In 2009, you could get a well-equipped Dodge Caravan for less than $22,000. This made it one of the best-selling vehicles in Canada, and the plant in Windsor, Ont., was churning them out; around the clock – three shifts a day, every day.
What you got for the money was a roomy minivan with 4,430 litres of interior storage space, seating for seven, and most of the modcons and standard features you'd expect in this market.
Air conditioning, power door locks, keyless entry, one-touch-down driver's side power window, 76-litre fuel tank, block heater and so on all came standard. There were also nifty little storage hideaways under the floor and 60/40 folding rear seats. Chrysler's slick Stow 'N Go seating did not come with the base model, however. For that, you had to climb up the model range and found yourself confronted with Chrysler's group therapy.
Let me explain. Chrysler has always liked to package its extras in the form of groups, and you could choose from, oh, the "climate group," which included three-zone air conditioning, or the "travel convenience group," which gave you additional lighting in the back row of seats as well as a special centre console and rear window shades. If you opted for the popular "Canada Value Package," you got the climate group, plus power sliding side doors and various other bits and pieces. This was the company's most popular model. This edition of the Grand Caravan also featured the dashboard-mounted gearshift lever, which, depending upon your point of view, was either a mistake or superior to the traditional steering column-mounted shifter.
In 2009, the company also deep-sixed the anemic 3.8-litre pushrod V-6, and replaced it with a much more useable 4.0-litre overhead camshaft powerplant that had slightly more than 250 horsepower on tap. This gave the Grand Caravan more get up and go, and better power delivery.
Available with a six-speed automatic only, this engine was optional. A 3.3-litre V-6/four-speed automatic with a FlexFuel option was the base powertrain, which meant that it'd run on E85, which is 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent gasoline. But – then or now – try finding a gas station in Canada that dispenses that particular concoction.
Prospective buyers are advised against the smaller V-6, incidentally; it's down on power and thirstier on the highway.
Two safety recalls to report from Transport Canada. One concerns a possibly faulty wiring harness for the power sliding side doors. It could "chafe" and, ultimately, lead to an electrical fire. This recall also affects 2008 models of the Grand Caravan. The second is also electrical in nature and has to do with an unused connector that could become corroded, affect various vehicle functions such as rear air conditioning and interior lighting and, if not attended to, cause a fire.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has these on file as well, with an additional recall for any special vehicle mobility conversions performed by the Eldorado National company. The rear brake lines may not have been rerouted correctly and could result in brake failure.
There are eight technical service bulletins from NHTSA for this vintage of Grand Caravan. These range from binding side doors, glitchy side door latches, a "weeping" radiator cap, issues with the power steering pump and a possibly incorrect positive crankcase valve (PCV). Unco-operative sliding side doors seem to be a major problem with these vehicles.
Good and bad marks from Consumer Reports for the 2009 Grand Caravan. Brakes, climate control system, body hardware and squeaks and rattles are all potential problem areas, and the magazine gives this edition of Dodge's best seller its worst possible used-car verdict. Some comments from owners: "A total mistake from the start," "Really like the Stow 'N Go seating" and "Handles well for a minivan."
Marketing research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, doesn't really have anything good to say about the '09 GC. Aside from powertrain quality, it gets average or worse marks in every category.
Quite a disparity in used car prices from the Canadian Black Book and Red Book. The former has a three-year-old Grand Caravan SE valued in the mid-teens, while a loaded SXT is nudging towards $18,000. The Red Book, meanwhile, says 10 grand for the base and maybe $11,000-$12,000 for the SXT.
2009 Dodge Grand Caravan
Original Base Price: $21,195; Black Book: $15,325-$17,375; Red Book: $10,400-$11,700
Engine: 3.3-litre and 4.0-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 175 hp/205 lb-ft for 3.3; 251 hp/259 lb-ft for 4.0
Transmission: Four-/six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.2 city/7.9 highway (4.0 litre with six-speed); regular gas
Alternatives: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Volkswagen Routan, Hyundai Entourage, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest