The Dodge Grand Caravan, America's best-selling minivan and the car that started the minivan craze, has lost ground to numerous competitors in recent years. While the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan offers class-exclusive entertainment technology and a versatile interior, the van seems pedestrian next to top models from Nissan, Toyota and Honda. Regardless, the Grand Caravan is a great family vehicle, and it's attractively priced. Buying American in this case doesn't mean you're taking one for the team. Rather, you're getting a world-class minivan, just like the first Dodge Caravan all those years ago.
What's New for 2014?
The Grand Caravan receives only minor updates for the 2014 model year. Such revisions include the removal of the Crew trim level and three new standard features for the high-end Grand Caravan R/T: a power lift gate, an alarm and a rearview camera.
What We Like
Great value; plenty of options; much-improved interior quality; flexible seating configurations; available Cargo Van version
What We Don't
Outdated exterior design; lacks premium vibe and cutting-edge technology of some rivals; no all-wheel-drive option
After years of offering numerous engines, the Grand Caravan now employs solely a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 rated at 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the V6 is a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. While the new V6 offers best-in-class power, the tradeoff comes at the pump: Fuel economy is a middling 17 miles per gallon city/25 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan comes in four trim levels -- American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT and R/T. Each trim level comes standard with the 283-hp V6, a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
For around $21,500 with shipping, the AVP model offers 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, heated exterior mirrors, power accessories, dual-zone manual climate control, cruise control, handy Stow 'n Go rear seats, a full roster of safety equipment and a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio jack.
The SE ($25,000) adds body-color exterior accents, tri-zone manual climate control, a removable center console with four cupholders and a 6-speaker audio system.
The SXT ($27,690) steps up to 16-in alloy wheels, dual power-sliding doors, a power lift gate and power adjustable pedals.
Last year's upscale Crew model is dropped, meaning the high-end R/T ($30,500) takes over as the luxury-oriented Grand Caravan. In addition to its newly standard power lift gate and rearview camera, the R/T offers sport-tuned suspension, black leather upholstery with red stitching, a power front passenger's seat and a 9-speaker Infinity audio system with a subwoofer.
Notable options include iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-in flip-down screen.
The Grand Caravan is also sold under the name RAM Cargo Van as a windowless work van -- the only current minivan to have undergone such a conversion.
The 2014 Grand Caravan comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Grand Caravan a Top Safety Pick. In government crash testing, the Grand Caravan received an overall rating of four stars out of five, including four stars for frontal impacts, five stars for side impacts and four stars in the rollover test.
Behind the Wheel
The current Grand Caravan doesn't have the most refined chassis in the minivan class, and that's evident over big ruts and potholes, in which the Dodge shimmies and shakes worse than most rivals. Despite the Grand Caravan's crude chassis, the highway ride is quiet and relaxed. With a best-in-class horsepower rating, the Grand Caravan has more than enough power to get out of its own way. As for handling, surprisingly, the Grand Caravan actually has reasonably precise steering, which mitigates the sensation that you're driving a bus.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Odyssey -- The recently redesigned Odyssey boasts comfy accommodations and an impressive technology suite, including an optional vacuum in the rear cargo area. The Odyssey suffers from dull dynamics and a body design some will find questionable.
Nissan Quest -- Based on a Japanese-market van, the Quest is taller and narrower than the rest, but it also has the nicest interior and an eager-to-please V6 engine.
Toyota Sienna -- Also recently redesigned, the Sienna offers the unusual option of a 4-cylinder engine. Customers not obsessed with fuel efficiency will appreciate the 3.5-liter V6. The Sienna also offers a novel split-screen entertainment system that allows two kids to do their own thing simultaneously.
The Grand Caravan offers several enticing models, including the novel R/T, which is about as close as any automaker comes to a sporty minivan. But the best deal is the Grand Caravan SXT, which includes everything a parent might want -- such as dual sliding doors and tri-zone climate controls -- along with a few nice features such as a power lift gate and alloy wheels.