Dodge is keeping the 2018 Grand Caravan alive after a mild refresh, but there’s no doubt that the end is near for a car that helped shape the automotive landscape and became an icon in the process. This is a car seeing out its final days, surrounded by younger, fitter, stronger family members like the Chrysler Pacifica. But they all know that without this trailblazer then they might not be here at all.
The Grand Caravan has been with us since 1984 and it was the original minivan. It was a pioneer in its day and it became a symbol of the old world. The Grand Caravan deserves its place in the automotive Hall of Fame and most manufacturers owe this affordable seven-seater a debt of gratitude.
But you don’t need to worry about past laurels. That isn’t a reason to buy a car. So, does the 2018 Grand Caravan have much to offer beyond its heritage?
If you are thinking of buying a Dodge Grand Caravan, then the main selling point will be the savings on offer. You can get the base SE for just $25,995 and if you have seven people you need to transport then that could be a selling point.
You could also treat that RRSP as a start point for negotiations. This is not a popular model and you can use that to your advantage. Negotiate hard and you could load up with optional extras and still cut some money off the sticker price.
You get a solid 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that pumps out a solid 283 bhp and 260 lb/ft of torque. It is mated to a six-speed auto, which is several cogs too few in the modern age, though, and the performance figures won’t set your hair on fire. It hits 60 mph in 7.8s and tops out at 113 mph. Plus, the power delivery is lumpy, and the suspension is notoriously firm.
Every model gets the same basic engine and the only real difference is the trim and standard equipment. Dodge recently trimmed down the model line-up in the 2017 revamp, from six to four. So, you can choose from the SE, SE Plus, SXT and GT.
The SE is still a bargain if you need a workhorse and you do get a lot for your money. It also comes with the more practical “stow and go” second row of seats that afford more flexibility. The more expensive models get the individual captain’s chairs, which are more comfortable and at the same time make the vehicle a less attractive proposition.
A fully loaded Grand Caravan tips the scales at $20,000 less than a similarly specced Chrysler Pacifica, which is not to be sniffed at. You don’t get anything for nothing in this world and you pay for that saving with older tech, but that’s a serious amount of money.
The SXT gets an upgraded center console, a power driver’s seat, Garmin navigation, and other trinkets. The range-topping GT gets a nine-speaker surround sound system and leather seats.
Unsurprisingly, with a six-speed automatic gearbox, the Dodge Caravan simply doesn’t have the fuel efficiency to compete with the competition. It will return 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The combined return is just 20 mpg, which means if you do a lot of miles, then you can spend all that money you save on the sticker price at the pumps.
This car is powered by old technology and that becomes abundantly apparent when you really dig into the details. There are so many reasons not to buy one and the only real scenario that works is if you have a big family, you do a few miles a day and you don’t really think too much about the car you drive.
Safety and Infotainment Features
The Dodge Grand Caravan gets a four-star overall crash test rating from the NHTSA. It’s a solid car, but there are five-star alternatives in this class.
You get seven airbags, a rearview camera, and anti-lock brakes. There’s a distinct lack of active safety measures, but you can order the Safety Sphere package on the Grand Caravan GT. That gives you a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
As for the infotainment, you get a 6.5-inch touchscreen and you can spec a single nine-inch DVD screen for the rear passengers. The upgraded SXT comes with better navigation and you can add the Driver Convenience package, but that’s pretty much it. Forget about Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s just not going to happen.
The interior, too, is marred by plastics that the U.S. auto industry has left behind in a bid to challenge the established European masters. It’s a budget car now, and you can feel it in almost every surface.
How It Stacks up Against the Competition
It doesn’t, at all. The 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan wins on price and loses everywhere else. Rivals include the Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, and the Pacifica minivan. Literally all of them are better cars.
The Sedona is close enough on price and its simply streets ahead of the Grand Caravan as a car. It comes with Kia’s famous seven-year warranty, the interior makes the Caravan look like a jail cell, it’s more powerful, and it wins pretty much every round.
The Toyota Sienna is a visual mess, but it’s still a better all-round car than the Dodge, while the Pacifica leaves it for dead. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s worth it.
- It’s cheap to buy.
- It comes loaded with equipment.
- You could probably knock that sticker price down hard if you negotiate.
- It’s an antique masquerading as a new car.
- The driver’s seat in the “luxury” models are impractical.
- The interior materials are second rate.
- The fuel efficiency will wipe out any savings if you do serious miles.