The overall history of the minivan has been a rocky one. When it was first introduced in the early 1980s, the minivan was well received by the many drivers who appreciated its practicality and functionality. Touted as the perfect family car for many years, somewhere in the nineties, the minivan began to lose its appeal. Buyers still flocked to the segment despite the negative stigma that surrounded the minivan, as the pure pragmatism of the model won out over the harsh criticisms. Fast forward over thirty years later, and the minivan has endured. It has evolved and adapted to changing needs, with the main focus on improved convenience and styling enhancements. Today, one of the minivans that was the first on the scene continues with that adaptation, and is offered as the 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan.
How the Grand Caravan Defined the Minivan Segment
The Dodge Grand Caravan was one of the first minivans introduced to the American market, and has been a pioneer in developing the segment into what it is today. The Grand Caravan was first offered as a 1984 model, and featured seating for up to seven passengers. Dodge immediately stood out from other minivans available on the market, by offering removable second and third row seating for easily altered configurations. The still-utilized sliding side door allowed access to the rear seating area, but was only available on one side of the Grand Caravan.
In 2004, Dodge introduced a real game changer to the minivan segment. Now known as Stow ‘N Go Seating, this feature allowed the second and third row seating in the Grand Caravan to fold completely into the floor of the van. The technology that was engineered over many years earned several awards including the “Best of What’s New” for 2005 by Popular Science magazine.
In 2007, Dodge unveiled a new seating system known as the Swivel ‘N Go. This seating system allows the two second row captain’s chairs to swivel in order to face the third row. A detachable table came with the system, and could be placed between the third and second row. This unique system was a game changer in the minivan segment, especially when it came to long family road trips. Despite its promising future, the Swivel ‘N Go system was discontinued after the 2010 year. Even with its ultimate demise, it is this type of ingenuity that has kept Dodge at the forefront of innovation in the minivan segment.
The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Grand Caravan entered into its fifth generation back in 2008, receiving a complete makeover to mark the occasion. Both the 2011 and 2014 Grand Caravan models received updates, complete with new packages, amenities, and price tags.
The 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan was recently introduced to the market, and while it did not undergo any major revisions, it is a great contender in the segment. Starting at just $22,095 the 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is one of the less expensive vehicles in the segment, and in our opinion, it is also one of the best looking.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the 2016 Grand Caravan offers, and five reasons why we think it is the best minivan available for this model year.
Unique Seating Systems:
Dodge invented the now famous Stow ‘N Go seating system, which gives the Grand Caravan an obvious advantage over others in the segment. 60/40 Super Stow ‘N Go seating is available in both the second and third row of the 2016 Grand Caravan, ensuring that you have room to stow all of your important cargo. Even more unique is the Tailgate Seating, which allows the third row seats to completely flip to a rear facing position for the ultimate tailgating experience. Pop open the rear hatch, and enjoy the pre-game tradition, or a drive-in movie in comfort and with ease.
Class-Exclusive Entertainment Technology:
The 2016 Grand Caravan offers an available class-exclusive dual screen Blu-Ray and DVD entertainment system. With two flat screen displays that fold down from the ceiling, your second and third row passengers can enjoy two different entertainment experiences without having to argue over what to watch.
Automatic Temperature Control For Everyone:
The 2016 Grand Caravan offers a three-zone automatic temperature control system that allows for every row of passenger to select their ideal temperature setting. Ensuring maximum comfort for everyone that comes along for the ride, this feature will help keep complaints at bay, so you can enjoy the ride.
Wi-Fi Hotspot Connectivity:
Transform your 2016 Grand Caravan into a mobile hotspot with available Web by Mopar Wi-Fi connectivity. With a range of up to 150 feet, your minivan will keep everyone happy, even on camping adventures.
Dodge recognizes that safety is one of the most important considerations for drivers, especially in the minivan segment. Hauling your most precious cargo should be done in the safest possible way, which is why the 2016 Grand Caravan offers great safety features like a conversation mirror, blind spot monitoring, and a ParkView rear backup camera.
