Although the Dodge Grand Caravan underwent a complete redesign last year, the 2009 version receives a myriad of upgrades, including two minivan firsts: Blind Spot Monitoring and a Rear Cross Path system available on SXT models. All 2009 Grand Caravans receive an updated braking system, larger nine-inch DVD screens, and perforated leather seating with French-seamed stitching.
The year-old styling on the Dodge Grand Caravan presents a more squared-off look and represents an edgy departure from the Clorox-bottle shape of the previous generation. Particularly from the rear, the van's boxy design looks as if it were artfully drawn with a drafter's T-square. From the back, it's hard to tell the Dodge apart from its slightly less sporty and more upscale Chrysler Town & Country counterpart. Outside and from the front, there's no mistaking the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan for anything other than a Dodge. The Dodge brand's sporty cross-hair grille tells you that there is a little bit of Ram in this minivan.
Besides the 3.8-liter V-6 that TheCarConnection.com has the most experience with, two other V-6s are available: a 3.3-liter and a 4.0-liter. The 197-horsepower powertrain includes a six-speed automatic, and the combination provides more than adequate performance for this class of vehicle. If you want better acceleration without taking a fuel-economy hit, choose the 4.0-liter V-6 with 251 hp. Pass on the 3.3-liter V-6 altogether because of the four-speed automatic that comes with it. The Dodge Grand Caravan weighs over two tons, so power is an important component of overall driving safety and satisfaction.
The Grand Caravan gained a stiffer unibody from last year's overhaul, which benefited the Caravan in two ways: improved ride quality and a library-like interior. The interior shares the angular style that is so prevalent on the Grand Caravan's exterior, but crafted curves purposefully break up the linearity. With recognition that minivan interiors endure an interminable life with children, hard plastics are used for most every surface that isn't carpeted. The Dodge's white-faced gauges look sporty, and bits of chrome distract you from the...plastic. Storage is excellent, especially with the Stow 'n Go seating standard on SE models.
With all rows facing forward in the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, seating comfort is very good. The Grand Caravan's long wheelbase of 121.2 inches affords a spacious interior with comfortable seating in all three rows. For you experienced Dodge minivan owners, there is no longer a short-wheelbase Caravan model; Dodge simplified things by just going big, so the Grand Caravan is the only Caravan.
Some buyers will find the innovative, optional Swivel 'n Go second-row bucket seats useful. This option includes second-row seats that can rotate 180 degrees to face the third-row seats. A removable pedestal-mounted table can sprout from the floor in the limited area between the rows. Perhaps the option works for children, but adults will find the face-to-face configuration cramped.
The Dodge Grand Caravan has top five-star and "good" ratings in frontal and side impact, but an IIHS rear-impact rating of marginal--based mostly on seat geometry--keeps it from being a top achiever. Front side airbags, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control are all on the standard-features list, while useful safety options include a Blind Spot Monitoring System and Rear Cross Path System.
The MyGIG entertainment system plus Sirius TV with its roof-mounted twin-screen LCD system should keep kids entertained, while Sirius Travel Link capabilities bring traffic information and other useful services for adults in navigation-equipped versions of the 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan has some innovative features and seating options, but it's no longer at the head of the class in performance or refinement.