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2018 Dodge Grand Caravan: New Car Review

Like an automotive zombie roaming the Earth, the 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan lives on despite effectively being replaced two years ago by the Chrysler Pacifica. It honestly wasn’t that competitive when it was a brand-new design a decade ago, and despite a few key updates over the years, it has always trailed its competitors. The chasm to the segment best (which is arguably the Pacifica) only widens with another year on the market.

True, the Grand Caravan has a rock-bottom price, which will likely go even lower once you arrive at the dealer. Yet even its once-unique features like Stow ‘N Go seating are matched by the Pacifica, which improves upon their comfort and functionality. You’re also looking at some disappointing crash scores for a minivan (its age is the prime reason for this), and few of the advanced infotainment and safety technology features that are now common.

So sure, a new Grand Caravan offers a full 3-year warranty and the knowledge that no other person has owned it, but for the money, a used version of any of its competitor vans would likely be a better family-hauler overall. And with two years on the market, that includes the Pacifica as well.

What’s New for 2018?

The thinning of the Grand Caravan herd continues as the GT has been discontinued. The Blacktop package is now standard on the SE Plus and still available as an option on the SXT.

What We Like

Low price; flexible seating configurations

What We Don’t

Subpar fuel economy and crash scores; interior looks and feels low rent; overall lack of refinement; dated technology interface; fewer available features than other vans

How Much?

$26,300-$31,800

Fuel Economy

Every 2018 Grand Caravan has a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard. Fuel economy estimates stand at a disappointing 17 miles per gallon in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in combined driving.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan now comes in only three trim levels: SE, SE Plus and SXT. The GT was briefly sold for the 2018 model year, so we have included information about it below.

The SE ($26,200) comes standard with seven seats, a second-row bench seat, 17-inch steel wheels, tri-zone manual climate control, a backup camera, cloth upholstery, a 6.5-in touchscreen (an older version than those found in every other Dodge) and a 6-speaker sound system. A package called the Uconnect Hands-Free Group adds must-have features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, satellite radio and a USB port. Power rear windows are optional.

The SE Plus ($29,000) adds all the above options plus 17-in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, nicer cloth upholstery, satellite radio and Dodge’s Stow ‘n Go captain’s chairs that fold into the floor. The Blacktop package includes 17-in black wheels, a variety of blacked-out exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and unique interior trim.

Next, the SXT ($31,800) steps things up with automatic headlights, roof rails, fog lamps, power-sliding doors, a power lift gate, a power driver’s seat and leather/faux-suede mix upholstery. The Blacktop package is optional. This trim’s Driver Convenience Group package includes tri-zone automatic climate control, extra storage, heated front and second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and rear-side sunshades.

Those items were included on the now-discontinued Grand Caravan GT ($34,500), which also adds sportier wheels and suspension tuning, different exterior trim, full-leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, a 9-speaker sound system, integrated navigation and Driver Convenience Group items. Only the GT can be optioned with the Safety Sphere Group, which includes rear parking sensors, and blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems.

All trims can be equipped with a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a single overhead screen, a DVD player, an HDMI input, an extra USB port, satellite radio and wireless headphones.

Safety

The 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, a backup camera and six airbags (front, front side and full-length side curtain). Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems were available on the GT, but that was discontinued midway through 2018.

In crash testing performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 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.

In tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Grand Caravan earned strong scores in four of the group’s five tests — though it received a troubling Poor rating in the firm’s challenging small-overlap front crash test.

Behind the Wheel

The Grand Caravan’s aging chassis is evident over big ruts and potholes, which causes the Dodge to shimmy and shake worse than most rivals. Despite the comparatively crude chassis, the Grand Caravan’s highway ride is at least reasonably quiet and relaxed. With a strong hp rating, it also has more than enough power to get out of its own way.

Still, every other minivan is more refined and comfortable to drive, and usually handles better, as well. Their cabins also boast more comfortable and spacious seating — the second-row Stow ‘N Go seats have never been especially comfy and the driver’s seat doesn’t slide back far enough for many drivers.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Chrysler Pacifica — The Grand Caravan’s biggest competitor is just across the showroom wearing a Chrysler badge. It has all the latest safety features and high-tech gadgets, though it’ll be more expensive. It’s worth it.

2018 Honda Odyssey — The Odyssey boasts comfy accommodations and an impressive technology suite, including an optional vacuum in the rear cargo area. But the Odyssey suffers from dull dynamics and styling that some will find questionable.

2018 Kia Sedona — The Sedona touts handsome styling, a lot of equipment for the money and an impressive array of features and gadgets. It also comes with Kia’s excellent 10-year powertrain warranty. Realistically, it’s the smarter budget buy.

2018 Toyota Sienna — The Sienna offers a powerful V6, two different driving flavors (comfort and sport), an especially comfortable and versatile second row and the unique availability of all-wheel drive.

Used any of the above minivans — If one of those new minivan rivals are too expensive, finding a used or certified pre-owned version will still represent a better overall minivan than a new Grand Caravan.

Autotrader’s Advice

Yes, the Grand Caravan is inexpensive, but that is literally the only thing going for it. We recommend getting something different, be it new or used.

Where You Can Buy

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