Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan: A last, lingering look at the vehicle that became the poster child of the minivan revolution

The 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan.

The 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan. Credit: Dodge

It's the end of an era as the sun sets on this iconic people mover, and we bid a fond farewell and a final salute to this quintessential minivan. As you can tell, we've gone overboard with clichés for the Dodge Grand Caravan. 

The vehicle that began life in November of 1983 as the Caravan was, along with the Plymouth/Chrysler Voyager, an automotive game-changer that practically no one saw coming.

Try as they might, neither General Motors or Ford could knock Chrysler Corporation's so-called "Magic Wagons" off their perches.

The Caravan and Voyager, plus the Chrysler Town & Country that arrived a few years later, were no doubt inspired by the rear-engine Volkswagen Beetle-based Type 2 van that dates back to 1950.

But, to use another cliché, good things don't last forever, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) will phase out the Canadian-built Grand Caravan. The automaker isn't saying exactly when the final curtain will fall, but the word from FCA's public relations folks is that it will stick around at least for the 2016 model year and will co-exist alongside a brand new Town & Country.

Beyond that, the T&C will compete solo with the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest. As well, the Ford Transit Connect van, which is primarily purchased for commercial duty, can also be configured for carrying up to seven passengers.

Physically, the Grand Caravan has retained the same boxy shape for seven or more years, although a significant revision for 2011 included a 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. It replaced the previous 3.3- and 3.8-liter V6s that made 175 and 197 horsepower, respectively.

The 3.6, which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, has made a world of difference for GC buyers who can count on considerably greater performance when fully loaded with up to 3,600 pounds of trailer weight. The engine also gives satisfactory punch when overtaking and when ascending hills. And despite what you might think, the extra power came without any fuel consumption penalty (the rating is 17 mpg in the city and 25 highway).

Other improvements included fancier interior trim, a restyled dashboard with soft-touch surfaces and updated telematics.

But if there's one word that best describes the GC, it would be versatility. The standard Stow 'n Go split-folding third-row seat can be conveniently stored beneath the load floor, using just one hand, as can the optional second-row captain's chairs. The resulting flat load surface provides enough space for a significant amount of cargo, or it can even be used as a two-person camper. 

With the seats left in place, the three below-floor bins can keep a variety of large-size valuables hidden from view.

Another important GC feature has to be its attractive price. The base AVP (American Value Package) model lists for $22,800 and comes with most of the frequently requested features of the air/cruise/tilt and power-windows variety.

The SE adds the Stow 'n Go second-row fold-flat seats plus tri-zone climate control (driver, passenger and second-row) and center floor console, while the SXT comes with power sliding side doors, power liftgate and a roof rack.

Atop the Grand Caravan's pecking order, the R/T has what the company calls a sport suspension, premium nine-speaker sound system, leather-trimmed seats, backup camera and a unique set of alloy wheels.

Numerous option packages let you dress up your GC with all sorts of up-level items. Of note is the Blacktop Package that as you might guess blacks out all of the exterior trim and adds gloss black paint to the standard 17-inch wheels.

The impending demise of the GC will leave a hole in Dodge's lineup and likely make minivan purchases less affordable. The 2016 Town and Country is expected to start in the low $30,000 range, which is roughly the starting point for the Odyssey and Sienna minivans.

Cliché or not, it's sad to see the utility-driven Grand Caravan fade from view.

What you should know: 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan
Type: Four-door, front-wheel-drive minivan
Engine (hp): 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (283)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic 
Market position: Minivans have decreased in popularity over the past few years and soon only one version will be available from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). That's right, the Dodge Grand Caravan is on the way out.
Points: Exceptionally roomy in true minivan tradition; 283-horsepower engine is considered one of the best V6 engines on the market; Stow 'n Go feature creates lots of people and/or cargo room; Dated styling; Lowest-priced minivan on the market; The problem is that bargain hunters will be left in the cold when the GC departs.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 17/25; Base price (incl. destination) $22,800

By comparison

Honda Odyssey Base price: $29,000
Well turned-out minivan with comfortable seats and impressive V6.

Kia Sedona Base price: $26,000
Well-priced minivan can be had with lots of optional high-tech safety.

Toyota Sienna Base price: $29,000
The only minivan that can seat eight people and is available with AWD.

Latest Long Island News