significant enough to keep the Caravan in consideration for price-conscious consumers. You might not be able to watch your favorite films but hey, what's a family road trip without a little bit of friendly ribbing and car games among the family?
How does storage space compare to rival models?
Much like the other aspects of the Grand Caravan, nothing much has changed in the storage space and interior cabin, but in this case, that's not such a bad thing. Most importantly, the Caravan features the genius 'Stow and Go' rear seats, which gives the Dodge some real points against rivals like the Pacifica. The latter also features the Stow and Go system but is about double the price, giving advantage Dodge (at least, in this case). In the Caravan's case, the rear seats fold down into underfloor storage bins and provide a flatbed cargo space with no pesky unloading and loading of heavy seats. All told, the Caravan has less total cargo space than the Sienna, Pacifica, Odyssey, or the Kia Sedona but its got lighter and more nimble seats, and the 140 cubic feet that the Caravan does offer is still larger than most SUV's.
Have there been any changes or improvements made to the exterior?
If the exterior design of the Caravan hasn't changed, perhaps the world within which it rolls has changed rather significantly. It was originally marketed in the 80's as the Man Van, and its exterior makes a sort of antiquated nod to this, much like an extra in Season 3 of Friday Night Lights. The trim comes in a Blacktop appearance package with alloy wheels and the new IndiGo blue paint color, but the boxy design and old-school character remain. It's not an unattractive exterior, nor is it garishly obvious. It just looks like it's a relic from the past because, well, it is.
How about the safety features?
There would have been a time when the Caravan lead the pack in safety, but as features like adaptive cruise control and driver assist become the standard for most vehicles, a car whose last redesign was nearly a decade ago can't hold it's own. The most that buyers can upgrade to is the Safety Sphere package on the GT model which includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and parking sensors. All Caravans have a rear parking camera, but as you'd expect, the camera looks about as good as your selfies did when you took them with your Motorola flip phone all those years ago. It's crash test results aren't spectacular, but they're respectable, and the cabin is unobstructed, with higher than normal seats for great road viewing. It may not be the most advanced van out there, but it managed to raise a generation. And hey, we turned out alright.