Trim Levels for the 2016 Grand Caravan
For the 2016 model year, all Dodge Grand Caravans come standard with a 3.6-liter V6 engine, a six speed automatic transmission, and a fuel economy rating of 25 miles per gallon on the highway. All Grand Caravan models also come with standard front-wheel drive, and seating for up to seven passengers.
Dodge offers the newest Grand Caravan model in four different trim levels, ensuring something for everyone, at nearly every budget. Explore below and discover an overview of each offering for the 2016 Grand Caravan.
American Value Package:
Starting at $22,095, this entry level Grand Caravan offers standard electronic stability control, four wheel anti-lock braking system, a conversation mirror, and premium cloth seating. SiriusXM Satellite Radio, dual-zone manual temperature control, and a rear window wiper are also included on this base model.
SE and SE Plus:
The next level up starts at $24,595, and includes the Stow ‘N Go seating system, a tire pressure monitoring system, three-zone manual temperature control, and a six speed automatic transmission. The SE Plus model adds $1,000 to the sticker price, and includes a leather wrapped shift knob, and a UConnect Voice Command system.
SXT and SXT Plus:
Starting at $27,795 and $28,895 respectively, the mid-level Dodge Caravan models include a Stow ‘N Place roof rack system, dual power sliding doors, a power liftgate, steering wheel mounted controls, leather trimmed seats, and 17-inch polished wheel.
The highest level trim level for the 2016 Grand Caravan starts at $30,995, and includes plenty of premium upgrades. A nine speaker sound system with subwoofer, leather trimmed bucket seats, a ParkView rear backup camera, power second row windows, a driver information digital display, automatic temperature control, and all season tires.
Choosing Your 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan
Deciding which Grand Caravan is right for you, comes down to a matter of preference and necessity. Whether you opt for the very basic American Value Package, or choose to splurge on the R/T model, every 2016 Grand Caravan is a high quality Dodge vehicle.
Extra packages can be added to Grand Caravan models, including the “Plus” package which adds enhanced interior trim, foglamps, automatic headlights, and a power driver’s seat.
Bottom line – the 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan is an exceptional option in the minivan segment, and truly offers a little something for everyone.
Well, it’s now been three years since we first touched on those ‘5 Reasons Why the 2016 Grand Caravan is the Best’ and – despite the fact that it managed to sidestep discontinuation and is still part of the same generation – we find ourselves curious as to how the 2019 Grand Caravan fares in comparison.
But, full disclosure, there’s really no love lost between myself and minivans. Ever since my older siblings used to cram me into the back of my stepmom’s ’86 Ford Aerostar and wouldn’t let me access the headphone jacks, I’ve had a problem with them (both minivans and my siblings). Glorified shoeboxes on wheels, their practicality might be appealing to some but (devoid of power and stripped of the joy of driving) I never planned to buy one. Not even when I became a parent. Simply put, I’m just not part of the target demographic for the minivan. So what changed?
Having recently had some work done on my vehicle (an equally practical rear-wheel drive 2011 Dodge Charger) I had no choice but to rent a vehicle one Saturday morning and had to settle for what they had left. And, of course, it was a Grand Caravan which I then proceeded to drive for the next four days. And while it certainly provided more space than I needed, it handled nicely, rode quiet and smooth and made me realize that I might have previously been a little too critical of minivans in general. Which brings us here…
Bridging the Gap (2017-18)
Transitioning over from the 2016 model highlighted in our earlier article, the Grand Caravan entered the 2017 model year with relatively few updates. Trim levels were refined to consist of the (base) SE, SE Plus, SXT, and top-of-the-line GT. In terms of notable features, the 6.5-inch touchscreen interface became standard equipment across all trim levels, with built-in navigation becoming standard on the GT and optional on the SXT. As we said, no major changes for 2017.
