With the exception of the Volkswagen Routan, it seems I’ve driven virtually all the various styles of minivans Chrysler builds. That said, I think I liked this SXT the best – no, it’s not as ornately equipped as our last SXT or our Four Seasons Town & Country, but I still found plenty to like.
Like Stow ‘N Go, for instance. Most minivan buyers enter the segment for the ability to haul both kids and cargo with ease, and this seating design allows for the easiest shift from people hauler to delivery van. Simply slide the front seats forward, open a cargo bin in the floor, and fold the second-row of seats into the floor. Total running time? Approximately a minute and a half, and no tools or hernia belts required.
In the past, the ability to pack captains chairs into such a small compartment forced the second-row seats to be somewhat ungainly, but these seemed much more comfortable. Perhaps the key comfort lies with adjusting the headrest for larger passengers – having done so, I carried two full-size adults in the second row with no complaints.
One complaint stems from the odd option content – our van was equipped with dual DVD screens and a system that looked as if it had navigation and Bluetooth, but had neither. Opting for those features forces buyers into the next level of SXT trim, or for that money, into a Chrysler Town & Country.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Like Evan, I’ve driven a Baskin-Robbins’ worth of Chrysler minivans recently, and have the same feelings toward all of them. The mid-line 3.8-liter V-6 engine in our test vehicle offers enough power (a 251-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 is also available) – but the ride and handling are a bit sloppy. The interior is dated, both in quality and appearance. I also was confused by the mix of equipment here. One would expect a DVD screen to include navigation and at least steering wheel controls.
I hope to heaven that Chrysler, in whatever form it takes in the future, does not give up on the segment it created. The next one should shed its poseur-SUV skin and move up a notch in refinement. Combined with its already impressive assortment of features, these improvements would make the Caravan and its siblings once again the best of the bunch.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The most noteworthy feature of this particular van is its Stow ‘N Go seats.
Our Four Seasons Town & Country has the novel Swivel ‘N Go option, so we wanted to test the base version in order to help us more knowledgably review our Chrysler.
My personal conclusion: Stow ‘N Go is the way to go, unless you’re actually going to use the Swively feature often, that is. The Stow seats may not be quite as comfortable as the Swivels (it’s hard to tell because our 4S car has leather seats while this vehicle has cloth perches), but the functionality is much better. To me, half the point of owning a minivan is using it to haul stuff in cargo-van mode. That’s a lot harder to do when you’ve got to lug those 90-pound Swivels out of the van and into your garage.
Other thoughts on this vehicle: The suspension (revised for ’09) feels tighter than that of our 4S T&C, but I’d be willing to bet that’s partially due to this Dodge’s much lower odometer reading (2700 miles vs. 25,000+), not just the Routan-inspired tweaks. I also really dislike the running boards on this Caravan; its nearly impossible to exit the vehicle without rubbing your pantleg against the boards.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
2009 Grand Caravan SXT 3.8
Base Price (with destination): $28,595
Price as tested: $33,327
Exterior Appearance Group by MOPAR – $937
Heated Seat Group – $500
Dual Screen DVD Entertainment System – $2,200
Family Value Group – $695
Power Liftgate – $400
Fuel Economy: 16 / 23 / 18 (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 3.8 L V6 OHV
HP: 205 HP @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 240 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
Frontal Crash Driver: 5
Frontal Crash Passenger: 5
Side Crash Front Seat: 5
Side Crash Rear Seat: 5
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Weight: 4183 lbs
– 16″ Aluminum Wheels (size)
– 225/65R 16 BSW, All Season Tires