Test Drive: 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew with Stow N Go car test drives reviews dodge
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew. Click image to enlarge

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Dodge Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

There’s definitely been some price slashing going on at Dodge Canada. Our test van, a well equipped 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew model, came with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $33,995 plus $8,325 in options and $1,400 Freight and $100 A/C tax for a total of $43,720. However, a quick check of the brand’s web site reveals a current discount of $7,000 (!) bringing the price down to $26,995 before options. An even more dramatic example is the entry-level Grand Caravan SE Canada Value Package model. It has an MSRP of $27,995, but with the current discount of $8,000, it’s now down to $19,995! Yes, 20,000 bucks for a seven passenger minivan with a 3.6-litre 283-hp V6 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, disc brakes, ABS, stability control, a new interior with dual-zone air conditioning, fold-into-the-floor third row seats, and seven airbags! I’ve seen Smart cars go for more money!

Test Drive: 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew with Stow N Go car test drives reviews dodge
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew. Click image to enlarge

Chrysler’s pricing strategy is a bit confusing, though. Vehicle price guides, like Autos.ca New Car Buyer’s Guide, typically list the current 2011 MSRPs which don’t reflect the discounts – and that has some consumers complaining those prices aren’t accurate. Last year, Chrysler’s pricing strategy was different: 2010 MSRPs reflected the discounts; the 2010 Grand Caravan SE Canada Value Package, for example, had an MSRP of $20,945.

But however you slice it, Chrysler’s low prices are a major drawing card for Dodge/Chrysler minivans when compared to competitors like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona and VW Routan which typically don’t offer huge discounts. The downside for Chrysler is that the Grand Caravan is often perceived as a “budget” minivan, and that’s not only because of the discount pricing: until this year, the Grand Caravan lagged behind its competitors in terms of powertrain refinement and interior quality. In 2010, the base engine was Chrysler’s ancient 3.3-litre pushrod V6 with a four-speed automatic that’s been around since Lee Iacocca was President of Chrysler; and the Grand Caravan’s interior design and quality didn’t match the more upscale interiors of its competitors.

Test Drive: 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew with Stow N Go car test drives reviews dodge
Test Drive: 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew with Stow N Go car test drives reviews dodge
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew. Click image to enlarge

Those drawbacks have been addressed in a mid-cycle “refresh” of the 2011 Grand Caravan: all trim levels now have Chrysler’s new “Pentastar” 282-hp 3.6-litre dual overhead cam V6 engine mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission (replacing the 175-hp 3.3-litre overhead valve V6 with four-speed automatic and optional 251-hp 4.0-litre single overhead cam V6 with six-speed automatic). The new 3.6-litre engine has the most standard horsepower and torque in it class (along with the Chrysler Town & Country and the Chrysler-based VW Routan), and offers the same the same fuel economy as the previous 4.0-litre V6: 12.2 L/100 km city (23 mpg Imp.) and 7.9 L/100 km highway (36 mpg Imp.). That’s comparable with its competitors, though slightly more than the Honda Odyssey. The 2011 Grand Caravan also features a new driver-selectable Eco mode which alters transmission shift points in order to maximize fuel efficiency, but at the expense of some performance.

As well, the cabin received a much-needed interior makeover with more comfortable seats, better quality seat cloth, more soft-touch surfaces, a new one-piece dash with more chrome and wood trim for a classier appearance, larger, brighter gauges with a new info display, and improved storage options. In addition, the 2011 model comes with some new standard features such as front seat side airbags and driver’s knee airbag and new optional features like a heated steering wheel, a large “Super Console” between the front seats, and improved Stow ‘n Go seats that are easier to fold into the floor.

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