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FLOORING THE COMPETITION AGAIN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 17, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

FLOORING THE COMPETITION AGAIN By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

Dodge invented the minivan segment in 1984 with the Caravan, and they haven't looked back since.  The minivan is still a vibrant part of the automotive market with total sales of over 1-million units last year. That equates to one minivan per 15 sales.  The minivan can do anything a sport utility vehicle can, except go far off road.  You have the same total seating capacity of up to eight people, and the ability to lower the second and third row seats for hauling all sorts of cargo.  Sales competition is fierce in both segments, with each make offering the latest in comfort, luxury and safety.  To maintain the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans leadership in total sales with 38 percent of the market, the Chrysler Group had to come up with an engineering innovation to keep ahead of the competition and bring new customers into the dealerships.  They solved a problem that plagues both minivans and sport utility vehicles.  Up until now, while the rear bench seat folds flat into a recess, the second row seat can only fold down and not flat inhibiting the loading of long, tall cargo, like a big box.  Now you can load that big box easily, as the new 2005 Dodge Caravan (and the longer wheelbase Grand Caravan) introduce the first 'flat-floor' loading capability in a minivan or sport utility, called the Stow 'n Go system, that is standard equipment.

  'Stow 'n Go' allows '05 minivan owners to fold second and third row seats flat into the floor with virtually effortless one-hand operation.  You can go from eight seats to two in just 30 seconds.  'Stow 'n Go' also offers an additional 12 cubic feet of storage space (six in the second row storage bin and six in the third row storage bin) when the seats are up.  Amazing!   Total cargo space with the seats down is a class-leading160.9 cubit feet. The groundbreaking 'Stow 'n Go' system is only one of 15 new convenience and safety features on the new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan.  The 2005 Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravans are also offering great value because prices are roughly $3,000 less than the comparable 2004 model minivans. These new features include offering up to 26 different seating configurations, minivan-first storage bin bags that are standard and adjust to fit into each storage bin (allowing for quick, easy removal of stored items); minivan-first super high density (SHD) foam cushion seating (originally developed by NASA to improve seat comfort for astronauts). This foam cushion comfort technology is also used in high-end home and office furniture, aerospace, medical and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. Also new: Second-row seats fore/aft adjusters, up to 100 mm of travel, and reclining seat backs - up to 40 degrees for the second row seats. Another minivan-first: outboard breakaway cup holders when the second row cupholders are left deployed. As seats are folded into the floor, a mechanism releases the cupholder and allows the seat to be folded into the floor - leaving the cupholder intact. A minivan-first third row easy entry system: With a pull of a single strap, the second row seat tumbles out of the way and allows for easy entry into the third row. Minivan-first split bench tailgate seating: In just a few seconds, the third row split bench may be flipped, individually or in its entirely, completely rearward for convenient and comfortable tail-gate seating with a weather shelter provided by the liftgate. Reclining third row seat back reclines up to 39 degrees, offering 12 different positions from which to choose. Three-row supplemental side curtain airbags from the A-to-D pillar side curtain airbags provide full-length coverage for all rows of seats.  

The side curtain extends protection to all outboard passengers.  Both side curtain airbags have impact sensors, which trigger the airbag on the side where impact occurs. A minivan-first driver-side inflatable knee blocker inflates in conjunction with airbag deployment.  It helps position the driver relative to the airbag and offers additional upper leg protection. More features: Multi-stage front airbags, child seat anchor system for the third row seats to help ease the installation of compatible aftermarket child seats; rear park assist obstacle detection system with audible warning and rear overhead display; minivan-first standard door alert where signal lights activate when power sliding doors or manual sliding doors are in operation, signaling occupants getting in or out of the vehicle; minivan first-factory installed U-Connect hands-free communication that is integrated into the vehicle's electrical and audio system, wireless Bluetooth technology links the owner's cell phone.  These control buttons are intuitive and conveniently located on the self-dimming rearview mirror; minivan-first moveable/removable bins with overhead rail system includes an overhead console with three moveable/removable storage bins, rear temperature controls, and an optional 7-inch DVD screen.   New features inside to keep the interior quieter include: quiet steel technology was utilized in the recessed floor.  This steel has a visco-elastic treatment sandwiched between two steel layers that reduces vibration, road noise and stone impingement; liquid-applied spray dampener is a robotically applied liquid spray dampener technology that provides a barrier to noise entering the passenger compartment.  The damping treatment is applied to the floor, toe-pan, cowl and roof panel; expandable polyurethane foam is injected into cavities at the base of the cowl plenum, liftgate opening, and center and rear door pillars; the new underbody structure is designed for high bending and torsional stiffness, which helps isolate suspension vibration and chatter from the passenger compartment; fluid-filled hydro engine mounts significantly reduce engine vibration into the front rails to help isolate engine vibration; suspension control arms utilize tuned hydro bushings to further reduce suspension vibration; engineering and manufacturing precision of the folding seats and covers ensure that seats remain free of squeaks and rattles; wind noise was reduced by incorporating triple door seats, molded gaskets, aerodynamically configured roof rack cross bows, and spiraled antenna.  The new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan was certainly designed from the inside out for the enjoyment and safety of the occupants.

