NEW FOR 2009:

– Canada Value Package and Cargo Van add standard heated foldable mirrors and cruise control
– 3.8-litre V6 discontinued; available 4.0-litre V6 added
– SXT adds standard three-zone temperature control with rear a/c and body-coloured mirrors
– Climate Group package available for Cargo Van
– New available options and option packages
– UConnect hands-free system adds iPod interface
– DVD screens now 9-inch instead of 8-inch
– Exterior colours: Melbourne Green and Deep Crimson added; Sunburst Orange and Marathon Blue discontinued

Having been completely redesigned for 2008, the Dodge Grand Caravan enters 2009 with only some tweaks. Most notable is the retirement of the available 3.8-litre that was an available upgrade on the SXT; that model can now be optioned to a 4.0-litre V6 that is used exclusively on the Grand Caravan’s sibling, the Chrysler Town & Country.

Other changes include Sirius satellite radio available as a stand-alone option, and two new option packages: a Popular Equipment Group for the SE Stow ‘n Go, which includes power sliding doors, power liftgate, remote start, power-adjustable pedals and four-wheel disc brakes; and a Safe and Sound Group, available for the SE Stow ‘n Go and SXT, including second- and third-row window shades, rear DVD system, rear backup camera, and bench seat with integrated child seats. Fleet buyers who opt for the Cargo Van version also have a selection of new available options, including smoker’s group, cargo compartment floor mat, full-width cargo divider, heavy-duty engine cooling, MyGIG entertainment system, solid window inserts, exterior vinyl window shading, and a rear window defroster delete.

The Grand Caravan is available only in long-wheelbase configuration, and comes with a 3.3-litre flexible-fuel V6 engine with four-speed automatic in both the SE and SXT; the SXT can be optioned to the 4.0-litre V6 with six-speed automatic transmission.

The base SE model is the Canada Value Package, with second-row removable bench seat, while the SE and SXT come standard with Stow ‘n Go seating, in which the second-row seats can be folded flat into covered bins on the floor. All models include a 60/40 split third-row bench that can be folded flat into an open well in the rear cargo area, or pulled backwards for "tailgate" seating when the vehicle is parked and the liftgate is open. The SE and SXT can also be optioned with Swivel ‘n Go: the second-row seats cannot be folded into the floor, but they can be swivelled to face backwards, with a removable and stowable plastic table that fits between the second and third rows. The swivelling seats can also be removed completely. All models, regardless of the seating configuration, include the covered under-floor bins where the Stow ‘n Go seats are stored and can be used for storage.

All models can be optioned with the Cargo Van Group package, which removes the rear seats and turns the vehicle into a delivery van.

Features on the Canada Value Package include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, overhead console, conversation mirror, five cup and four bottle holders, power locks with keyless entry, dual glovebox, heated mirrors, cloth seats, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input, cruise control, tilt wheel, tire pressure monitor warning lamp, power front windows with driver’s side one-touch down, variable intermittent wipers, and rear washer/wiper.

The SE Stow ‘n Go adds nine cup and four bottle holders, body-colour door handles, easy-clean floor mats, roof rack, Stain Repel seat fabric, and removable floor console.

The SXT adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, power-adjustable pedals, three-zone temperature control with rear heater and a/c, fog lamps, remote starter, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, trip computer, and power window package of driver’s side auto up/down, passenger auto down, power sliding-door windows and power rear vent windows.

Depending on the model, available options include power sliding doors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, running boards, backup camera, power driver’s seat, heated seats, and second- and third-row DVD entertainment screens.

The Dodge Caravan is an extremely well-done van, capable of standing up to minivan competitors whether domestic or imports, although if you’re going to be consistently carrying a full load you’ll probably want to go for the 4.0-litre, as the 3.3-litre can be anemic when weighed down. The company’s Stow ‘n Go system remains unique in the industry, allowing you to easily reconfigure the van’s passenger or cargo capacity without removing seats or longing for one that’s still at home, although the thinner foam necessary for them to fold does mean they get hard very quickly. Should the loaded SXT model not be enough, the Chrysler Town & Country is the same vehicle but with more creature comforts.

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