By on August 30, 2017

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan

Over the last few years, FCA’s long-term product plans have been, um, fluid. A great amount of “will they or won’t they” speculation is directed to the venerable Grand Caravan. The nameplate which invented a segment is a perpetual resident of the proverbial chopping block. Yet, sales remain strong.

Why? Well, the central tenet to this Ace of Base series is value, and a base model Grand Caravan has it in spades. Dodge minivans might be as cool as a dad in socks and sandals, but this SE brings a lot of value to the school zone.

Undoubtedly, FCA keeps the Grand(daddy) Caravan around simply because it sells exceptionally well and has likely paid for its tooling several times over. Last calendar year, the grandest of caravans outsold the Pacifica nearly two-to-one — compare the tallies of 127,678 to 62,366 sales. The spread in Canada is even more lopsided: that same year, FCA sold 20 GCs for every Pacifica that left the showroom – 51,513 and 2,560 units respectively.

Studying the specs, ’tis easy to explain the Grand Caravan’s popularity. It’s a cheap way to get into a 3.6-liter Pentastar-powered vehicle. Shoehorned into everything from Chargers to Wranglers, this is an engine which somehow manages to marry decent fuel economy, low running costs, and nearly 300 horsepower. Want to endure enjoy a night’s camping? This powertrain allows the Grand Caravan to tow 3,600 lbs. There are plenty of hard-sided camper trailers in that weight class.

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan

Seventeen-inch hoops on el-cheapo steel wheels aren’t the smallest tires in the world but the 225/65 size is easy to find at retailers and is often some of the cheapest 17-inch rubber available. Dodge generously offers up no-charge shades of Octane Red and the alarmingly named Contusion Blue instead of penalizing base model buyers with 50 shades of grey.

Tri-zone climate control allows sullen teens to set their own temperature in the rear compartment while parents enjoy their own meteorological spaces up front. Whatever mom and dad choose will be wrong anyway. The dashboard houses an infotainment unit which includes a 6.5-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, and a 28GB hard drive big enough for at least 5,000 of Raffi’s best MP3s.

A couple of 12-volt outlets pepper the interior and, as a father who’s cleaned up errant eggs after a drive home from the supermarket, I can tell you that the Grand Caravan’s grocery bag hooks are sorely underappreciated. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake. It is not leather wrapped at this price but does feature audio controls.

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan

Dodge’s build & price tool displays an MSRP of $25,995, but that figure can accurately be labelled as FAKE NEWS. Many dealers are pushing brand-new 2017 Grand Caravan SE models for less than $18,000. While it is true many of these advertised specials stack rebates on top of each other like Dagwood stacking sandwich ingredients, it would surprise the tar out of me if the average transaction price of a base Grand Caravan is over $20,000.

One particular dealer in Michigan has Grand Caravan SEs advertised for $17,343. To put that in perspective, the new-for-1991 Caravan, which pioneered several minivan firsts such as integrated child safety seats and a driver’s side airbag, would have had to sell for a mere $9,650 to equal the 2017’s value proposition when adjusted for inflation. A well-equipped 1991 Caravan SE, powered by a 3.3-liter V6 and taking 10.8 seconds to reach 60 mph, stickered for $18,437.

Viewed through that lens, this machine is a remarkable value. So long as the Grand Caravan escapes the executioner’s guillotine, it earns its spot on our Ace of Base list.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Not every base model has aced it. The ones that have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown with American options and is priced in American dollars absent of freight and available rebates – extensive rebates, in this case. As always, your dealer may sell for less … much less.

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33 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SE...”

  • avatar
    Sam Hall

    $18k for a loaded (by the standards of just a couple years ago) GC? I just paid $17k for my Escape SE. Methinks we are in the middle of an epic new car production bubble.

    That said, our T&C of this generation has treated us well, with just a couple of minor irritants that, for what we paid for it (back in 2010) I can forgive.

  • avatar

    We’re actually rather seriously looking at a slightly used T&C variant of the venerable FCA minivan. It isn’t exciting, but the stow-n-go seats appeal heavily to us as we haul quite a few kennels and such now a days for my daughter’s dog shows. Throw in the DVD player in the back and enough power to cruise in reasonable comfort and it becomes hard to beat for its intended use. Funny thing is, a few years ago we were empty-nesters and looking forward to something more “sporting.” Want to make God laugh? Tell Him YOUR plans. Along comes the adoption of our (then) 10-year old niece from a troubled home life and…BAM! Now we’re looking at “uncool” minivans to ferry three people, one (soon to be two) dogs and all of the associated gear. Even a few years old, these have depreciated pretty substantially.

    It’s hip to be square…

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Much respect to you, threeer

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @threeer: Great post and I certainly agree.

      Having spent the last few years without a true minivan (have a Rondo microvan) after having at least one in the driveway continuously for over 20 years, I ‘lust’ for another one.

