Dodge Grand Caravan Review – A Grand Cottage Vehicle

Frequent readers know that we recently purchased a new goin’ to the cottage vehicle, a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan. We’re Dodge folks I guess, this being our fourth Dodge vehicle, three of which were Dodge Caravans.


Minivans

Since our first 1994 Dodge Caravan we’ve been converts to the minivan craze. A combination car-truck-van these vehicles are versatile, comfortable and reasonably economical to drive.

They’re not sports cars, nor are they what I would describe as a luxury vehicle, although, as I said, they are comfortable and easy to drive. They are, above all practical, which I realize doesn’t always appeal to some folks, but I am nothing if not practical…

Dodge Grand Caravan – Canada Value Package

Our new Dodge Grand Caravan is one of the vehicles Canadians often see advertised as the “Canada Value Package” which, while not loaded with every available option comes with most of the features and options that matter. Most importantly, they have a reasonable purchase price.
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For example, some of the features on our Grand Caravan include, air conditioning, branded floor mats, power windows and door locks, a sound system that includes Sirius Satellite radio free for the first year, fold in the floor rear seats and a removable second bench seat for extra room for cargo hauling.

Interior Styling

I love the interior styling of the dashboard of the van, it is nicely equipped and easy to read while driving. The steering wheel has controls for the sound system and cruise control, bringing them to your fingertips for eyes on the road driving.

Cargo

They don’t call these vans the “grand caravan” for nothing. These are spacious vehicles capable of carrying pretty much anything you want to lug to the camp.

Even with all seven seats occupied by driver and passengers, the Dodge Grand Caravan has 33 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row seat. If you fold the third row chairs into the floor you will have 83.3 cubic feet of storage space. And if you remove the second row seating and stow the third row seats in the floor, you have 143.8 cubic feet of storage space to fill up for the next trip to the cottage on Friday night.

In fact, the Dodge Grand Caravan is able to carry a full sheet of 4 X 8 plywood with the seats removed or folded into the floor. That’s a handy ability. Speaking of storage, there are lots of storage spaces in the doors, walls, dashboard, and even under the floor.

Frequent readers know that occasionally Wendy and I like to go camping instead of to the cottage. When we do, we like to set up the van for sleeping, sort of our own mini motorhome. The Dodge Grand Caravan with all the extra interior space will be perfect as a camper.

Here is a picture of the interior cargo space on our 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan with the third row seats stowed in the floor. Ignore the cardboard liner, I was carrying some messy stuff this weekend.

Tires

Our 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan comes equipped with nitrogen filled Yokohama Avid S33 tires, sized 225/75R16 that provide a comfortable ride and handling.

I have noticed that considering it is a minivan and not a sports car, this van handles quite nicely on the road. I suspect that is a combination of the tires and the rack and pinion steering that provides a nice road hugging feeling.

Get Up And Go Power

The Dodge Grand Caravan has plenty of get-up-and-go power with a 3.6 litre six cylinder engine that provides 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a six speed automatic transmission.

The engine and transmission provide lots of hill eating ability and has proven to be, at least as of this writing, easy on fuel consumption. It’s rated to tow 3600 pounds/1633 kilograms.

Transmission

Speaking of the transmission, I thought I might have trouble getting accustomed to the transmission shifter which is a kind of stick-shift arrangement mounted up high on the front of the dashboard.

It’s a little different than the more traditional transmission shifter locations, i.e. mounted on the steering column or mounted on the floor. However, while it did take me a little time to get used to it, I have, and now find it second nature.

Manumatic Shifting

The transmission has a feature I believe I heard someone call it “manumatic shifting” which allows the driver to shift the vehicle through the gears, similar to driving a manual transmission.

It seems to me that Volkswagon once had a clutchless manual transmission in the old VW bug that they called “semi-automatic” which was a similar setup to the Dodge. However, the difference is, the Dodge can be driven in the usual automatic transmission manner, without having to change gears.(see highlighted area below for an explanation of manumatic transmissions vs semi-automatic transmissions)

Manumatic transmissions have been around for awhile. They allow the driver to control the gear selection, much like a standard transmission, without the need to operate a clutch at the same time.

While automatic transmissions have always allowed the driver to control the gear used by selection, L1 L2 or D etc, manumatics improve on this with steering wheel mounted paddles or a modified shift lever. These types of transmissions are known by several names depending on the manufacturer, i.e. Triptronic’, ‘Geartronic’, ‘Touchshift’, ‘Sporttronic’, ‘clutchless-manual’ and others.

Note: It should be noted, the driver is under no obligation to use the “manumatic shifting” feature, that is just a “nice to have” that might appeal to some drivers in some situations. The vehicle operates perfectly using the full automatic shift transmission.

