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  • 2011 Dodge Caravan Mainstreet

    Posted on June 14th, 2011 ninarussin

    Minivan is a best value for active families

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

    In this challenging economic environment, families trying to maximize their  budgets should re-familiarize themselves with minivans. Few other vehicles with a seven-passenger capacity can match their value-pricing or fuel economy. The Dodge Caravan Mainstreet which I drove this past week is a case in point.

    Base price for the Mainstreet with fold-in-floor seating is $25,995, not including the $835 destination charge. The Mainstreet is not a base-level vehicle: convenience features include tri-zone climate control, remote keyless entry, a six-speaker MP3 compatible audio system, 12-volt power points front and rear, and power windows, mirrors and door locks.

    2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

    In comparison, the Ford Edge starts at $27,995 for the base model; the Chevrolet Traverse at $29,370; and the Toyota Highlander at $28,090. The 2011 Dodge Journey is less expensive, with the equivalent variant costing $24,445 without the delivery charge. But a third-row seat is a $1000 option.

    Since both second and third-row seats fold into the Dodge Caravan’s floor, it can haul some pretty serious cargo. When properly equipped, the Grand Caravan can tow up to 3600 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standards.

    In addition, the minivan’s aerodynamic profile makes it more fuel efficient than any comparably-sized sport-utility vehicle, as well as many crossovers. The Grand Caravan, equipped with the Pentastar V-6 engine averages 25 miles-per-gallon on the highway, according to EPA estimates.

    Entertainment options make the minivan commuter-friendly

    Buyers who use their minivans for daily commuting will want to consider the Uconnect package on the test car, since Bluetooth interface is not standard equipment. The $690 option also adds a USB port for plugging in an iPod or music stick.

    An entertainment package on the test car includes a rearview backup camera, which projects a wide-angle view to the back on the center stack screen when the driver shifts into reverse. Lines superimposed over the image show the car’s trajectory according to steering inputs. I strongly recommend the backup camera as a safety feature for parents of small children who might wander behind the car.

    The entertainment package also adds satellite radio, a rear seat DVD system, 115-volt outlet in back for plugging in a computer or games, headphones, a remote control, a 30 gigabyte downloadable hard drive and a touch screen display in the center stack ($1995).

    Power for the open road

    2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

    Power for the Grand Caravan comes from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 283-horsepower. Peak torque, 260 foot-pounds, is available from 4400 rpm, which is slightly over half throttle. When paired with the six-speed automatic transmission, the V-6 has enough power to keep the driver comfortable in typical urban traffic.

    Merging into high-speed traffic is quite easy, as is passing slower vehicles at speed. At 4500 pounds, the front-wheel drive Grand Caravan is lighter than some of the crossovers and sport-utility vehicles with similar passenger capacity. This contributes to its good gas mileage, and also gives it a more positive power-to-weight ratio.

    The manufacturer suggests mid-grade 89 octane gasoline for peak performance, but 87-octane fuel is acceptable. Since the primary purpose of octane is to prevent detonation, the lower grade gasoline is fine for most situations. Drivers should upgrade to higher octane when engine loads are high: for example, towing a trailer.

    A rack-and-pinion power steering system produces good response at all speeds. Steering response is on the soft side, which is to be expected from a minivan. The standard 16-inch aluminum wheels provide an adequate footprint for high-speed driving. Buyers who want to improve the car’s high-speed steering response can upgrade to available larger wheels.

    Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Grand Caravan in a firm, linear fashion.

    Visibility around the perimeter is quite good, with the obvious exception of the rear corners and the area under the back glass. Over-the-shoulder visibility is excellent, making it easy to monitor traffic in the adjacent lanes. Engineers did an good job of isolating passengers from road and wind noise, making it easy for those in all three rows to converse.

    Versatile interior

    Grand Caravan Interior

    The Stow ‘n Go seating technology on the test car has raised minivan functionality to a whole new level. It eliminates the need to remove seats from the car in order to maximize cargo space.

    The test car comes with standard cloth upholstery, which most active families will find to be more practical than leather. It’s easier to clean, and doesn’t get as hot in temperature extremes. Both first and second rows are equipped with captain’s chairs. The space between the second-row seats makes it easier to access the third row.

    All three rows of seating offer enough head and legroom for average adults. Standard tri-zone climate control enables all three rows of passengers to stay comfortable. Ceiling vents circulate air throughout the back of the cabin.

    There are numerous storage spaces throughout the cabin, including a double glovebox, map pockets behind the seats and in the front doors, bottle holders in all four doors, and a center console with four large cupholders. Third-row passengers have cupholders and open bins to either side of the seats, as well as a 12-volt power point and 115-volt outlet.

    I found both the gauge cluster and touch screen display easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. Bluetooth and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. The tilt-and-telescoping steering column enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag.

    A conversation mirror in the overhead console allows parents to monitor kids in the second row. Overhead reading lamps up front and a dome light in back illuminate the interior at night.

    With the third row seats in place, a deep well in back is ideal for loading up grocery bags or luggage. Grocery hooks behind the seats keep the bags from sliding around.

    The test car did not have a power lift-gate. I’m fairly tall, so it wasn’t a problem for me to reach the handle. But the struts which hold the door up are stiff. It might be difficult for smaller drivers to close the door, especially with one arm holding groceries.

    Standard safety

    The Dodge Caravan comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, active front headrests, and electronic stability control. Dodge builds the Grand Caravan at its newly refurbished plant in Windsor, Ontario Canada.

    Likes: A versatile, value-packed minivan with better fuel economy than many crossovers and sport-utility vehicles.

    Dislikes: Bluetooth interface is not standard equipment. Rear lift-gate is difficult to close with one hand.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Dodge
    Model: Grand Caravan Mainstreet
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $25,995
    As tested: $29,515
    Horsepower: 283 Hp @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 260 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes*
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 17/25 mpg city/highway
    Comment: *Requires optional towing prep package.

     

    146 responses to “2011 Dodge Caravan Mainstreet”

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