      Since trading our last one, I have had to rent vans, minivans and/or pickups on a semi-regular basis to perform tasks that I routinely used our minivans to take care of. Plus there are many times when we have had to take 2 vehicles or fit 5 adults into a sedan/CUV, when a minivan could have carried all, in comfort.

      For such an ‘old’ model with the tooling and design costs long since amortized, I just wish that FCA would invest in some better parts, perhaps increase the length of the warranty and offset these with a minor price increase. Surely more would purchase one of these if they had better reliability scores?

      Finally is the SE the base model? What about the AVP/CVP that I see advertised on occasion?

  • avatar

    Good deal for most. Two acquaintances have one of these for hauling the family, and just about anything else. They’re inexpensive with great power & good mpg too.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    $18K new vs. an 80K mile Sienna with dried kiddie puke in the carpet? Sold!

    I’ve yet to meet a genuine three row vehicle that is appealing, so I may as well spend as little as possible on one. Curious about reliability and operating costs at the 15 year mark, though, because I’d want to purchase one of these damnable things only once and have it last the duration of the kid hauling years.

    • 0 avatar

      If you want to purchase only once and have it last through your kid hauling years, you’re much better off opting for the 80k kiddo puke Sienna.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, except no.

        I’ll take a new car warranty over “but its a Toyota!” anyday.

        • 0 avatar

          Warranty is little comfort when you’re driving the kids to Disneyworld in your 2 year old Caravan and the transmission self-destructs 800 miles from home.

          • 0 avatar

            While I’m sure the Grand Caravan horror stories are real, I don’t think they are that common. Even if a Sienna is slightly more reliable and durable than a Grand Caravan, I doubt the difference is sufficient to offset 80k miles. I would expect an 80k Sienna to have higher repair costs than a brand new Grand Caravan; even if the Sienna was practically perfect in every way, it would still require wear items like tires and batteries sooner, and of course, it would be out of warranty.

            I see a fair number of 10+ year old Mopar vans on the road, so it is possible to keep them running. If a new Grand Caravan was maintained carefully and fixed properly with quality parts when things break, I don’t think it would be a stretch to keep it on the road for 15 years. It might require a few more repairs than a brand new Sienna over the same time period, but I have a hard time believing the difference in the present value of future repair costs (if any) would come anywhere close to the difference in initial purchase price between the two vans.

            The point is moot for me though, as I don’t often need a van. When I did need one earlier this year, I was able to get a nicely equipped Sienna for $39.95 / day with unlimited mileage – in my case, that’s an even better deal than a base Grand Caravan…

  • avatar

    The f, they seriously named the blue…contusion???

    Why stop there? That time of the month red. Ray Rice right hook to the eye Black. Etc Etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Contusion Blue carries the same paint code as Chrysler Jazz Blue– branding has it’s limits and what you see here is that limit being exceeded to meet some executive’s ‘clear branding is imperative’ edict.

      \\ lol

  • avatar

    I have a list of Cars That Don’t Make One Whit Of F**king Sense To Me, and loaded-up minivans are on it. I have no idea why anyone would drop upwards of fifty grand on a vehicle that ends up like a rolling toilet training module. If I had to buy a van, it’d be as cheap as possible.

    The “get off my lawn” guy in me also thinks that kids should be reading or communicating with each other in the back seat, not watching movies or playing on phones.

    • 0 avatar

      Could not agree more. Our Odyssey suffers serious abuse hauling everything you can imagine on a fairly regular basis — kids, animals, bikes, camping gear, firewood, lawn mower (once a week to mow the parent’s lawn), furniture, junk, you name it. If anything I’d like an even more basic version, with rubber mat flooring like my 93 Ranger had, and vinyl seats that are all easy to clean. Ours has cheapo tan carpet and cloth that’s full of stains.

    • 0 avatar

      Because you married Cinderella who wants a horse drawn coach instead of a pumpkin coach, for her precious little ones.

  • avatar

    If I had a family and was on a middle class budget this would be my pick. Why drop 40+K on a Honda or Toyota when the kids and dog are going to destroy the hell out of it?

    Pocket the savings, but put enough away for transmission failure at 50K plus miles. Heck buy each kid an ipad with the savings and now everybody is happy.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure about transmission failure – the new 6 speed is pretty good. We abused the crap out of our ’08 w/ 3.8 (same transmission) and it was fine at 75K+ when we traded it in. Talked to the transmission shop in ’15 about them when my Legacy’s front diff was being rebuilt, and he said they have barely seen any of the new 6-speeds – that they seemed like a decent/good unit compared to the older ones.

      Plus, with the better suspension, our ’15 T&C is actually not-totally-unfun to drive. The slushbox will nearly redline each gear and downshifts reasonably well – you can easily outrun most sedans/hatches/CUVs with < 200 hp. Up and down the mountains to Vegas or Tahoe – if you manually shift and keep the revs up, it's not bad for passing many slower cars.

