Anthony Dixon

Disabled Drivers Take on 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan Wheelchair Van

Written by Anthony Dixon. Filed in Dodge Disabled Driver Reviews

2009-dodge-caravan-drivers-review

 

In 2008 Dodge did away with its Caravan minivan, opting to focus exclusively on the extended wheelbase Grand Caravan. The 2008 edition was a surprising improvement over past offerings and it seemed as if Dodge was making a serious run at producing a top-notch minivan.

The 2009 Grand Caravan is a step backwards and it’s now harder to tell if Dodge is interested in creating a “best in class” product or if it just feels obligated to produce a minivan because they invented the vehicle type.

The 2009 edition is uninspired. The 2008 body style remains intact and Dodge has a laundry list of clever features one can purchase for the Grand Caravan, but the minivan itself is unimpressive. Most variations are extremely underpowered and performance is lacking. Problems with workmanship further denigrate the value of the vehicle.

Dodge took a big step forward with the 2008 Grand Caravan. They took two steps backwards with the 2009 version.

Looking at the Grand Caravan

dodge_caravan_2009-c332af60ad0a965214971db5000cea7b

From the outside, the Caravan looks pretty good. It has a large, square-off look that differentiates it from the more car-like Honda Odyssey and other competitors. While appearance is always a subjective matter, most people would probably consider the Grand Caravan attractive.

The interior is big and plain. Dodge offers multiple seating arrangements for the Grand Caravan, but the actual design of the interior is the vehicular equivalent of an empty apartment. It’s bland and plain. That might not be a problem if it was well-built. Unfortunately, its plastic parts, outdated knobs and dull instrumentation feel flimsy and cheap.

dodge_caravan_2009-0dfc9478de0270fac73a8a4b7cec5da8

The interior just doesn’t pass a comparison test. Going from the Honda Odyssey or even the Toyota Sienna to the Grand Caravan is like going from a 4-star hotel to a Motel 6.

Driving the Grand Caravan

dodge_caravan_2009-4c4e630fbabbce61d5b5064f31f7a9a8

The Caravan could make up for its design weaknesses with outstanding performance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead, it’s generally underpowered and provides a driving experience that may have been acceptable in the late 1990s.

The base-level SE features an older Dodge V6 that only generates 175 horsepower. The Grand Caravan is a large minivan and that engine just doesn’t supply the pep or power necessary. To make matters worse, it’s married to a four-speed automatic transmission that fails to provide smooth, even performance.

The upgrade SXT comes standard with a slightly more powerful V6. It’s still inadequate, though. The use of a six-speed automatic transmission is a step in the right direction, however.

SXT buyers do have the option to spend extra in order to get a 4.0-liter V6 that generates 251 horsepower and that relies upon the same six-speed transmission. This is the only powertrain combination in the Grand Caravan stable that provide adequate muscle.

dodge_caravan_2009-ce2b08305552f6cb26c56afd0f0f70ec

In addition to being underpowered, the Grand Caravan doesn’t offer a responsive driving experience. The steering seems vague and even with the upgraded SXT suspension, it’s hard to get a real sense of the road. The Grand Caravan just doesn’t measure up to the competition. While other minivans are offering more car-like handling, the 2009 Dodge reminds drivers of the class’ last generation.

Modifying the Grand Caravan For Wheelchair Access

dodge_caravan_2009-3ae70467787c4306838bef1232a756cd

Dodge minivans have been the basis for thousands of wheelchair van conversions. The 2009 edition follows in that tradition and is amenable to both rear-entry and side-entry wheelchair van conversions.

While some buyers will choose a rear-entry configuration utilizing an external lift of a ramp for access, most will opt for the more popular side-entry modification.

Side-entry Grand Caravan wheelchair vans usually use retractable power ramps along with a lowered floor and vehicle kneel system. Power sliding doors round out the basics. The Grand Caravan handles all popular control and restraint modifications, as well.

dodge_caravan_2009-f989ebbd43fdb8510df2833c91cee042

The final product is a sufficiently spacious vehicle that provides easy access and that empowers disabled drivers to hit the road.

Unfortunately, that nice assortment of modifications isn’t built on a solid foundation. The aforementioned performance issues with the vehicle render it a substandard wheelchair van choice.

Options for the Grand Caravan

dodge_caravan_2009-2bd17cf6acada83d05e0a3f434cea2d5

If the 2009 Grand Caravan develops a fan club, it will because of the numerous optional features Dodge makes available. A fully-loaded Grand Caravan is part arcade and part daycare center. Dodge offers all of the technological gadgets one could want. Touch-screen controls, rear-seat DVD entertainment center with Sirius-provided children’s programming, MP3/CD stereo systems, iPod integration, Bluetooth capabilities, navigation systems, rearview cameras, parking sensors and overhead consoles with ambient lighting are only a few of the options Dodge serves up in a variety of packages.

dodge_caravan_2009-7ef184a4b97b2df4fe38def7c5bdb4b3

Choosing options can be complicated due to the way Dodge structures the packages, but it is possible to create an amazingly feature-rich minivan with the right choices.

The Grand Caravan comes in three trim levels. One, the C/V, is exclusively sold for commercial use. The SE is the base level variation and it offers a reasonably assortment of extras but suffers tremendously due to its weak engine and outdated four-speed transmission. The SXT offers a much wider range of standard options and is the more popular choice for most buyers. You won’t find the SXT missing any of the features you’d expect and you’ll find many that you may not have even known about (rain sensing windshield wipers, for instance).

Safety and the Grand Caravan

It’s easy to find shortcomings in the new Grand Caravan, but it does perform admirably in terms of safety. The front and side curtain airbags helped the 2009 edition to score the highest possible marks in NHTSA and IIHS collision testing. The Grand Caravan also displays good resistance to rollover.

In addition to airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control are standard with all Grand Caravans. Optional features like parking sensors and rearview cameras can further improve overall safety.

Conclusion
The 2009 Grand Caravan has been swept up in two recalls. One involved a handful of vehicles modified for wheelchair use by El Dorado National. There were concerns about brake line re-routing that justified a creation. The Chrysler group also recalled more than 6,000 vehicles, including some 2009 Grand Caravans due to concerns regarding an often-unused electrical connector that could corrode, posing a potential fire risk. Neither of these recalls was common among Grand Caravans and the vehicle should be considered safe.

Share this Article

About Anthony Dixon

Anthony Dixon

Anthony is a true disability vehicle enthusiast when he is not working tirelessly in a rehabilitation hospital in Houston, TX where he provides advice and training for the many concerned parents and caregivers. Anthony is the first step in finding the right rehabilitation advice for you or your loved one.

Browse Archived Articles by

No Comments

Comments for Disabled Drivers Take on 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan Wheelchair Van are now closed.