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2010 Dodge Grand Caravan [ 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Specifications | More Reviews ]
Base Price (MSRP):$23,175.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $29,870.00
2010 Dodge Grand Caravan
View The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan Specifications
Review by: New Car Test Drive
Family hauler. 

Model Lineup
The Dodge Grand Caravan SE ($23,175) comes with the 175-horsepower 3.3-liter overhead-valve V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle. Seating is two-two-three, with Stow 'n Go (second- and third-row seats fold flat, into the floor) standard. Also standard on the SE are cloth upholstery, three-zone manual climate controls with rear-seat controls for the air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, heated power mirrors, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, conversation mirror, and P225/65R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. Options exclusive to the SE include Package 24G ($1,070) with power front windows and third-row vents, tachometer, trip computer, outside-temperature indicator, compass, and alloy wheels. The Popular Equipment Group ($1,495) adds power-adjustable pedals, power-sliding rear doors, and a power rear liftgate. An Entertainment Group ($2,120) includes a 30-gigabyte hard-drive radio, six-disc CD changer, 6.5-inch touch-screen display, a rear DVD entertainment system with a single nine-inch screen, six speakers, a 115-volt power outlet, rear park assist, and Sirius satellite radio. A roof rack is also offered ($250).

The Grand Caravan SXT ($26,730) has the 197-hp 3.8-liter overhead-valve V6 with a six-speed transaxle. SXT equipment includes leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, power-adjustable pedals, power sliding rear doors, Sirius satellite 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan radio, trip computer, compass, outside-temperature indicator, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, 115-volt power outlet, fog lights, roof rack, overhead storage, pinpoint LED lighting, and alloy wheels. The 251-hp 4.0-liter V6 ($630) is optional. Other SXT options include Package 28L ($2,760) with leather upholstery, heated first and second-row seats, power passenger seat, power rear liftgate, vehicle information center, additional interior lights, rechargeable/removable flashlight, bright bodyside moldings, sport suspension, and P225/65R17 tires. The Premium Group ($1,995) includes tri-zone automatic climate controls (including rear controls), third-row power-folding seat, nine-speaker 506-watt Infinity audio system, UConnect Phone wireless link, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rain-sensing wipers. The Security Group ($1,425) adds rear-obstacle detection, Dodge's Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Monitoring systems, UConnect Phone, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and automatic headlights. The Family Value Group ($695) includes a removable center console, sunshades for second and third row, and remote engine starting. The SXT Entertainment Group 2 ($2,220) comes with a rear DVD entertainment system with two nine-inch rear screens, a six-disc CD changer, USB connection, UConnect Tunes, and a rearview camera. UConnect Tunes ($675) is available as a stand-alone option. UConnect GPS ($1,300) includes UConnect Tunes, plus a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic, rearview camera, six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, UConnect Phone, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. With rear DVD entertainment, customers can order Sirius Backseat TV ($495). Other SXT options include a Trailer Towing package ($600) with heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling, load-leveling suspension, and a trailer-wiring harness; a sunroof ($995), a power rear liftgate ($400); and heated first- and second-row seats ($500).

Options available for both models include Swivel 'n Go seating ($495) with swiveling second-row bucket seats and a removable table; a Mopar Exterior Appearance Group ($940) with special floor mats, mud guards, bright door sills, and running boards; second-row integrated child seats ($225); running boards ($700), and an engine-block heater ($35).

For the commercial buyer there is also the Grand Caravan Cargo Van, which is available only with the 3.3-liter engine. It is fitted with a heavier-duty suspension and is available with several specific options, including full-width cargo divider ($450), molded floor mat ($325), wall liner ($550), solid window inserts ($550), and vinyl window shading ($325).

Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags, all-row curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor, four-wheel-disc ABS with brake assist, traction control, and electronic stability control. Front side airbags are not available. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, rear obstacle detection, and the Rear Cross Path and Blind Spot Monitoring systems.


Walkaround
A minivan shape does not lend itself to artistic sculpture. A description of the overall shape of this current generation of the Dodge Grand Caravan wouldn't sound too much different from a description of the 1982 model. There is a big box behind, where all the people and cargo fit, and a smaller box in front, for the engine. That very efficient 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan outline defines every minivan on the road.

The Dodge Grand Caravan is boxy, but it's attractive in an SUV kind of way. The hood is less fairly flat, and it bears character lines. The grille is very upright, making the Dodge crosshair grille look like that of a Dodge truck, especially in chrome. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard. We think the available five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels look better.

Dodge now offers only the long-wheelbase Grand Caravan, as the short wheelbase Caravan was dropped a couple of years ago.

Size comparisons with other minivans are relatively unimportant, because all of them are within an inch or two of each other in both wheelbase and overall length. The Grand Caravan is a big vehicle, with a 202.5-inch overall length and a 121.2-inch wheelbase.