So it makes sense that U.S. sales are pretty much consistent between 2016-2017, circling around the 126,000 unit mark. There were really no major changes to compel prospective buyers one way or another, but within those numbers are two interesting points worth considering. First is the fact that (at 126,000 +/-) Dodge was selling about half the Grand Caravans they had been able to move fifteen years prior. No real surprise there, considering the growing popularity of crossover SUVs. But secondly (and arguably more interesting) is that the 2016 model year proved compelling enough to recover from lagging 2015 sales, increasing the number of units sold by about 30,000.
So, when FCA had announced their intention of discontinuing the Dodge Caravan after the 2017 model year, there was some question as to whether or not they were being penny-wise and pound-foolish. As of January 2017, that intention had become a little bit more cloudy. And despite a temporary suspension of production from September to November of 2017, it was revealed that the Grand Caravan would continue for the 2018 model year (upgraded with new safety features).
And the gambit seemed to pay off, with nearly 152,000 (2018) units sold in all. So let’s do a callback to the article that inspired this piece, and talk about the ‘5 Reasons Why the 2016 Grand Caravan is the Best’ (or has, at least, proven itself eminently drivable).
Enhanced Air Bag Protection
Despite being driven by chances to U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the Grand Caravan now features more protective airbags than the 2016 model previously discussed. Designed for low-risk deployment, a combination of multistage driver and front-passenger airbags feature front seat-mounted units and an inflatable knee blocker on the driver’s side. In addition, passengers seated outside of the cockpit can enjoy the assurance offered by protective side curtains. Additional safety features include (i) active front seat head restraints to minimize head, neck, and spine injury (ii) front and rear crumple zones and (iii) a high-strength steel safety frame.
Based on J.D. Power & Associates’ assessment of the minivan segment, the Grand Caravan stands as the ‘most versatile vehicle in its class, offering Best-in-Class storage system options in the most unexpected of places’. Considering that minivans tend to come hand-in-hand with family fare the convenience of cargo space and storage nooks is one of those unspoken amenities that prove handy in real-world usage scenarios.
Connective & Innovative Technology
Stemming from the discussion of family-centric demands, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the array of connective, multimedia and assistive technologies. First, it’s worth pointing out the convenience of touchscreen interface on the Radio 430 infotainment system. A high-resolution 6.5-inch screen can be configured with both (i) a CD/DVD player (with optional Sirius XM radio) and (ii) a Garmin Navigational System. The system also features Uconnect Voice Command and Hands-Free Calling, as well as the convenience of USB port connectivity. Bluetooth and smartphone compatible, the Grand Caravan really does offer a little something for everyone. And yes, there’s the convenience of headphones, and multi-zone volume control to help everyone enjoy the Grand Caravan experience.
When Dodge refers to the Grand Caravan’s performance as “robust” they’re really not exaggerating. A far cry from the lagging haulers of the past, the 2018 Dodge Caravan comes powered by a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that delivers an impressive 283 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque and the convenience of a 2000 LB towing capacity. Earning up to 25 mpg on the highway, the Grand Caravan strikes a surprising balance chord, proving itself an all-around competent performer.
Restating the Obvious
Even with full admission of my stubborn unwillingness to see the value in a minivan, a few days of driving one opened up my eyes a bit. The space, amenities, convenience, and practicality of the Grand Caravan make it an ideal consideration for any (and almost every) family. Granted, it may not be my cup of tea (or the perfect fit for everyone) but it’s hard to deny the appeal of everything that it has to offer. The numbers don’t lie, and it’s easy to see the manner in which it has once more reasserted its values in the eye of prospective buyers. It’ll be interesting to see if Dodge will choose to ‘stay the course’ with the Dodge Caravan, or decide to evolve it further for the sake of continued success. I’m not sure just how much further they can take the concept without blurring the lines between it and crossover SUV stablemates but, as is, the Dodge Grand Caravan managed to win me over.
So, needless to say, we’re more surprised than anyone by how much we actually like the 2018 Dodge Caravan. Resilient and clearly deserving of the reprieve it was afforded by Dodge, time will tell how much more time it has ahead of it. But based solely on sales numbers, we’d be hesitant to count it out anytime soon.