The resurgent minivan segment will get another fresh contender in the short-term future, as a significantly refreshed 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan is nearing its debut.
The biggest changes are inside the Grand Caravan, where Dodge designers have implemented the kind of highly competitive interior found throughout much of the 2011 Chrysler Group lineup. Interior versatility, a key consideration in this segment, has been increased with new features like a "super" center console with better functionality and improved storage solutions, more comfortable and larger Stow'n Go seats that are also easier to fold, and an increased use of premium soft-touch materials. For further comfort and convenience, the new Grand Caravan gets a new one-piece instrument panel with improved ergonomics, and up-scale touches like the minivan segment's first available heated steering wheel.
More significant improvements are on display under the hood, where the redesigned minivan will offer an all-new powertrain that includes the Chrysler Group's Pentastar V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission. The result is a significant bump in power over the Grand Caravan's outgoing 3.8-liter V-6: The new mill makes 283 hp and 230 lb.-ft. of torque as compared to the old one's 197 hp/230 lb.-ft. Just as importantly, this added power is counterbalanced by a number of enhancements that help deliver what Dodge calls the vehicle's "excellent fuel economy"'”although the automaker has not yet released EPA estimates.
These fuel savers include a driver-selectable Fuel Economizer Mode that changes the transmission's shift schedule for optimum fuel efficiency, as well as a lower ride height, premium low-rolling-resistance tires, a new spoiler, and brake calipers and rear bearings that have been re-engineered for reduced drag.
The exterior of the '11 Dodge Grand Caravan has been updated, too, and now showcases a bolder look that incorporates the Dodge brand's new, more aggressive design language. Among the changes are a fresh front fascia that's highlighted by the new Dodge "split crosshair" grille, a new hood and quad headlamps. At the back, the spotlight is on a more sculpted rear fascia and liftgate, accented by another new Dodge cue, LED "ring of fire"-style rear taillamps.
Also on tap for the Dodge Grand Caravan is an updated suite of safety and security features. Standard will be such measures as a new driver-side knee-blocker air bag and supplemental side-curtain air bags for all three rows. Further protection is available with the optional Safety Sphere package, which includes a rear park-assist system, a rear back-up camera, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection systems, rain-sensitive wipers, and automatic headlamps.
The 2011 Dodge minivan lineup will include four different models: The Dodge Grand Caravan Express, Grand Caravan Mainstreet, Grand Caravan Crew and Grand Caravan R/T. This last configuration, described as "the ultimate 'Man Van,'" is targeted as the place "where versatility meets performance and attitude."
The Express, Mainstreet and Crew models will reach Dodge dealers later this year, with the Grand Caravan R/T slated for release in the spring of 2011.