NEW FOR 2008:

– Completely redesigned

Redesigned for 2008, Dodge’s venerable minivan is now available only as the long-wheelbase Grand Caravan; the short-wheelbase Caravan has been dropped. The company says that most buyers chose the “shortie” for its price, rather than its length, and with its numerous features and aggressive pricing, the new version should be just as popular. New for 2008, all trim lines come standard with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, curtain airbags for all three rows, and electronic stability program with all-speed traction control.

The Grand Caravan uses two engines, both of them carried over from 2007: a 3.3-litre V6 is the default engine in all three trim lines, while the SXT can be optioned to a 3.8-litre that is also the base engine in the sibling Chrysler Town & Country minivan. The 3.3-litre uses a four-speed automatic transmission, while the 3.8-litre is mated to a new, segment-first six-speed automatic.

Returning for 2008 is Stow ’n Go, with second-row seats that fold and tumble into bins in the floor. New is optional Swivel ’n Go, which can be added to the SE and SXT; the second-row seats swivel 180 degrees to face the rear bench, and a removable table can be set up in the middle. The systems cannot be combined, and the seats either fold or swivel, but regardless of the seating configuration, all models come with the Stow ’n Go under-floor bins, which can be used for covered storage.

All models can also be optioned with a Cargo Van Group package, which turns the Grand Caravan into a commercial delivery van.

Unique to this country, the Canada Value Package uses the 3.3-litre, and includes 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, power windows, overhead front console, power locks with keyless entry, dual manual sliding doors, manual mirrors, cloth seats, 60/40 split folding rear bench, second-row two-passenger removable bench, CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, tilt wheel, tire pressure monitor warning lamp, variable intermittent wipers, and intermittent rear wiper/washer.

The SE also uses the 3.3-litre, and adds Stow ’n Go, YES Essentials stain-resistant seat fabric and floor mats, roof rack, cruise control, and front floor console.

The SXT uses the 3.3-litre but can be optioned to the 3.8-litre; additional features include 16-inch aluminum wheels, power-adjustable pedals, fog lamps, power heated mirrors, remote starter, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, trip computer, power second-row windows and power rear quarter vent windows.

Numerous options are available, including MyGIG multimedia entertainment system; a dual-screen rear DVD system that can simultaneously play two types of media, including movies, games or music players, or a combination; heated first- and second-row seats; a backup camera; a power liftgate; and a premium console that can be slid in sections or in its entirety to serve the second row.

Restyled in conjunction with the Dodge brand’s new, more aggressive crosshair grille, and longer and wider than its predecessor, the Grand Caravan is extremely quiet and nice to drive. The 3.3-litre can be anemic, especially when the van is loaded, and the move up to the 3.8-litre is advisable if you’re planning on consistently carrying a full house. Time will tell if the move to long-wheelbase only is a wise one, but on the other hand, this was the only short-wheelbase among the competition, and the base MSRP currently undercuts every other full-size minivan on the market.

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