Jason Dion

Dodge Grand Caravan Wheelchair Vans From 2003 to 2012

Written by Jason Dion. Filed in Comparison Reviews

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The Dodge Grand Caravan through the Years

Dodge may very well make the best known minivan in the world. The Dodge Grand Caravan has instant name recognition, primarily because of its claim as one of the very first minivans invented. Dodge unveiled the then-new idea of a minivan in 1984 with the Caravan and its extended wheelbase sibling, the Grand Caravan. The Grand Caravan sold well and quickly became a favorite among wheelchair van drivers. It retains a great deal of popularity today.

Dodge has made a number of changes to the Grand Caravan over the last several years. The 2003 edition was available in multiple trim levels, featured two engine options–a 3.3-liter V6 and a 3.8-liter V6–and showed evidence of Dodge’s ongoing interest in providing a number of high-tech options by putting a factory DVD entertainment center of its list of optional extras. The 2004 Grand Caravan added a new tire pressure warning system and even more improvements to the stereo system and entertainment equipment. After another successful year, Dodge left the Grand Caravan basically unchanged for 2005.

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In 2006, they made a few improvements. This included changes to the passenger side curtain airbag system and increasing the strength of the minivan’s roof structure. 2008 featured a few new optional features, but mainly duplicated the 2006 version of the vehicle.

In 2008, Dodge decided to revisit the Grand Caravan. They completely redesigned the vehicle, updating it in terms of mechanics and appearance in an effort to fend off competitors who were making huge strides in the quality of their vehicles. The SE trim package kept the old 3.3-liter V6 and four-speed transmission, but the higher quality (and more popular) options used a more powerful 3.8-liter option and SXT drivers had an option to purchase a much more powerful 4.0-liter engine. These new and improved engines were matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The changes to the design of the vehicle, which made it slightly more “masculine” and SUV-like, were retained in 2009, along with the other redesigned elements of the vehicle. The 2009 Grand Caravan was a good looking minivan that boasted a long list of features and extras–a true gadget lover’s dream. Unfortunately, critics complained about its overall reliability and performance. Dodge may have rectified some of those performance problems in 2012, although the minivan mimics the 2009 edition in appearance and overall configuration.

An Overall Assessment of the Dodge Grand Caravan

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The Grand Caravan is the standard bearer of the minivan class. Even though Dodge has been losing market share over the last several years as competitors like Honda and Toyota improve their vehicles, the Grand Caravan remains the most recognized minivan option.

Recognition is not necessarily reflective of quality, however. Critics often complain about the overall quality of the Dodge Caravan. They’ve noted everything from minor complaints about cheap interior plastic pieces to more significant shortcomings with respect to overall reliability. The Grand Caravan retains less resale value than its competitors, a sure sign that long-term reliability may be lacking.

cheap interior plastic pieces many have complained about

Cheap interior plastic pieces many have complained about

 

The Grand Caravan does compete effectively in terms of overall price and available options, though. There’s nothing you could possible want in a minivan that you can’t get from Dodge. The base price of the Grand Caravan–before you start tacking on all of those extra features–will probably be much less than an equivalent minivan from another manufacturer.

The Dodge Grand Caravan as a Wheelchair Van

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The Dodge Grand Caravan has a large following in the world of wheelchair vans. Dodge’s minivans revolutionized handicapped accessibility, spelling the end of the full-sized wheelchair van era. Conversion manufacturers have been working with the Grand Caravan since its introduction.

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Most Grand Caravans are set up as side-entry, ramp-based vans. Some are converted for rear-entry with a ramp or an externally mounted lift. Other popular modifications include lowering the vehicle’s floor and installing an auto kneel system to improve access and safety. The Dodges are amenable to a variety of other alterations and the Grand Caravan’s roomy interior makes them an attractive option for those in need of a wheelchair van.

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However, the reliability and performance questions that hound the Grand Caravan have convinced many buyers to look at other options.

Is The Grand Caravan Right For Your Disability Needs?

If you want the best-performing wheelchair minivan on the road, you won’t buy a Grand Caravan. If you want a cheaper-than-usual option that offers a number of features and is easily customizable for wheelchair van use, you may want to consider a late model Dodge.

Dodge may have invented the minivan, but others are closer to mastering it. While it would be unfair to categorize the Grand Caravan as a weak or horrible accessible vehicle, most people will find other options more to their liking.

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About Jason Dion

Jason Dion

Jason was a professional test-driver is his last life and is now a full time Nurse in Seattle, WA and follows the changing landscape of Disability Rights and Advocacy. He is keen to assist in developing useful disability information and advice from his real-life perspective working with people with disabilities. Jason is an automotive guru and covers a broad range of topics, including disability automotive, health conditions and lifestyle advice.

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