If Chrysler Corporation had not invented the minivan segment, there is a very good chance wed still be driving massive station wagons with names like Grand Safari and Caprice Estate. As it is, one could argue that the modern day SUV is really no different than the station wagons driven by our parents, theyre just higher off the ground. What makes the minivan so much better at moving people and cargo is its combination of low step-in height and dual sliding side doors. The minivans two-box designone box for the engine and one for the passenger compartmentis often copied, but never as accessible without those wonderful side doors.
While many companies now build their own version of the classic minivan, the original is still quite competitive in its own right. With handsome styling, innovative features and improved safety, the Dodge Caravan is still the one to beat.
Dodge makes the Caravan in many flavors; in fact there are a total of nine different versions. The base SE and Sport are offered with the standard 113-inch wheelbase while the remaining seven versions are all called Grand Caravan because they rest on a longer 119-inch wheelbase. Only the base SE comes with a four-cylinder engine that you'll likely find is less than optimal for pulling the Caravan's weight. SE, eL and Sport models all come with a 3.3-liter V6 that is a much better choice. Top-of-the-line trims include the Sport AWD, EX and ES that all come with a larger 3.8-liter V6 good for a healthy 215 horsepower. The 3.8-liter engine is one of the best V6's Chrysler has ever produced, with terrific low-end torque and a smoothness of operation not commonly associated with minivans. All-wheel drive models are available on both the Grand Caravan Sport and ES trim. The setup is relatively simple, activating itself when needed and then reverting back to the standard front-wheel drive mode.
The Caravan and Grand Caravan strike a stylish, sophisticated stance. Large, flush-mounted privacy glass surrounds the passenger compartment to meet up with an equally large rear hatch, which also contains a smooth sheet of flush-mounted glass. The Caravan's side door rails are cleverly hidden beneath the bottom edge of the side rear windows, creating a smooth, unbroken profile that is highlighted by the large jewel-like front and rear lenses. The overall impression you are left with is that a great deal of time and effort went into planning this machine, and that impression would be correct. Dodge and Chrysler minivans are the best selling vehicles on the planet and an important staple to the company's financial health.
The Grand Caravan models offer a long list of standard and optional equipment you won't find on other minivans. Features include a power liftgate and a removable center console that can be placed between either front or rear captain's chairs. The center console is unique in that it contains power points that move with it, so you can plug in your cell phone and the kids can run their CD players and video games. All models come standard with dual-sliding side doors; Sport, EX and ES offer the option of power-assisted doors. You'll find that the seating inside the Caravan can be arranged in many different ways. You can opt for either a second-row bench or twin captain's chairs and if you get the third row seat, you'll find that it is split into two separate units that features roller wheels for easy removal. You'll also discover gobs of storage space, covered bins and cup holders galore. With the rear seats removed there is a massive amount of cargo room available for gear and groceries, and with the second row removed the Grand Caravan rivals most full-sized pickups with what it can carry.
For 2004, the Caravan now offers the option of a tire-pressure warning systemstandard on all models with aluminum wheelsand gets a new key fob that integrates the lock/unlock buttons and coded engine immobilizer into a single unit.
For those times when passengers are your first priority, there is no better way to transport them than in a Grand Caravan. Dodge has made it so that this family hauler offers a little something special for everyone on board. For the driver, there is the firm-fitting bucket seat with built-in side arms, the optional adjustable foot pedals and the well-appointed instrumentation that includes a tachometer. The front passenger can enjoy the open sky through the optional power moonroof and listen to audiophile-quality music through the optional Infinity sound system. Rear seat occupants can keep themselves entertained thanks to the optional DVD entertainment system, complete with 7-inch video screen and wireless headsets. For 2004, the DVD head unit now resides in the dash, combined with the 6-disc CD/DVD changer. Everyone will enjoy the peace of mind made possible by the available tri-zone automatic air conditioning that allows the occupants of each row to select his or her own temperature and fan speed.
Some other available options include front-side impact airbags, upgraded audio with 6-disc in-dash CD changer and 8-way power seats. Dodge also offers a trailer towing prep package that includes a load leveling suspension, 160-amp alternator, a transmission oil cooler and a heavy-duty radiator.