  • avatar
    Matt Posky

    This is the finest Ace of Base ever written.

  • avatar

    I agree. I had no idea there was a vehicle with this capability and these features available for less than $20K. FCA caveats apply, but come on!

  • avatar

    I’ve rented and borrowed plenty of both Caravans and T & Cs, and I like everything about them —the way they look, the way they drive, the practicality and utility; plus the idea of an $18,000 new van is hard to resist. Then I remember the horror stories I’ve heard from literally every single person I know who’s owned one. When my current Odyssey craps out I’ll be spending my $18,000 on a used Honda or Toyota van instead.

    • 0 avatar

      I just rented the Grand Caravan to transport 7 of us (2 families) from San Francisco to Oregon to catch the solar eclipse! Not sure of the trim level, but it wasn’t base. Alamo set us up with a nice one — automatic sliding doors, alloy wheels, bluetooth, but no Nav.

      The cargo capacity was amazing. Each of us had a roller bag (the kind you take on airplane) along with a small backpack. All 7 bags fit behind the 3rd row, but we had to play tetris a bit. With the secret storage under the 2nd row seats, we were able to stow everything else and ride with leg room.

      The drive was 10 to 12 hours, but at the 2.5 hour mark, we found the seats were just not very comfortable. The roads were hilly and winding (we took I5-N), and the manner in which the transmission coped made it feel like a CVT. In the end, I started using manual mode, but even that wasn’t very satisfying. We averaged 22.5 mpg.

      Despite some negatives, I “get” this vehicle. While not very good for long road trips, it excels at quick getaways for large groups with lots of gear.

  • avatar

    Coincidentally, I recently learned from a differently-abled friend that Dodge Grand Caravans are very common among buyers of wheelchair vans.

    Note to Editors: Perhaps consider doing a story on such vehicles or others that are modified to specific uses. What models may be at risk of ending production that would negatively impact a particular niche or conversion market.

  • avatar

    With a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds I can attest to them being quick on their feet. My friend has a 14 GC AVP. My god can that thing haul some serious ass. I call it the Dodge Charger with sliding doors. Hammer it from a dead stop and it’ll blow the tires off until you hit third. Jump on it on the freeway and it’ll drop to fourth and just keep pulling till sixth. Once it hits sixth though it’ll still keep pulling. The AVP (American Value Package) is honestly the proverbial light weight of the line because it’s not weighted down by any extras, like power doors or liftgate. Still decently loaded though with the basics, Air con, power windows and locks, keyless entry and cruise control. Plus the UConnect 130 sounds really good for a base sound system with 6 speakers and it really rides nice thanks to the standard touring suspension.

  • avatar

    “One particular dealer in Michigan has Grand Caravan SEs advertised for $17,343.”

    Go back and read the small print. If it’s a Michigan dealer, that price probably requires the buyer to qualify for a FCA employee discount of some kind. Almost all of the dealer ads in Detroit are priced for employees, not just the FCA dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget the destination charge, too. $1000 or close to it, maddening when the thing is assembled in Windsor, nearly within walking distance of downtown Detroit. I’ve given up on reading car ads around here. Look up Chicagoland or mid or southern Ohio car ads as they make more sense to a retail buyer.

  • avatar

    I occasionally borrow my in-laws’ GC for hauling stuff. It’s a solid vehicle that stands up to a lot of abuse, and the Pentastar V6 is no joke.

    Growing up, my family owned a series of 4 ChryCo minivans ranging from 1985 – 2004. We had each one for around 8-10 years, with the exception of the ’85 Caravan, which was traded for a new ’88 Grand Voyager when the long-wheelbase V6 model was introduced. They gave good, solid service and stood up to 4 growing boys and the associated shenanigans and pet dogs. We never even lost a transmission, the only major problem I remember was the fuel injectors on the Mistubishi 3.0 that powered the ’88 Plymouth.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Definitely an Ace of Base. Best one yet. You can’t get much more value than this if you need cheap family wheels….

    Use the savings for an extended warranty.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Now I am upset. This article reminded me of how much I want a Caravan so I went to the Dodge Canada website. It lists the starting MSRP at $30,495!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now I have seen Caravans advertised regularly at around the $21k mark this this summer and below that in 2016.

    What kind of scam is FCA trying to run in Canada????

    Why the heck should someone have to work to negotiate nearly $10k off of a vehicle at the dealership?

  • avatar

    Currently at a Victoria Dodge dealership for a 2017 GC SXT:

    Dealer MSRP Price $42,060
    Dealer Price $23,716

    You wonn’t have to work too hard.

  • avatar

    I may be wrong, but I think this is the cheapest new vehicle that can haul 4×8 sheet goods (barring the use of a roof rack, utility trailer, or other add-ons). You won’t be getting a new half-ton pickup for under $20K unless you’re a fleet buyer, and of course all the full-size SUVs are much more expensive than that.

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