The year was 1983, and Chrysler was frantically trying to piece together a lineup of vehicles that would help them pull out of the economic tailspin that had caused them to restructure their entire company and also seek the financial assistance of the federal government. Under the guiding vision of Lee Iacocca the company would bring out not only a fleet of small, fuel efficient automobiles but also change the face of the modern automobile market forever with the release of the minivan. Sold as 1984 models, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager would usher in a new era of family transportation that would almost completely wipe out the traditional station wagon and boost sales at Chrysler so dramatically that they would quickly return to liquidity.
The Dodge Caravan bore the same tall, square styling as traditional full-size vans but was built on a much smaller front-wheel drive chassis that enabled it to use frugal, low-displacement 4 and 6-cylinder engines. The chassis also provided for a more comfortable ride. The minivan was a revolution in terms of providing drivers with an efficient method for the transportation of large amounts of cargo - with the rear seats removed, most vans could easily cram in more gear than their wagon rivals thanks to increased ceiling heights and a low load floor. The flexible seating arrangements also meant that families could customize the interior of their minivan to reflect the exact number of passengers that they needed to carry, making it easier to arrange suitcases and sports gear around the individual rows of seating.
Dodge would continue to evolve the Caravan over the next twenty years, as the increasingly competitive minivan segment became crowded not only with domestic vehicles but also innovative vans from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda. These companies were determined to observe the market and synthesize the best aspects of available minivans and apply them to their own unique designs. As time went on, vans would become more car-like and provide a driving experience that had more in common with a sedan than did earlier efforts, but through it all the Caravan managed to continue to remain near the front of the pack. This article examines the best used minivan from Dodge and makes a case as to why it should still be considered by families looking for a secondhand minivan to complement their fleet of vehicles.
2001 - 2007 Dodge Caravan / Grand Caravan
The 2001 - 2007 Dodge Caravan (also available in Grand Caravan long-wheelbase form) continues to impress when it comes to offering new and interesting minivan features. Perhaps the most useful interior development brought forth by the Caravan in the past decade has been the Stow'n Go seating arrangement. Available from 2005-onwards, Stow'n Go allows van owners to fold both the second and third row of seating into the floor to form a completely flat loading area that in no way compromises available interior room. Not only does this feature represent a significant leap forward by replacing the need to lift bulky seats in and out of the van, but its operation is quick and simple, requiring no elbow grease. This feature has been widely copied throughout the industry. The second row of seats can also move forwards and backwards to provide passengers with better leg room, a useful feature especially with the third row of seats neatly folded away. Even in vans which date before 2005, there are generous amounts of room for all passengers and a huge amount of cargo space available even with the seats in place, especially in the Grand Caravan.
Base 2001 - 2007 Dodge Caravans make use of a peppy 150 horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, with the option of upgrading to a 180 horsepower 3.3-liter V-6. The 3.3-liter unit is also the standard engine in the Grand Caravan, and a 3.8-liter, 215 horsepower power plant serves as that vehicle's range topper. All-wheel drive was available on the Grand Caravan until 2005, and all editions of the van come with either a 3 or 4-speed automatic transmission.
For those who need a reliable, economical and well-designed used minivan, the 2001 - 2007 Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan make an inspired choice.