2016 Dodge Grand Caravan Review

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2016 Dodge Grand Caravan Overview

The 2016 model year marks the Dodge Grand Caravan's 32nd birthday. Which makes it about the same age as the moms and dads who look to it as the best solution for carting around their large families. For 2016, the Caravan gets a new look that fans of the Dodge Charger will like, along with an emphasis on inexpensive offerings and value.

The 2016 Dodge Caravan retains its boxy-shape, but with a new front grill that mimics the Dodge Charger’s “Split-Crosshairs” grill treatment. The look appears tough and aggressive on the sedan, and although it looks good on the Grand Caravan too, the tough tone doesn't overwhelm the van’s signature styling. The Grand Caravan will continue to be offered in four main trims, one drivetrain, and with a max seating capacity of seven, in 2-2-3 configuration (some rivals can be configured for eight).

Powering all 2016 Dodge Grand Caravans will be a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission, for a class-competitive 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the Toyota Sienna, which offers all-wheel drive, the Grand Caravan is available in front-wheel drive only. Fuel economy in the 2016 Grand Caravan is 17 mpg city/25 highway/20 combined, putting the Grand Caravan at the bottom of its segment, with the Honda Odyssey offering 10% better fuel economy across the board.

The Grand Caravan, however, offers plenty of innovative features of its own. The Stow ‘N Go seating can be reconfigured to turn the standard seven-passenger setup into a two-passenger van with enormous cargo space. Dodge emphasizes how the seating can be reconfigured with in seconds with just one hand, and the Stow 'N Go system is standard on all but the base model (AVP). There is also under-seat storage in the second row for when it's not folded down. The optional roof rack system--called Stow ‘N Place--allows the cross members of the roof rack to be folded into the sides of the rack, improving the vehicle's aerodynamics and making it much easier to remove snow from the roof.

The base 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is called the AVP, for American Value Package. Families (or companies) that need or want basic 7-passenger transportation will find it here, with a bare-bones version of the AVP coming in at just $22,000. Reckoned by the pound or by the seat, this may well be the least expensive vehicle sold in the U.S. But that price does not include many of the things we now expect standard, such as Bluetooth or a compact spare, and Dodge deletes the nifty Stow ‘N Go seating in the AVP. There are two available options packages to bring those features back.

The Dodge Grand Caravan SE Plus is the value van that also comes with most of what one might expect in a base model: privacy glass, HVAC for each row, power windows in the second row and vent-style windows in the third, Bluetooth, and satellite radio. A DVD entertainment group adds a second row screen and headphones. The Grand Caravan SXT features power sliding side doors and the SXT Plus includes leather seats. Throw everything you can (including a compact spare) into the options list and your price will end up at about $35K. The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T is the sporty van in the lineup, with a re-tuned suspension that gives it more involved driving sensation.

Safety is paramount in family minvans. Dodge claims 55 safety features in the 2016 Grand Caravan, but many of those are either legally mandated (daytime running lights) or questionable in their significance (rain-sensitive wipers, remote keyless entry). One important safety feature is a rear cross traffic alert that helps enormously when backing the van out of a parking space or driveway--although surprisingly enough, a rear-view backup camera is only available in the top two trims. Perhaps the most significant new safety feature on the market is forward collision prevention (FCP), which helps prevent crashes and reduces the severity of the crash if it cannot be avoided. Dodge, however, does not offer this technology on its most family-oriented vehicle. The Grand Caravan was tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2015 and received the lowest possible score of Poor on the important small-frontal-overlap test, prompting the agency to issue a special bulletin, and Dodge has not announced any changes that could possibly improve this result. Compare this with the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, both of which have better crash ratings and offer FCP.

The Canadian-built Dodge Caravan will probably appeal best to those on a strict budget who are content with a seven-passenger van.

Updated

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. In the early 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric race car from scratch. In addition to his work at CarGurus, John covers automotive news at Torque News and GM-trucks.com and is a contributor to CarTalk and BestRide. Aside from all things automotive, John loves fishing and hockey, preferably in the company of his two boys.

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