2012 Dodge Grand Caravan. Click image to enlarge
Review by Chris Chase
Dodge redesigned its insanely popular Caravan minivan into its fifth generation for the 2008 model year. It was a significant redesign, mainly because it eliminated the short-wheelbase model, leaving the larger Grand Caravan alone to carry the minivan mantle. The shorty van was replaced by the Dodge Journey crossover, introduced in early 2008 as a 2009 model.
Under the new body were carryover engines. A 3.3L V6 (175 hp/205 lb-ft) was the default in all trims, and the top-trim SXT could be ordered with a 3.8L (197 hp/230 lb-ft). The 3.3L models got a four-speed automatic transmission (also carried over), but the 3.8L came with a new six-speed automatic. Fuel consumption estimates were 12.6/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway) with the 3.3L, and 13.3/8.7 with the 3.8.
In 2009, the 3.8L was canned in favour of a new 4.0L engine (251 hp/259 lb-ft), also paired with the six-speed auto. This larger, stronger engine was more efficient than the 3.8L, with ratings of 12.2/7.9 L/100 km.
Changes for 2010 were mostly in trim, but the 4.0L motor added a deceleration fuel cutoff to help improve fuel economy. If it actually did improve economy, that wasn’t reflected in the government’s ratings, which remained the same as 2009’s.
All 2011 models got Chrysler’s “Pentastar” 3.6L V6 engine (283 hp/260 lb-ft) and the six-speed automatic transmission, along with a styling refresh and a new “premium” interior. The 3.6L’s fuel consumption ratings – 12.2/7.9 L/100 km – were identical to the 4.0L’s.
2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan. Click image to enlarge
The good news, on the reliability front, is that the new six-speed transmission appears to be more robust than previous Chrysler automatics, which were well known for mechanical failures. There are a few posts on Forum.ChryslerMinivan.net of six-speed failures, but all indications point to the most common issue with the six-speed being a software-related flaw that causes rough and/or erratic shifting.
Complaints of rough shifts seem closely linked with use of the powertrain’s “econ” mode, which alters shift points to save fuel, with rough shifting being a side effect. Here are a few discussions about the six-speed’s performance (Transmission Performance and ECON Button Does it Work and Clunk When Shifting).
Leaking axle seals seem common, too. This causes transmission fluid leaks, which, obviously, can lead to transmission trouble.