Interior Features
The Dodge Grand Caravan leads the minivan field when it comes to interior convenience, capability and versatility. Chrysler has been working to give its minivans a competitive advantage in these areas for a long time, and those efforts show.

The interior materials are lackluster, however. Hard plastic dominates the dash and door panels. Everything fits together well, but it doesn't make for a luxurious look and feel. Options are available, yet add to the price.

Our Grand Caravan SE came with stain-resistant fabric for the seats, designed for the soccer-mom lifestyle. We quite liked the look and feel. The black vinyl trim and satin aluminum-look plastic didn't look rich, but nor was it ugly. These fabrics can be easy to clean; however, dog hair still has a way of sticking to them.

The Grand Caravan is designed well for hauling youngsters, with some thoughtful features. Among them is the convex conversation mirror, which is handy for talking to those in the rear seats without having to turn around. We like this feature.

We had six 10-year-old soccer players test the Grand Caravan's video player during a 90-minute drive to the game, and they liked it. The DVD was a snap to play, which is important because some of them, even those in much more expensive vehicles, are not easy to use. Plug in the DVD, press Play, and it works; the screen drops down from the ceiling and the viewing begins. It comes with wireless headphones, has jacks to plug in video game systems, and is available with Sirius Backseat TV, which comes with three kid-friendly channels: Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. When the DVD screen is deployed, the driver loses some visibility in the rearview mirror so more attention needs to be paid to the side mirrors.

The dual-DVD entertainment system is even more impressive. With the two-screen system, third-row passengers can watch one thing and second-row passengers can watch (or play) another. Plus, video can be shown on the front touch-screen when the transmission is in Park, for viewing by the driver 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan and front-seat passenger.

We liked the UConnect systems, as well. Both come with a hard-drive radio with 30 gigabytes of storage space to hold music and picture files. UConnect GPS adds a navigation system with voice activation and real-time traffic provided by Sirius. Songs can be ripped from CDs, and music and pictures can also be downloaded from thumb drives via a standard USB port. The hard drive is a great way to have ready access to your music collection without toting around a bunch of CDs.

The Grand Caravan's second-row bucket seats slide rearward to ease access to the third row, or they flop forward with one lever. The available LED pinpoint lighting allows reading by rear-seat passengers.

Stow 'n Go works superbly well. For a fairly simple invention, it's a masterpiece. In just a minute or so, and without having to refer to the manual, we dropped the second- and third-row seats flat into the floor. We put them away manually, though a power option is available for the third-row bench. We unloaded the kids, then stopped at the furniture store to pick up a long leather couch. We converted the Grand Caravan from soccer bus to cargo van in 60 seconds, and easily carted the couch home.

The Swivel 'n Go seating option is another great development from Chrysler. It comes with second-row seats that rotate 180 degrees and a stowable table that fits between the second and third rows. The seats are easy to turn (once you figure them out), and the table stows away easy enough. Best of all, it allows family members to play board games while on road trips.

The overall interior volume in the Grand Caravan isn't class-leading, the competition offers more legroom, but all of these minivans are big inside and the Grand Caravan is comfortable for kids. Both rear rows are big enough for adults.

Up front, the instrumentation is good, black on light gray lettering, with big divisions so you can read each 5-mph increment on the speedometer. An option package on our test vehicle included a digital information display (it showed an average of 19.1 miles per gallon for one week of city and highway driving), but the button to change the information is in a terrible position, most easily (but treacherously) reached by the left hand through the three-spoke steering wheel. Otherwise you have to lean forward, reach around the wiper stalk, and fumble for it, which isn't a whole lot safer. Other available information includes distance-to-empty (about 400 miles on a tank of gas), compass, outside temperature, and estimated time to destination.

The shift lever sticks out just to the left of the center stack, an efficient location. The automatic transmission offers a manual-shift feature, allowing the driver more control. There isn't much need for manual shifting with this relaxed cruiser of a vehicle, but the sturdy, well-placed lever may encourage this in certain situations.

The sloped A-pillars allow good visibility, but the long hood means the driver sits back a bit farther from the front bumper, so it's a little hard to gauge when parking.

The center console is removable, which is good; but when it's fully attached it feels loose. We lost count of all the storage cubbies and cupholders; Dodge has outdone itself in this area. The driver and front-seat passenger can each bring along four drinks at once. Front-seat occupants will never be lacking for a place to put stuff of all sizes and shapes. We're talking bins under the second-row seats, compartments in the floor, and an umbrella holder.

Fifteen hundred dollars is a lot to spend for the convenience of not having to physically slide your minivan's side doors open or closed (there are two of them, by the way), or lift the liftgate, but it might be worth it, maybe especially the liftgate. Minivan owners tend to have full, busy lives, and small conveniences like having the power tailgate raise as you walk up with your arms full can be worth a million bucks. The buttons are located on the headliner between the front seats, and using them imparts a wonderful sense of ease and convenience.


