Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Mommy Pans: 08 Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan

First, thanks to Matchstick for the opportunity to drive Dodge's 08 Grand Caravan for a week. It was a unique and fun experience.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have a true love for cars in general. Anyone who knows me can attest to that. And I've had more than my fair share of them. Just for fun, here's the list: '90 Honda CRX, '92 Ford Probe, '96 VW Jetta, '98 VW Cabrio, '99 Dodge Durango, '98 Volvo X70,'00 VW New Beetle, '99 BMW 528i, '00 BMW X5, '00 Lincoln Navigator, '01 BMW 525i wagon, '04 Nissan Quest (currently driving), '03 Mercedes E500 (Jim currently driving).

Unfortunately, the all new Dodge Grand Caravan was disappointing at best. In fact, it made me appreciate my '04 Nissan Quest all the more. While the Caravan has every technological bell and whistle, the vehicle itself really misses the mark. Both Jim and I found the interior cramped compared to what we're used to. The seats are substantially smaller than those found in the Quest. When Jim was driving, McKenna's feet touched the back of the driver's seat--and she's only two years old in a car seat! Interior styling hearkens back to the oh-so-regrettable "K-Car" days of the 1970's. Plastic-y with lots of hard lines and angles. For lack of a better term, it just seemed "cheapy".

While the minivan touts a 4.0 V-6 engine, it felt lacking in power. When accelerating , one could noticeably detect the gears shifting. The word "clunky" comes to mind. To use car lover lingo, it just had no "guts". Honestly, I felt like I was driving an economy, sub-compact. Think Geo, Colt, Escort and the like.

As mentioned, the minivan has all the current technology but the accessibility associated with it is very, very confusing. Some important commands are so deeply embedded within the navigation screen's menuing system that it is nearly impossible to find them. How is it that Dodge doesn't understand that moms do not have time for this stuff? When the kids are screaming and you're running late to one of the 12 places you need to go to that day, you shouldn't have to pull out a manual in order to determine how to make satellite TV appear on one screen and a DVD appear on the other. I have a more-than-decent comfort level with technology and I WAS UTTERLY BAFFLED by the Grand Cravan's audio/video/navigation controls. A bit of advice to the '08 Grand Caravan engineers...start over. Think user friendly this time.'s not all bad...Props for the rear view camera, auto stow-and-go 3rd row seat, and the best feature of all--sliding door windows that actually open. I could really use these features on my Quest!

Bottom line: The fully loaded model approaches $40K. For that price point, one expects a far more comfortable, better designed vehicle. Folks I know will spend another $10K and get into the entry level Lexus, BMW world. And when you place the '08 Grand Caravan alongside that class of vehicle, the comparison becomes absurd. The Grand Caravan cannot even begin to compete.

This mommy never wants to be mean. Just honest.


Anonymous said...

To say the least, your comparisons are, as you say, absurd. To suggest that a person buying a minivan (usually looking for room, ease of entry and storage/hauling capability) would spend 10K more and roll into a BMW/Lexus class (with less appointments is nothing short of moronic. We have a Vovlo S80/T6 and are looking at a van BECAUSE it offers 'reasonable' appointments, gets the same gas mileage and equal safety ratings in crash tests.

Sorry, but I feels you've missed the mark with your Bottom Line. If people really want a side-by-side look... go to Consumer Reports!


Leigh said...

Dear Anon (cjl),

"Nothing short of moronic"? Hmmm. Many of my friends, peers, and former colleagues must all be morons because they have similar sentiments as those I conveyed in my post. The fully loaded Dodge Grand Caravan is $40K. Spend $10K more, and you can choose from many "high-end" SUVs/cross-over vehicles. In case you are unaware, minivan makers not only compete with each other but they also compete with other TYPES of vehicles. Buyers are FREQUENTLY torn between the SUV/wagon/minivan decision. I personally know of a family that decided against a minivan and bought a BMW X3. It was worth it for them to trade space for a well designed, gold-standard vehicle. BY the way, the X3 in that price range is very nicely appointed. And no, $10K more is nothing to sneeze at but most folks who can afford $40K can probably afford $50K.

If you are absolutely in the market for a minivan, I will reassert that the Caravan doesn't measure up even to vehicles within its own class. The Nissan Quest (which I own), Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna are all far superior to the Caravan. The handling, styling, roominess, and overall design of any one of the above mentioned minivans makes the Caravan look like a poor relation. Then again, if you like poor design, a cramped interior, cheap appointments,cheesy styling, clunky handling, and a no-guts engine--the Caravan has your name on it!

Thanks for your comments. Good luck in your search.