Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Review
The 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT is a bland, blend-into-traffic ovoid. Despite ten years of mechanical innovation and evolution, the Dodge (and its sibling the Chrysler Town & Country) is still a dead ringer for the very first minivan. It still has about as much road presence as a Budget rental car.
Even so, the Grand Caravan has a message for all those NASCAR dads and soccer moms who left ten-foot-pole marks on the genre, opting for the go-anywhere machismo of towering, gas-guzzling sport-utes: come back, all is forgiven. If you can get over your image issues, the SXT is by the better beast for real-world parenting. Let's start with soccer…
The Grand Caravan can haul the designated driver and six aspiring Renaldos with ease. The recessed space behind the back seat will hold all the necessary balls, pads and bandages. So far, so Nissan Armada, or any other seven-passenger sport-ute you can name. But wait! There's more! How about a little under-floor storage?
With all the seats fully deployed, the Caravan's two middle-row floor bins will hold 24 bottles of sport drink (in a Mopar-designed picnic cooler) PLUS a grocery bag of after-game sugars and saturated fats. Kick the kids out onto the field, swing the rear seats all the way back, pop open the tailgate, hop on, and you can watch the game from the dry, shaded comfort of the Caravan's rear gate. When it comes to exploring the great outdoors, advertisers love to show their gigantic SUVs ripping up the uncharted outback in search of virgin nature. Yeah, right. At worst, you'll be tooling down a gravel road in a state park, dodging motor homes while hunting for campsite 46.
By removing all that extraneous AWD gear, Chrysler created space for their new "Stow-'n-Go" seats. Simply fold the rear seats into the recess behind them and you've got room enough for all the camping equipment needed to transform Mother Nature into your very own outdoor living room.
What about those inevitable weekend commutes to Home Despot? Tuck the rear seats into the floor, fold the middle seats into the stowage bins, and ta-da! You're flat floor van man. You can stash a month's supply of paper towels, toilet paper and laundry soap into the Grand Caravan's cavernous containers and still have room to schlep a backyard playhouse.
[From the "How Do They Do That" department: Chrysler made the seats small enough to tumble into their basement hideaway by upholstering them with the same material NASA developed for the space shuttle seats, now used to make Tempurpedic ™ mattresses. It's serious cushy stuff.]
OK, so the Grand Caravan is a Swiss army knife for the Swiss family Robinson. But SUV drivers accustomed to V8 muscle will want to know if this egg crate can handle and accelerate. Yes and no. The Caravan will cope with wavy pavement and tight exit ramps without making passengers reach for the barf bags. No surprise there: the Grand Caravan sits nine inches lower than SUV's like the Armada. This lower center of gravity, combined with the optional stiffened suspension, give the Caravan car-like aplomb. And safety. You'd need a tire jack to tip over this sucker.
The Grand Caravan SXT is motorvated by a 3.8-liter V6. The engine generates 215 hp at 5000rpm. These days, there are golf carts with more power. The 4252lbs. Grand Caravan staggers to sixty like a middle-aged smoker, eventually arriving after nearly ten, long, seconds. On the positive side, give this premium Dodge van a swift kick in the sides and she'll merge onto the highway with relative ease.
With 245 lb-ft of torque on tap at 4000rpm, the minivan can also climb the streets of San Francisco without holding up traffic– much. [The website touts the fact that the Caravan's transmission was taxi-tested in The City by the Bay.] Specify the trailer-towing package and the Dodge Boy's top van can haul 3800 lbs of trailer-born snow-mobiles, motorcycles, wave runners or other environmentally friendly lifestyle gear.
In a straight drag race between the SXT and an SUV…what, are you kidding? Let's just say the last one to the gas pump wins, and you know who that's going to be. The EPA claims the Caravan gets 21mph in the city, 27mpg on the highway.
If you're still wondering why any parent who cares about automotive street cred should pick a Dodge Grand Caravan SXT over a butch sport-ute, let's talk money.
Even with all the options (including a DVD player), the Grand Caravan's price stays under $32,000. That's about $8k below the price of the any large sport-ute. With the money saved, buy a go-kart for your kids and enroll them in a good driving school. If that doesn't make you feel like a NASCAR dad, nothing will.
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