The big change for Dodge Caravan in 2005 is the introduction of Stow ’n Go seating, a revolutionary design that you’ll undoubtedly see other minivan manufacturers scrambling to emulate.
Available only on the long-wheelbase Grand Caravan Plus and SXT models, the second- and third-row seats flip and fold into storage wells in the floor. A flat cargo floor is created without removing and storing heavy seats, and the configuration can be changed at any time – halfway through a trip, you won’t find yourself needing an extra seat that’s been left at home. When the seats are upright, their under-floor wells double as covered storage compartments. Because of the chassis space needed for the storage wells, all-wheel-drive is no longer available.
Other changes for 2005 include a driver’s side inflatable knee blocker; an overhead rail system with removable storage bins, rear climate controls and rear park assist available on Grand Caravan SXT; new optional side curtain air bags; subtle changes to the grille and interior; a rear DVD system available on Caravan; and two new exterior colours.
All Caravans, and Grand Caravan base and Plus are powered by a 3.3-litre V6; the Grand Caravan SXT borrows a 3.8-litre V6 from the Chrysler Town & Country (which also adds Stow ’n Go seating for 2005).
The short-wheelbase Caravan comes in base or SXT form; both feature power locks, power mirrors, power front windows, variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, air conditioning, three rows of seats, CD player and 15-inch steel wheels. The SXT adds dual-zone temperature control, power rear vent windows, tachometer, keyless entry and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
The long-wheelbase Grand Caravan comes in base, Plus and SXT form; the base comes with the same features as the entry-level Caravan, but adds four-wheel anti-lock brakes. Stow ’n Go is not available on the base model.
Stow ’n Go is standard on the Plus, which also adds four-wheel disc brakes, illuminated entry, power rear vent windows and keyless entry. The top-line SXT also includes three-zone temperature control, overhead console with Homelink garage door opener, fog lamps, leather-wrapped wheel and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
The Grand Caravan’s new seat storage system is revolutionary, but the minivan itself isn’t; the smaller V6, while adequate around town, is sluggish on the highway, and steering tends to be vague. The vehicles are put together well, but some materials look cheap. Minivans such as the superb Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna have the edge on performance, handling and interior appointments, but if you want to remove the second-row seats on other vans, they’re strictly Grunt ’n Shunt. Until the others catch up, Stow ’n Go rules.
The Caravan is built in Windsor, Ontario and St. Louis, Missouri.