Dodge Grand Caravan Performance
Reviewers dismiss the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan's base 3.3-liter V6 engine as underpowered, but love the optional 4.0-liter V6 in the high end SXT model. "The topline Grand Caravan SXT," says Motor Trend, "cruises almost without wind noise, steers with strong feel, deftly balances a compliant ride with good body control, and -- thanks to its new engine and six-speed automatic -- serves up forward motion like a luxury sedan."
Other aspects of the Grand Caravan's performance do well with reviewers, especially the smoothness of the ride and the lack of road noise in the interior. The Grand Caravan has "[i]mpressive road isolation, with even larger bumps taken with poise," says Consumer Guide. Edmunds says simply that the Dodge Grand Caravan "is among the top two riding/driving/handling/accelerating vans on the market."
Acceleration and Power
The base model Grand Caravan SE has a 3.3-liter V6 engine that The Car Connection says "produces an anemic but acceptable 175 horsepower and 205 lb-ft of torque." Consumer Guide, which did not test the base engine, predicts that it "will be overwhelmed by the Caravan's approximately 4500-pound curb weight." About.com says that the "3.3 has flex-fuel capability, meaning it can run on E85, but that's the only nice thing I can say about it -- its 175 horsepower is nowhere near enough for the 4,321 lb. Grand Caravan." The Environmental Protection Agency has not rated the fuel economy of this engine.
The high-end Grand Caravan SXT comes with a 3.8-liter V6, which does better with reviewers. The Car Connection feels that this engine is "reasonably peppy and though some would argue that its overhead-valve technology has had its day, it's acceptably smooth and responsive." About.com, however, feels that the "3.8 liter engine is only a bit better" than the 3.3-liter engine. The EPA rates this engine at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
The 4.0-liter V6, optional on the SXT, receives the most praise. "In terms of performance," says The Car Connection, "it's easily the best engine Chrysler has ever offered in a minivan and arguably as good as we've seen in the segment." However, the same reviewer complains that the engine "was a little raspy under wide-open throttle. It's a disease that has long plagued Detroit six-bangers, for reasons we can't discern, like an athlete gasping for breath, even as he maintains stride." The EPA gives this engine the same rating as the 3.8-liter: 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.
The first two engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission, but the 4.0-liter gets a six-speed (available as an option on the 3.8-liter). "The new six-speed automatic transmission is a first in a minivan," says Cars.com, "and should provide both good acceleration and good gas mileage, though figures aren't yet available."
Handling and Braking
Reviewers generally like the Grand Caravan's handling. "The ride was so soft that I expected the handling to be terrible," says About.com, "but when the straight roads turned curvy I was surprised at how well the Grand Caravan clung to the pavement." Consumer Guide finds the handling fairly car-like: "Despite their overall size, these big vans are little more difficult to drive than a midsize sedan. Body lean in corners is fairly pronounced, though 4.0-liter models feel less tippy thanks to the [optional] sport suspension."
The Grand Caravan's steering gets mixed reviews. "This is no sports car, let's be clear," says The Car Connection. "Steering is a bit numb, though the new minivans offer good on-center feel and handle surprising well on the tight and twisty backroads we want wandering during our day-long drive." About.com feels that the steering "is less precise than the old [previous model] van."