As I’m not paid by the word, I won’t explain why I drove three teenage girls to, around and back from Montreal over the Easter weekend. Still, it is an interesting way to rate the top-of-the-line 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan from the point of view of my inner soccer mom. Yes, she’s got some crow’s feet but is still hot in her Lulus, and let’s not forget the influence women have over car purchases.
A warning if you’re the type who views minivans as spiritual vasectomies: This type of vehicle is a good buy. So, unless you want a fire-engine-red end to your childhood gracing your condo parking spot, you may want to close this screen when your girlfriend walks into the room.
Up high, she feels in control
You can see almost everything here, but be aware of that definite blind spot. The Grand Caravan cruises very easily at high speeds. You barely register the movement — it’s a cocoon. (Meaning: a very comfortable ride, no precision sport tuning here.) It’s almost understandable how some soccer moms become careless even at great speeds.
Despite the cushioned ride, the Grand Caravan performs well. The V6 engine sports more than enough power for passing. Plus, despite being huge — it seats seven with loads of elbowroom — the Dodge is mostly air and, more importantly, very aerodynamic. So, the handling’s easy. (An aside: 22 years ago, when this same inner soccer mom barely had whiskers, she had a radio promo gig, driving a Ford Aerostar, which behaved like a sail. In strong winds, we’d suddenly find ourselves in the next lane, honked at and saluted with middle fingers.)
Timesaving conveniences: They’ve considered their audience
The all-in-one key fob double-clicks open and shut both side-sliding doors and the back gate. Why do these matter? Easy access to the seats at chest level — no unnecessary bending for Mom’s sore back. Double-click that same fob for remote start from the kitchen. The action also automatically heats the steering wheel.
There are family-friendly conveniences everywhere you look. Consider the cup-holders alone: enough for the whole team twice over, which is good because with a busy family, those cloth seats could quickly become fragrant. Our luxury package contained a DVD player with two ceiling-mounted drop-down screens, one for each of the back rows. (Another aside: A return trip to Montreal from Toronto at the speed limit is just enough time to complete the entire first season of Gossip Girl.) They’ve thought of it all: parking camera, climate control for front and back, directed lights, there’s even a flashlight you can pop out of the inner wall in the roomy trunk. Speaking of which…
You could live in it, if you’re organized
Think cupboards. There’s enough storage space in the Dodge Grand Caravan for your girlfriend’s shoes, even enough for three teen girls on a long weekend road trip to Canada’s fashion capital (no that’s not an oxymoron). Smugglers will love the caches beneath the floor. Parts of the ceiling and every inner door are contoured for storage. There’s heaps of cargo (vango? Van gogh?) space behind the third line of seats, which itself flattens for even more space. Got a dog? No problem. A row down the centre, reminiscent of an airplane, makes it easy to access and see everything.
Cruise control encourages a welcome 7.9 L/100 km on the highway but, contrary to the blue-collar populist words of wisdom of that guy who looks and sounds like Bryan Adams with a hangover, life is no highway. 12.2 in the city is sobering, but also about right for the class and, if you’re podding out, probably not enough defence should your girlfriend actually read this and you ‘decide together’ to purchase one.
Nonetheless, with head high, you can remind your sniggering friends that not only will they live to regret being single and childless (decades from now, mind you) but also that your Dodge Grand Caravan is a Consumer’s Digest 2011 Best Buy.
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan
Base price: $33,995
As driven, blinged out: $43,445
Image courtesy of Automotive Rhythms.