2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew Review: Let's get one thing out of the way first. If you want the best minivan for sale today, you want a Honda Odyssey. But what if you're looking for the best value? That's where things get complicated, and Dodge has made the decision much more difficult with a nicely improved Grand Caravan for 2011.
The Grand Caravan doesn't have the same level of fit and finish as an
Odyssey, but it also costs about $3,000 less than the Honda. A basic
Grand Caravan will cost $24,995 before any rebates, while the
Odyssey's most stripped-down version still retails for $27,800.
That's a very big price gap.
The cheaper price looks even more appealing when you consider what
Dodge did to make the Grand Caravan more competitive in 2011, a year in which every minivan on the market has been either redesigned, or thoroughly freshened. Now the stars have aligned for soccer moms everywhere.
For starters, Dodge improved the cabin. Whereas last year you might have said, "I'll pay $3,000 just to get out of this plastic hell," the 2011 model has scrapped the cheap plastic in favor of soft, pliable, nice-feeling materials. It's a good step up for people riding in the front seats.
Next, they improved the powertrain and suspension, so it drives a lot better.
Plus Dodge dumped its old lineup of three V-6 motors in favor of a single engine: the new Pentastar V-6 with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The new engine offers plenty of power, 283 horses, if minivan drivers care about that sort of thing, along with improved gas mileage of 25 mpg on the highway and 17 in town. That's way better highway mileage than the Toyota Sienna but still not as good as the Odyssey.
Dodge has even created a high-performance version for guys, a manivan, I like to call it, that they've named the Grand Caravan R/T. Try not to laugh.
To go along with the aggressive theme, they gave the Grand Caravan a new "split crosshair" grille and "ring of fire" LED tail lamps. Again, stand-up comics couldn't make up funnier names. But the overall look isn't bad, especially when compared to the Honda Odyssey's controversial "lightning bolt" side profile, which would be better named "Quasimodo."
The best feature on the Grand Caravan, though, the one that makes
Honda engineers snap their pencils in jealous frustration, is the
Stow 'N Go seating system.
Stow 'N Go means you can make the back seats fold into the floor in just a few easy steps. Flip a few leavers, and your seats disappear, David Copperfield style, leaving an eight-foot long flat loading surface that gives you the flexibility of a cargo van. And when your seats are filled with passengers, you can use the Stow 'N Go holes in the floor as extra storage and holding bins.
In the end, you have a simple choice to make. Do you want the Odyssey, a better minivan by most measures, or do you want the newest Dodge Grand Caravan, with the magical seats and $3,000 plus sitting on the hood?
Minivan buyers, good luck. You've got some tough decisions to make this year.
What was tested? The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew with a base price of $28,695. Options on the Caravan: the DVD player at $1,300, the rear power liftgate for $425 and the navigation system for $695. The total MSRP price as tested including the $835 destination charge came to $31,950.
Why avoid it? It doesn't feel as high quality as many of its competitors, especially in the back seats.
Why buy it? Its base price is nearly $3,000 cheaper than the Honda Odyssey, and that's before any incentives.
By Derek Price © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Bottom Line Review provided by:
Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
The Bottom Line: Dodge made improvements to spar with competitors for 2011 and revamped the look of its Grand Caravan, but the biggest changes are under the hood. It now has Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 engine, which gives it more power, better fuel economy and a new 6-speed transmission. Inside, the Grand Caravan gets a new dash and door panels with soft touch materials that is a big improvement over last year's model, and its Stow 'N Go seating system is just pure genius. “Drive one, Buy one, Today ©”
Bottom Line Review provided by: Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
“Tony the Car Guy” is an automotive writer, editor and publisher in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you have a question or comment for Tony send it to TonyLeo@pacbell.net or visit AutoWire.Net at www.autowire.net - And remember: “ You Are What You Drive © ”
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Column Name: Grand Caravan braces for minivan war
Topic: The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew
Word Count: 839
Photo Caption: The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan
Photo Credits: Dodge Caravan Internet Media
Series #: 2011- 13
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