Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats. Click image to enlarge
Related articles on Autos

Competitors

2008 Chevrolet Uplander
2008 Honda Odyssey
2008 Hyundai Entourage
2008 Kia Sedona
2008 Nissan Quest
2008 Pontiac Montana SV6
2008 Toyota Sienna

Manufacturer’s web site
Dodge Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson
Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery:
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Since the redesigned Dodge Grand Caravan was introduced last Fall, its suggested retail price has been in a free fall due to the stronger Canadian dollar and consumer pressure to bring Canadian pricing in line with lower U.S. prices.

When first introduced, the base Grand Caravan “Canada Value Package” model had an MSRP of $26,495; now it’s $20,245. The mid-level SE with Stow ‘N Go fold-flat second-row rear seats was $28,795; now it’s $24,145. And the well-equipped SXT was $30,495; now $25,945. National and regional discounts and promotions can lower these prices even further.

When you consider that even the base Grand Caravan “Canada Value Package” minivan includes a standard 175-hp 3.3-litre V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, fold-into-the floor third row seats, removeable second-row bench seat with roller wheels, CD/MP3 stereo, tilt steering wheel, power door locks with keyless entry, power windows, 16-inch tires, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, and curtain airbags for all three rows – the Grand Caravan seems to be a very good value – especially considering most import competitors start over $30,000, albeit, better equipped.

Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats. Click image to enlarge

Dodge’s Canadian prices are still not as low as U.S. prices where a 2008 Grand Caravan SE Value model with second row Stow ‘N Go seats goes for US$19,290 including a $770 Freight charge. But at least Canadian prices have come down about 20% since the beginning of the model year.

2008 Grand Caravans come in four trim levels: Canada Value Package, Cargo Van, SE and SXT. This week’s test vehicle is an SXT model with the standard stain-resistant YES Essentials seat coverings, Stow ‘N Go second row seats, fold-flat third row seats, power second-row windows and power rear quarter vent windows, power-adjustable pedals, power heated mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, trip computer, remote starter, and fog lights. Options on my test vehicle included a 197-hp 3.8-litre V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode, rear heating/air conditioning controls, 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, and hands-free Bluetooth cell phone system. Including $1,350 Freight and $100 A/C tax, the as-tested price of my SXT minivan came to $28,620.

Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats. Click image to enlarge
Interior impressions

With its new squared-off body design and longer wheelbase, the 2008 Grand Caravan has more interior room than the previous model – an extra four cubic feet, in fact. The Grand Caravan will seat seven people comfortably, and has a huge cargo area. With its unique fold-and-tumble-into-the-floor Stow ‘N Go second row bucket seats, and fold-into-the-floor third row seats, the Grand Caravan is the only minivan (other than the Chrysler Town & Country) that can provide a flat cargo floor without leaving the rear seats at home. If you’ve ever owned a minivan with removeable rear seats, you know what a chore it is to unlatch them, lift them out of the van, and find a place in the garage to store them. It’s even more of a chore to lift the heavy seats back into the van later.

The Stow ‘N Go seats aren’t perfect though: folding the second row seats into the floor does require some practice. First, the front seats have to be pushed forwards so that they don’t get in the way of the folding floor panels. The second row bucket seats have to be flipped and folded forwards into the floor while holding the three-panel cover out of the way – you have to be careful not to get your fingers caught in the folding panels. But when it’s done, you have to marvel at how ingenious it is.

As a bonus, when the second row seats are up, you can use the floor wells as hidden storage areas.

The second row Stow ‘N Go bucket seats aren’t as plush as standard buckets, but they do have inboard and outboard folding armrests and are reasonably comfortable. In my view, their fold-flat advantage outweighs the small sacrifice in comfort.

The third row split bench seats are easier to fold into the floor by simply pulling on some well-marked straps, 1,2,3. Having 60/40 split fold-flat third row seats is a big advantage over a single fold-flat bench seat: one side of the second and third rows can be folded into the floor to store long cargo items like skis or sports equipment while the other side can be left up to carry passengers.

The Grand Caravan’s storage area behind the third row seats is surprisingly roomy, measuring 51 cm long by 119 cm wide. As well, the open well where the folding third row seats go is 25 cm deep. The rear hatch door opens up high to provide a cavernous opening with a low liftover height.

With the split third row seats folded flat into the floor, the cargo area measures 142 cm long by 122 cm wide. And with the second row Stow ‘N Go seats folded flat into the floor, the cargo length increases to 220 cm, or over seven feet. With the front seats pushed forwards a bit, a 4′X8′ sheet of plywood will fit inside the cargo area. It would be a bonus if the right front passenger seatback folded flat, but it doesn’t.

The Grand Caravan’s dual rear sliding side doors are easy to open and close, and in a parking lot, they won’t ding the car parked beside you.

New for 2008 are some kid-friendly features, like optional second row power sliding windows which roll down about 75% of the way, second row side window shades, and two rear DVD screens and DVD player. The Grand Caravan is an extremely family-friendly vehicle with many storage spaces and cupholders, available second row temperature and fan speed controls and roof-mounted air vents, power rear quarter windows, and plenty of headroom and legroom.

All second and third row seats have height adjustable head restraints three-point seat belts, and child seat tether anchors. Side curtain airbags for all three rows are standard but side airbags in the front seats are not available. An optional second row bench seat with integrated child seats (for children weighing between 10 and 23 kilograms (20 and 50 pounds) is available as are second-row bucket seats with integrated booster seats (for children under 145 centimetres (57 inches) tall, weighing between 22 and 38 kilograms (45 and 85 pounds).

Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats. Click image to enlarge

Up front, the driver and passenger have comfortable seats with folding, inboard armrests. Power adjustable pedals (standard on SXT) allow shorter and taller drivers to find a comfortable position and the driver sits up high with a good view of the road. A convex mirror in the overhead console allows the driver to keep an eye on the children without having to turn around.

The SXT’s two-tone instrument panel, white gauges and silver trim look considerably better than the base model’s monotone look. Still, there is workman-like appearance to the Grand Caravan’s interior that places functionality before beauty.

Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the large white-faced gauges include a digital compass and outside temperature gauge. The transmission shift lever is now located high up on the instrument panel next to the tachometer where it is easy to reach. It also frees up the centre console for other uses, such as a sliding, removeable console with cupholders and storage units. The centre stack features a basic AM/FM/single-disc CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack and four speakers which offers adequate but not impressive sound quality. If you want to pay more, there are plenty of premium sound options including the MYGIG Infotainment System with GPS Navigation, DVD/CD/MP3-compatible player and 20GB hard drive.

Lower down on the centre stack the heater/air conditioner has temperature controls for driver and front passenger and separate temperature/fan controls for rear passengers. In addition, second row passenger can access roof-mounted dials for fan speed, temperature and ventilation.

There are no fewer than six cupholders for front passengers, plus two large open storage bins, one slot for CDs, and one smaller slot for iPods. Upper and lower gloveboxes add more storage convenience, and there are two 12-volt power outlets for accessories.

Obviously, a lot of thought and customer research has gone into the Grand Caravan’s interior. It addresses the typical needs of a large or extended family – seating comfort, ease of access, safety, proper ventilation, storage and drinkholders, and cargo versatility. My only criticism is the use of plastic side walls in the cargo area which can be easily scratched.

Driving impressions

It may be a tall vehicle, but the Grand Caravan’s step-in height is low for both front and rear occupants and getting in and out is easy. The driver sits up high and has good visibility forwards and through the large side and rear windows. I particularly liked the fact that the head restraints in the second and third rows can be lowered almost flush with the top of the seats so that they don’t obstruct the driver’s view. The rear window has a handy intermittent wiper/washer to remove grime and frost.

As I mentioned, the power adjustable gas and brake pedals and tilt steering wheel make it easier for different drivers to find a comfortable driving position. Controls are easy to reach and highly visible.

Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
Test Drive: 2008 Dodge Caravan SXT with Stow N Go Seats car test drives dodge
2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats. Click image to enlarge

The optional 197-hp/230 lb-ft 3.8-litre overhead valve V6 engine (available only on the SXT) has plenty of power and torque even for this 2033 kg (4483 lb) minivan. In AJAC’s 2008 Car of the Year track test (www.ajac.ca), the Grand Caravan 3.8 accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.2 seconds and stopped from 100 km/h in 45.5 metres, respectable figures for a big vehicle like this. Even though it has traction control, I was able to chirp the front tires from a standing start, and even found myself moderating the throttle. With a full load of passengers and cargo on board, things might be a bit slower, but certainly not slow. At highway speeds, the 3.8 engine loafs along quietly at about 1750 r.p.m. in sixth gear. City/Highway fuel consumption is rated at 13.3/8.7 using Regular Unleaded gas. The Grand Caravan is not available with the new 251-hp 4.0-litre V6 offered in the Town & Country minivan.

I was quite impressed with the new six-speed automatic transmission which shifts often but imperceptibly. The high position of the shift lever is strange, particularly if you’re using the manual AutoStick mode, but it’s an easy reach.

With such a long wheelbase, wide track, and comfort-tuned shock absorbers, the Grand Caravan is a very comfortable highway cruiser. It tracks well and is easy to drive long distances. Big side mirrors help when changing lanes. Engine and wind noise is muted but I did notice some tire noise from the optional Bridgestone Turanza 225/65R-17 all-season tires.

Around town, the Grand Caravan is easy to drive and fairly manoeuvrable but its 514 cm (202.5 in.) length hampers its ability to park in tight spots. A rear back-up camera is available, but I would prefer less costly rear parking sensors to warn the driver of rear obstacles.

Though a large vehicle, most drivers will find the Grand Caravan easier to drive than it looks, and probably more comfortable than most SUVs.

Verdict

A good value in the Canadian marketplace, the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT is a roomy, versatile easy to drive minivan, particularly with the optional 3.8-litre V6 engine and new six-speed automatic transmission.

Pricing: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT with Stow ‘N’ Go Seats

Base price: $25,945

Options: $1,225 (Package 25H 3.8-litre V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning with separate front temperature controls and separate rear fan and temperature controls, $700; P225/65R17 all-season; 17-inch tires and aluminum wheels, $225; Uconnect hands-free wireless Bluetooth and Rear View Auto Dim Mirror w/Microphone, $300)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,350
Price as tested: $28,620
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

    Related articles on Autos

    First Drives

  • 2008 Chrysler minivans, by Jil McIntosh
    Test Drives

  • 2008 Chrysler Town & Country Touring with Stow N Go seats, by Greg Wilson
  • 2008 Chrysler Town & Country Limited with Swivel ‘N Go seats, by Chris Chase
  • 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan Canada Value Package, by Jil McIntosh

    Competitors
  • 2008 Chevrolet Uplander
  • 2008 Honda Odyssey
  • 2008 Hyundai Entourage
  • 2008 Kia Sedona
  • 2008 Nissan Quest
  • 2008 Pontiac Montana SV6
  • 2008 Toyota Sienna

    Manufacturer’s web site
  • Dodge Canada



  • About Greg Wilson

    Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).