Many people will look right past the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan. Weaknesses in last year’s model and reports of another underpowered minivan will lead them to buy more Odysseys and Siennas’.
That will be their loss. The new Grand Caravan is better built than last year’s edition and Dodge does offer a powertrain packages that offers surprisingly good performance.
The right 2012 Dodge Caravan can provide sufficient power, adequate performance and all of the features and extras you could ever need.
Looking at the Grand Caravan Handicap Van
Dodge went back to the drawing board in 2008 and decided to drop the Caravan completely and to focus on the extended wheelbase Grand Caravan. They dropped the old egg-shape body style in exchange for a more angled and aggressive look. While the SUV-ish exterior of the new Grand Caravan won’t be everyone’s favorite, overall critical reaction to the look has been positive.
The interior isn’t special. It’s plain and it offers plenty of space for Dodge’s multiple seating configurations. In some ways, the interior seems to be lagging a few years behind the exterior, but there’s noting about it that’s flawed, per se.
Driving the Grand Caravan
You can buy the base level SE or you can buy the upgraded SXT. If you’re behind the wheel of the SE, you’ll be disappointed. Its puny engine barely seems to push the Grand Caravan around and the four-speed automatic transmission isn’t a cause for celebration, either.
If you purchase the SXT, you’ll receive an engine upgrade and a six-speed automatic transmission. You’ll remain disappointed, too. The base SXT engine still won’t move you around properly.
However, if you buy an SXT and invest in the engine upgrade, you’ll have a hefty 4.0-liter V6 under the hood, generating 251 horsepower and finally giving you the passing power, acceleration and all-around muscle you need.
Nor can it rival the Sienna for highway comfort. It is, however, a pretty good all-around driver. It’s a minivan, and it doesn’t do a good job of disguising that. However, it handles acceptably and has some degree of responsiveness (thanks in part to the tuned suspension that comes with the 4.0-liter engine upgrade).
You may not be thrilled every time you get behind the wheel of the new Grand Caravan, but you certainly won’t dread the experience. It’s solid and it’s hard to have any real negative feelings about tooling around in the 2012 Dodge.
Modifying the Grand Caravan Into A Wheelchair Van
The 2012 Caravan makes a very good wheelchair van. It has everything you need for a top conversion. It offers plenty of space, has flexible seating options, is receptive to modifications and has a nice underlying foundation (when you’re working with the better engine package).
Most buyers will look to conversions performed by some of the top manufacturers. They transform the Grand Caravan into a side-entry ramp van. The conversion process usually involves dropping the floor, adding an auto knees system, providing a motorized power ramp and insuring that the vehicle has remote access power sliding doors.
That combination provides strong performance and great access. The Grand Caravan is also amenable to other modifications ranging from low- and zero-effort steering and braking packages to the use of EZ Lock wheelchair docking stations to the installation of transfer seats.
Overall, the 2012 Grand Caravan looks like another great wheelchair van option from Dodge. As long as the conversion company is working from the 4.0-liter base, they should be able to create an impressive, high access vehicle.
Options for the Grand Caravan
If you want it, Dodge has it. The Grand Caravan handicap van offers a wide range of features.
It comes in two trim levels, the SE and the SXT. The entry-level SE is really a non-starter due to the horrible choice of powertrain, but it does offer the basic assortment of features you’d expect including power accessories, cruise control and air conditioning.
The SXT ups the ante with a variety of additional extras. It comes standard with nicer allow wheels, power sliding doors, a power drivers seat and other goodies.
However, neither vehicle’s stock feature list will really impress you. That’s because Dodge has opted to strip the minivans down to basics and to provide the options in different packages.
Now, this is not the most convenient way to make things happen. It can add a great deal to the price tag and it can be frustrating to determine which options are really available for which trim level. Sit down with your dealer and find out what it’s really going to take to get what you want.
In the end, you will be able to get what you want. The option packages include a sunroof, leather interior, alternate seating arrangements, parking cameras, electrical outlets, iPod and Bluetooth compatibility, Satellite radio, upgraded stereo systems, sunshades, touch screen controls, integrated kids’ seats, heated seats, automatic climate systems, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, powered liftgates and rear entertainment centers with DVD players and access to a Sirius-provided package of satellite channels featuring kids’ programming.
That’s not everything, either. Overall, the 2012 Dodge Caravan offers more unique options than we’ve seen from any other minivan manufacturer at any time.
Safety and the Grand Caravan
You don’t need to worry about the Grand Caravan’s safety. The NHTSA and IIHS both gave it their highest possible scores in crash testing.
In addition to all necessary airbags, the 2012 Grand Caravan has traction control, stability control and antilock brakes. Various SXT options can improve the vehicle’s overall safety. The vehicle hasn’t been involved in any recalls at the time of this review’s writing.