Dodge Grand Caravan Fuel Consumption

The Dodge Grand Caravan is listed as returning 36 miles per gallon on the highway. I haven’t checked the fuel consumption on ours yet, but anecdotally know it is easier on fuel than our older 2000 Dodge Caravan. (Transport Canada ratings are 12.2 litres per 100 kilometres city and 7.9 highway)

I have noticed longer intervals between stops for fuel, which is a good thing.

Canada Value Package Features

The Canada Value Package of the Dodge Grand Caravan is the lowest-priced minivan on the market. But don’t let the price fool you.

It’s actually very well-equipped, with such amenities as air conditioning, four-wheel antilock brakes, electronic stability control with all speed traction control and brake assist, seven airbags, second-row foldable seating and storage system, third-row foldable seats, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and door locks and satellite radio.

"dodge caravan interior"

The Dodge Grand Caravan has oodles of air bags, front, side curtain, front seat side, and driver’s knee blocker airbags. 3rd row Stow ‘n Go® seating with 2nd row bench seats and storage tubs, Keyless entry, Air Conditioning with dual-zone temperature control, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise controls and tilt/telescoping steering column.

While I have to admit, it is too soon to make a pronouncement, so far I am loving the Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s a pleasure to drive, and has more room than our standard Caravan.

In addition, the seating, dash layout and interior creature comforts are well appointed and comfortable. I really appreciate the extra room (83.3 cubic feet of storage space) with the third row seating folded into the floor and the second row seat still in place. It enables us to carry passengers plus lots of supplies to the camp.

It’s nice to have a vehicle that you aren’t afraid to drive because of the cost of the fuel. The Grand Caravan seems to be one of those vehicles. It has an ‘economy mode’ that you can use as well to further improve your fuel economy.

I am not crazy about the rear window of the Caravan, it is smaller than the back window of our older Dodge Caravan which results in seeing a little bit less during backing up. It’s not a deal breaker though, neither is the lack of power rear side window vents. The rear side windows do have vents, but you have to open them manually. I guess that is why this vehicle is called the Canada Value Package….

Otherwise, to date, I love the Dodge Grand Caravan, the extra size, the fuel economy, interior design and appointments. It’s a pleasure to drive and comfortable for travelling.

Having the ability to haul a load of stuff to the camp is a necessity for sure and this van gives us potentially 143.8 cubic feet of cargo space. Given the low entry price, the fuel economy, safety, passenger and cargo capacity of the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan,

I think you need to test drive one before you purchase another vehicle. Who knows? Your next car might be a van…a Dodge Grand Caravan.


Here is how Wilkipedia describes Manumatic Transmissions:
“A manumatic differs from a semi-automatic transmission in its method of power transfer from the engine to the transmission. A manumatic uses a torque converter, like a traditional automatic transmission, while a semi-automatic transmission uses a clutch (or multiple clutches), like a traditional manual transmission. Therefore, a semi-automatic transmission offers a more direct connection between the engine and wheels than a manumatic and is preferred in high performance driving applications. A manumatic is often preferred for street use because its fluid coupling makes it easier for the transmission to consistently perform smooth shifts. Some manumatic and semi-automatic transmissions allow the driver to have full control of gear selection, while many will intervene by shifting automatically at the low end and/or high end of the engine’s operating range, depending on throttle position. Manumatics and most semi-automatic transmissions also provide the option of operating in the same manner as a conventional automatic transmission by allowing the transmission’s computer to select gear changes.”

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UPDATE:
After owning the Dodge Grand Caravan for two months, I can honestly say I am still more than happy with it. It has proven to be quite economical on fuel, comfortable and peppy, with loads of interior cargo capacity, much more than our previous Dodge Caravan. The handling, ride, and comfort is very good and the satellite radio has proven to be a plus for me.
In terms of what I don’t like, the tinted glass is not tinted as dark as our previous van, something I didn’t notice until lately. I have also noticed that the front seat arm rests are not as long as on our previous vehicle, something that while not a deal breaker, annoys me.
The leather wrapped steering wheel on the Dodge Grand Caravan is quite thick, Wendy likes the feel of it, I am less enthused, although it is comfortable in the long run.
Both Wendy and I have become quite used to the gear shift located on the dashboard, which initially I didn’t like. Since we have been driving it the shifter seems to have become smoother and reaching for it has become second nature. Initially I was always looking for it on the steering column.
The interior lightening package is very good, provides lots of lighting for “ingress and egress” which is automobile journalist talk for getting in and out of the vehicle.

© 2012, Rob Dares. All rights reserved. Cottager Online/The Cottage Chronicles / Rob Dares material is copyrighted, please contact me if you wish to inquire about reposting etc All prices quoted for products are subject to change, customer is responsible to confirm price with seller.

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