2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Plus. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Simon Hill
You don’t need to be an expert to know that the Dodge Grand Caravan is immensely popular. Just watch the roads. If you can count ten vehicles before a Grand Caravan passes by, you’re doing well.
Indeed, despite the lack of love garnered by minivans as a whole, and the jostling competition provided by oh-so-much-cooler crossovers, the Dodge Grand Caravan is a bit of a sales superstar. During the first quarter of 2014 it didn’t merely outsell every other minivan in Canada by a staggering margin, it also outsold every crossover and SUV out there, and it outsold all but one of the top selling cars in Canada, sneaking in behind the Honda Civic (12,407 cars sold) with 11,130 vans sold.
With a sales record like that to defend, and a current design dating back to the 2008 model year (and last facelifted in 2011), it doesn’t take a degree in marketing to guess that a new Grand Caravan – or at least, a new Fiat-Chrysler minivan by some name – must certainly be due to appear in the not-too-distant future.
Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne confirmed this at the 2014 Detroit auto show, saying that the design for the next-gen van is “95 percent complete,” but he tempered the news by saying that the new van would be available in… 24 to 30 months. That’s two, nearly three years, which means that it’ll likely appear in late 2016 as a 2017 model.
So if you’re looking for a minivan, you won’t want to be waiting around for anything new to spring out from Fiat-Chrysler in a big hurry.
That’s okay, however, because the current Grand Caravan is immensely popular for good reason: It has been refined — or perhaps more accurately it has been nipped, tucked and tweaked — to the point that it really is about as practical as it’s possible to get. It can also be had, if you’re careful with the options and go in knowing that there are usually incentives available on the table, for a genuinely impressive price.
For busy families with little time to read the fine print, that’s about all you need to know. So off you go then, have a quick look at the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna because they’re also fairly popular, but if they give you sticker shock or aren’t to your taste, get to the nearest Dodge dealer, select the trim you reckon you’ll be happy with, and just be sure the salesman gives you a good price. Oh, and do try to get the foldaway second-row seats, because they really are exceedingly handy.
For those interested in more than just the basics, it’s a little more complicated. Partly because with the Grand Caravan getting a bit long in the tooth Dodge has rolled out some special editions to spice things up for 2014, and partly because not all of those special editions necessarily show up on the Dodge website.
Case in point: my SXT Plus Blacktop test van. I tried to build an identical van on the website, but couldn’t. When I let Dodge know, the folks there thanked me for the heads up, saying “Blacktop is likely not showing up because it’s a special package that’s outside the usual add-ons for the Grand Caravan.” I was also told that the website techies have now been informed of the problem, so the Blacktop package may in fact be there by the time you read this.
If not, here’s the scoop: The Grand Caravan is available in no fewer than 275 trim levels. Well, actually that’s not true, but it does come in eight trim levels, which seems an unnecessarily large selection when you also take into account the astonishing number of advertised (and hidden!) packages that are then available for adding on to each trim level.
2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Plus engine bay & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Trim levels include Canada Value Package, SE Plus, SXT, SXT Plus, 30th Anniversary, Crew, Crew Plus and R/T. Suggested base retail prices start at $19,895 and run up to $32,495, but keep in mind that doesn’t include the $1,695 destination fee.
Packages and options can include a wide gamut, including such things as a UConnect Hands-Free Group, Trailer Tow Group, Security Group, Power Convenience Group, Single DVD Entertainment package, Power 8-Way Driver Seat, UConnect upgraded audio with Navigation, a “Customer Preferred Package 29G,” and the mysterious $1,395 Blacktop Package, which adds blacked-out 17 x 6.5 aluminum wheels, fog lamps, super console, rear air conditioning, three-zone air conditioning control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and leather-wrapped gear knob.