Although it’s been overshadowed by the SUV as the symbol for family transport in third-millennium America, large numbers of families still opt for the arguably more functional minivan. Chrysler is widely credited with inventing the modern minivan and is now the only domestic manufacturer left in the game, as GM and Ford have effectively replaced their slow-selling minivans with three-row crossover SUVs. For the 2010 model year, the Dodge Grand Caravan and its slightly ritzier Chrysler Town & Country sibling, continue as strong players offering attractive seating and entertainment options to better compete with the remaining minivans from Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia.
With features like an available Swivel ‘n Go setup that configures into a table for four people and dual, independent nine-inch video monitors that can display DVD movies, video games or satellite-based SIRIUS Backseat TV, Chrysler’s fifth-generation minivan is the obvious choice for satisfying rear-seat riders.
Changes for 2010 include driver’s and front passenger active head restraints on all models, three-zone manual climate controls for the Grand Caravan SE and a new 3.16 final drive ratio for vans equipped with the 4.0-liter engine.
If you’ve found the ride and handling of other minivans too soft or too firm, you might appreciate the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan’s balance between highway comfort and around-town responsiveness. We also appreciated the much-improved steering and braking response from the optional sport tuned suspension package (SXT). Equipped with the 3.8-liter V6, the Grand Caravan had no problem transporting medium-size loads, but for an additional $700 and an actual improvement in EPA fuel economy figures we prefer our test vehicle’s 4.0-liter V6 option. We’d likely look elsewhere in the segment before settling for the 175-horsepower base V6. The Grand Caravan isn’t as nimble in parking lots as the exceptionally tight-turning Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Overall, we found the 2010 Grand Caravan much more satisfying from behind the wheel than its predecessors and commendable for a people-mover of its stature.
In addition to the comprehensive uconnect infotainment system up front, Chrysler’s newest minivan offers dual, independent rear video screens that allow second- and third-row passengers to watch two different DVD movies, play video games or even watch the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network Mobile via SIRIUS Backseat TV.
Swivel ‘n Go Seats
Although not without legroom challenges, the Swivel ‘n Go seating option, that comprises rear-swiveling second-row captain’s chairs and a hideaway, removable table, takes the concept of the rolling family room to a new level.
Sharing sheetmetal, powertrains and all but a few features, the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country are most differentiated by unique interior styling. Whereas the Town & Country combines wood-like and bright trim in conveying a more sophisticated persona, the Grand Caravan’s sportier gauge cluster and heavier use of black suggest a more athletic nature. Available conveniences include Stow ‘n Go and Swivel ‘n Go second-row seating, integrated child booster seats and a class-exclusive power-folding third-row seat. Loading and unloading is predictably easy and the accommodations are comfortable.
After more ovoid third- and fourth-generation models, the newest Grand Caravan returns to the boxier roots of the first couple of iterations – sans the fake wood paneling. The squared-up sheetmetal and prominent chrome trim give the 2010 model a look that’s bolder and more sophisticated at once, and counters the stereotypical minivan look. Power-operated side windows give second-row passengers a less claustrophobic ride, while the SXT trim provides a standard roof rack with integrated cross rails.
A base-equipped 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SE includes air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system, stain resistant cloth seating, Stow ‘n Go second-row seating and a 60/40-split fold-flat third-row seat. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability and traction controls plus front and three-row side-curtain airbags.
The Grand Caravan’s most sophisticated option is a hard-drive-based uconnect gps system that offers navigation with real-time traffic information and features MP3/WMA music and JPEG image uploading, auxiliary audio input, voice-recognition, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity and more. Other notable options include backup sensors and a rearview camera, Blind Spot Monitoring System and the Cross Path System, which warns of traffic crossing paths when backing up. Also available is a power liftgate, power sliding doors and power-folding third-row seat. Second-row seating options include rearward-pivoting Swivel ‘n Go seats, integrated child booster seats, and manual sunshades. A comprehensive entertainment system offers two independent video displays with a swivel third-row monitor.
The 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan no longer offers a four-cylinder engine, which is probably a good thing because we can’t even say we’d want to regularly haul around full loads with the base powertrain. Comprised of a 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed automatic transmission, it offers very little gain in the way of improved fuel economy. The lager V6 engines are teamed to six-speed automatic transmission which permits them relatively decent fuel economy with more power and smoother operation.
175 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
205 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (gas), 12/17 (E85)