I had the opportunity (a.k.a. I rented it) to drive a 2019 Dodge Caravan GT for a week and this is what I think about my time with it.
As of right now, the only cars I get to “review” are the ones that I own (a 1999 Honda Civic, ) the ones my parents own, or cars I get to drive for a short stint on a whim. So, when the time came for our annual family vacation, the luck of the rental lot draw came up 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan GT which we’d use driving to Las Vegas, around the great city of Henderson, NV, and back to where we live in California. Here are all the things I loved and didn’t like with my time driving around in this stalwart of American family motoring.
Before I get started, the GT package was a bit confusing at first as, after a bit of searching, is not available on the 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan. What I got is indeed 2019 as the photo I took of the owners manual and the odometer reading of just 6,000+ miles confirms that. I can only assume that this is a rental special that Hertz buys in bulk. For all intents and purposes and looking at this trim level explanation, the top of the line GT trim level was dropped in 2018 and was one step above SXT so if you’re reading this, just assume GT means SXT plus other options.
First, what I didn’t like. Not a big deal to me but probably a big deal for people who actually might consider dropping some $30,000 odd dollars on this van is the styling. It looks dated, plain and simple. There was a Chrysler Pacifica, also on Hertz Rental’s R group of cars available that was parked out front, which we initially thought was going to be ours, but turned out not to be. That fresh design, quite obviously, looks light-years ahead of our rental.
Presumably, our Grand Caravan GT was optioned out with the Blacktop edition, a $595 option, which adds a blacked-out grille and headlights up front and special 17-inch alloys all around. Inside, there are black leather-like seats with silver accents, a leather-wrapped shift knob, an all-black interior, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. I’m not saying this Blacktop package made the Grand Caravan look modern but it’s a well thought out package that adds that bit of edge to the look of the Grand Caravan. And at that price, it’s an option pacakge with a lot of value. I might’ve caught myself looking back at the Grand Caravan once or twice to admire its blacked out front end and wheels.
Looks aside, the other stuff I didn’t particularly like was small. For one, the Garmin Navigation was slow to re-route me when I missed a turn and the voice commands don’t read out street names, a feature that ironically, even my ten-year-old Garmin Nuvi LM-50 can do, and, which is noticeably faster than this factory unit.
The driver and front passenger chairs seemed OK but the captain chairs in the middle, the armrests were too hard and thin for my liking. If I rested my arms on them too long, my arms got a bit numb, not particularly relaxing.
Also, I could not adjust brake and gas pedal height. Although there’s a cutout underneath the steering wheel for a pedal adjustment button, that option is not there on this particular rental van. I’m 5’8″ with average leg length given my height and I noticeably had to lift my foot a couple inches to depress the brake from gas, annoying in stop and go but livable and not a deal breaker if I was in the market for a van.
And the transmission, it tends to hunt for gears given tricky situations. After a bit of Googling, I found out that this transmission is a bog-standard 62TE six-speed transmission that’s remained relatively unchanged since this generation of Grand Caravan was introduced in 2008. When this transmission gets up to operating temps, this transmission shifts noticably harsher and, dare I say, slips a little, when giving it the beans, not something I want to feel in a new transmission. Perhaps this transmission programs itself to your driving habits after a couple thousand miles but that’s beyond me. This is a potential deal breaker if I do a bit more research and find out it’s a systemic problem with actual Grand Caravan owners. The fact that FCA has stuck with this unit says otherwise.
Now, for what I loved. Standard on the 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan and an engine I’m fairly familiar with is that sweetheart of a V6, the 3.6L Pentastar. I absolutely love this engine. Besides the Grand Caravan, I’ve driven a newer model Durango with the same engine and the amount of power and push is still there despite this being a FWD drivetrain. This. Van. Rips!
The tail of the tape is 283 HP at 6,400 RPM and 260 lb-ft at 4,800 RPM paired to a fairly OK transmission as mentioned above. Compared to 80 percent of the freeway traffic, I was not wanting for power even though I was driving around with three other people and all our luggage. When I depress the accelerator to almost WOT, the 6-speed automatic reacts accordingly and gives me the correct gear and all the horsepowers in that upper rev range to get this Grand Caravan moving. After all, this engine DID make JD Powers top 10 engines at one point.
Despite all that power, the Caravan returned good MPGs. I observed 24 MPG on the highway when I was apt to use cruise control and 18 MPG when I was driving around Henderson and caning it for passing on the freeway with disregard for efficiency. I did not use the ECO mode but I reckon I would’ve eked’d out another 1 MPG with ECO mode engaged.
The 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan is easy to drive. Despite this van being larger than a car and technically a full-size minivan, I could place it and maneuver it wherever I wanted, an inherent quality of vans but more so in today’s generation of Odysseys, Siennas, and Pacificas. Steering is quick and responsive and driving controls are intuitive. Thankfully, Dodge switched the shifter column up next to where the wiper stalk would be which is an upgrade over the turn knob.
Grand Caravan’s start at $26,650 and shopping briefly around the internet, that price seems to be on par with what to expect when actually looking for one to buy. The Dodge Grand Caravan is thousands cheaper than the competition but it has an aged exterior design and presumably, an interior that lags behind its competition. But, if you’re looking for a van that seats seven comfortably, can haul all your stuff, probably won’t hurt your wallet as it’s a design that has all the “kinks and bugs” worked out, and has plenty of power to boot, I can confirm that the Dodge Grand Caravan will work for you!
Let me know if you have any other questions about my one-week driving experience in the comments below.