DaimlerChrysler's front-wheel-drive minivans were redesigned for 2005 and looked similar to their predecessors, but they differed inside. More than 15 new features debuted, led by the Stow 'n Go fold-flat-into-the floor configuration for the second- and third-row seats. The seats can be folded down with one hand in as little as 30 seconds.
Dodge's Grand Caravan rides a 119.3-inch wheelbase. Stow 'n Go seating is standard in the SXT model and optional in the SE. Dodge Caravans, which are built on a shorter wheelbase, cannot have Stow 'n Go seating.
New for 2006 are a BeltAlert system for both front occupants and a loose-fuel-cap warning. A new DVD radio plays CDs, MP3 CDs and DVDs. Chrysler's Town & Country is similar to the Grand Caravan but has a more upscale interior.
Dodge's familiar crosshair grille sits up front in a U-shaped design with black bars. The front fascia contains a molded-in license plate pocket and fog lamps. Aluminum wheels hold 16-inch tires on the SXT, while the SE rolls on 15-inch steel wheels.
All Grand Caravans seat seven occupants. The third row features a 60/40-split bench that can be folded partially or completely.
With Stow 'n Go seating, the headrests don't need to be removed in order to fold down the seats. When the second-row seats are upright, two storage bins with integrated lids can provide additional storage space. Standard cargo net bags adjust to fit each storage bin. Split-bench tailgate seating is made possible by flipping the third-row seat rearward.
The second-row seats move fore and aft 100 millimeters, recline up to 40 degrees and have 13 positions. The third-row seatbacks recline up to 39 degrees. By pulling a single strap, the second-row seat tumbles out of the way for entry to the third row.
Three adjustable, removable bins fit into an overhead rail system, and one can hold an optional DVD entertainment system's screen. With all seats stowed, the minivan can hold 160.7 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the Hood
A 180-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 is installed in the SE, and the SXT gets a 3.8-liter V-6 that generates 205 hp and 240 pounds-feet of torque. Both minivans are equipped with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes are standard. Optional side curtain-type airbags protect occupants in all three rows of seats. An inflatable knee blocker helps protect the driver. LATCH child-safety seat anchors are installed. ParkSense rear parking assist is optional.
Dodge and Chrysler minivans have for years set the minivan standard in ride comfort and driving ease. Despite recent new competition, these models still serve as benchmarks. Performance is energetic at low speeds with either engine, though high-speed acceleration is less vigorous. In addition to steering with a light touch, Grand Caravans excel in seat comfort, quietness and overall stability, though their reputation for construction quality has been less assured.
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