Driving Impressions
Minivans tend to generate pages of notes on the interior but little driving impressions. The Dodge Grand Caravan is a transporting machine, not a driving one. The main thing is, on the road, it's safe and stable. Electronic stability control is standard, and it activates fairly early, minimizing wheelspin and reducing the chance of a spin.

Our SE had the smallest of the three engines, the 3.3-liter V6 making 175 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 205 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. For the way we drove it during our week, which we believe is the way most Grand Caravan owners drive, it offered enough acceleration and speed, though it struggled to merge with freeway traffic. The 3.3-liter can be fueled with E85, an ethanol mix.

The 3.3-liter engine comes with a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. We found it shifted smoothly and wasn't overworked by our suburban demands. Theoretically, more speeds than four is better, but it depends on the programming; in some cases, more speeds mean more snatches or rough spots. In any case, we found the four-speed automatic worked well and did not hunt for gears.

Theoretically, a manual mode allows smoother transitions because the driver can choose when he or she wants to shift. Our four-speed had Dodge's AutoStick manual shift capability, controlled by reaching toward the center stack and notching the shift lever from side to side. But we found little need or occasion to use it, because minivan driving occasions demand less sporty performance. However, with more miles and more demands, we might change our tune. Chrysler was a leader with a manual mode about 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan 10 years ago, and it's good to have. Holding a gear in hilly terrain or sluggish traffic or in tight quarters is sometimes advantageous.

The SXT offers higher performance with its 3.8-liter V6 making 197 horsepower or the aluminum overhead-cam 4.0-liter V6 making 251 horsepower. The 3.3-liter is EPA-rated at 17 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway, or 12 City/17 Highway on E85. But the 3.8-liter V6 is only one mpg less in each category, at 16 City/23 Highway. And the 4.0-liter engine, with its more advantageous final-drive ratio, actually equals the 3.3-liter on the City cycle, with 17 mpg, and beats it on the Highway, with 25 mpg. So, not only is the 4.0-liter engine the most powerful and most pleasant to live with, it is also the most economical. All of these engines run on 87 octane Regular gas, a nice advantage over engines that demand more-expensive Premium. The 3.8-liter and 4.0-liter engines use a six-speed transaxle, compared to the four-speed in the 3.3-liter.

During our test drives of SXT models with the 3.8-liter and 4.0-liter engines we found that the 3.8-liter offers noticeably more useable power than the 3.3, as you would expect, and the 4.0-liter more still. Clearly, the 4.0-liter engine is our choice.

Suspension-wise, the Grand Caravan has rear coil springs and a twist-beam rear axle with a track bar. (A Trailer Tow Package includes self-leveling shock absorbers.) In other words, it's not an independent rear suspension. Despite being less sophisticated than other minivans, the ride is good. Our SE didn't bounce or strike any notes of discomfort, during three hours with six kids in the back, and more hours driving alone over freeway and city streets. The only demerit is a bit of wallow at speed.

Handling, on the other hand, isn't impressive. The Grand Caravan is large and it handles like a large vehicle. It leans a lot in turns and takes awhile to react to changes of direction. The Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest are more carlike on the road.

The brakes are plenty big, though a braking test conducted by Car and Driver magazine suggested the Grand Caravan doesn't offer the shortest braking distances.

The Blind Spot Monitoring system uses radar sensors to detect vehicles in the van's blind spots and warns the driver with lights in the side mirrors or a driver-selectable chime that sounds like the seat belt chime. We found it worked well, but like similar systems offered by other manufacturers it can sometimes give false readings. It's still important to look before you change lanes.

The Rear Cross Path system is activated when the van is in reverse. It uses radar sensors to detect vehicles crossing behind the Grand Caravan and warns the driver with lights in the side mirrors and that same chime. The system won't detect small objects, like pedestrians, so it's still important to proceed slowly. It does, however, detect vehicles up to 20 meters away, and is programmed to recognize the speed of oncoming vehicles and alert the driver only if they are traveling at a speed that could lead to an accident (in other words, stationary and very slow moving vehicles probably won't register). We like this system. It works well and is especially useful in crowded parking lots.


Final Word
The Dodge Grand Caravan offers unmatched versatility. The 3.3-liter V6 with 175 horsepower is fine, while the optional 3.8-liter and 4.0-liter engines make more power with roughly equivalent or even better fuel mileage. The ride is smooth, 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan but handling is decidedly in the minivan level of expectations. It's inside where the Grand Caravan leaps high hurdles. Flexible seating, lots of storage space, good lighting, and impressive entertainment options can upgrade your lifestyle, at least while underway. In terms of versatility, the Stow 'n Go seats that disappear into the floor for carrying cargo are hard to beat.

Sam Moses filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from the Columbia River Gorge, with correspondent Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.

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