On the outside, the new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan is still the best-looking minivan on the road.  It is long and sleek with a steeply raked windshield and the lowest height of any minivan.  New this year is a more prominent Dodge signature 'crosshair' grille, new front fascia with a molded-in license plate pocket and new fog lamps.  New body-side moldings highlight the side view. Driving the new 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan is very pleasurable, with comfortable and even relaxing front bucket seats that are powered eight-ways, the pedals are powered fore/aft, and the leather wrapped and tilting steering feels great in your hands. The white-faced instrument cluster is easy to see and understand with a big 120 mph speedometer, 7,000 rpm tachometer and smaller gauges for fuel and engine coolant temperature.  Bright LED readouts warn of safety or system failure.  The SXT model features a new carbon-weave design on the center stack bezel.  All switches, dials and levers are within easy reach and illuminated for safe nighttime travel.  Everything is powered in the SXT model for your convenience and include the windows/door locks, electronic climate control with three-zone air conditioning/heating, power-remote rear-quarter windows, power-remote side doors, power-remote rear liftegate, steering wheel mounted electronic cruise-control/audio controls, remote keyless entry, heated/remote/folding sideview mirrors, DVD player/remote control/wireless headphones, Infinity AM-FM cassette-tape/CD audio system with six speakers, and variable speed wipers/washers.  Other standard equipment inside include one front and two rear cargo nets, illuminated entry, headlamp-off time delay, front/rear 12-volt power outlets, sun visors with lighted vanity mirrors, pull-out storage draw under the front-passenger seat, electric rear window defroster, universal garage door opener, rear seatback grocery bag hooks, grab handles above each passenger door, storage in each front door and in the rear cargo quarter panel, 12-cupholders, map lamps and thick pile carpeting.  No other minivan offers you so much comfort and convenience, not to mention safety for all outboard seat occupants.

Under the skin of the new Dodge Grand Caravan SXT are Dodge's proven powertrain, suspension and brakes.  The Grand Caravan is powered by a 3.8-liter, SOHC V6 engine generating 215 horsepower and 245 pounds feet of torque.  The V6 engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission turning the front wheels.  The unique suspension system features, up front, iso struts, gas-charged shocks, coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar, asymmetrical lower control arms, urethane jounce bumpers, and a cast aluminum crossmember to add rigidity.   The unique rear suspension of the Caravan SXT features rubber isolated longitudinal single leaf springs with revised spring rates, a tubular beam axle, track bar, load-leveling gas-charged shocks and a link-type stabilizer bar.  The ride is very smooth and with standard rack & pinion steering, very controlled and precise when turning out of lane in crowded city traffic, during high-speed trips on the freeways, plus the Caravan SXT stays flat on curving roads.  Traction control helps keep unwanted wheelspin to a minimum giving you enhanced control in the rain, snow or during emergency maneuvers.  Safely slowing the new Dodge Grand Caravan SXT down from speed are big 11.1-inch vented discs up front and 11.4-inch solid discs in the rear, featuring an anti-lock braking system.  A single sliding caliper clamps down on each rotor.  I would like to see bigger and thicker rotors plus a dual piston caliper up front to do an even better job of slowing this 4,252 pound truck down.  The SXT rides on P215/65R16 all-season touring tires that wrap around 16 x 6.5 inch cast aluminum wheels.

The above mentioned details are many great reasons why the Dodge Caravan remains the best overall minivan and the number one selling minivan in the world-it's the best looking, best driving, quietest, most comfortable, luxurious, convenient, safe, and now, the most functional and versatile for the lowest possible price, in a segment that is very competitive with a base sticker price of just $26,315.00.   The new, 2005 Dodge Caravan has floored the competition again.

© All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Chrysler products, go to www.chrysler.com.  More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

  SPECIFICATIONS   Name of vehicle: 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT   Price: base: $26,315.00 $30,925.00, as tested   Engine type: 3.8-liter, 60-degree V6 with a cast iron block and aluminum head, sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection.   Horsepower: 215 hp at 5,000 rpm   Torque: 240 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm   Drive configuration: Transverse mounted, front-wheel-drive   Transmission type: Four-speed OD electronically controlled automatic   Front suspension: Iso struts, gas-charged shocks, coil springs, asymmetrical lower control arms, link-type stabilizer bar, urethane jounce bumpers, rubber isolated cast aluminum crossmemeber   Rear suspension: Rubber isolated longitudinal single leaf springs, tubular beam axle, track bar, load leveling gas-charged shocks, link-type stabilizer bar.   Wheels/tires: P215/65R16 all-season touring tires, 16x6.5 cast aluminum wheels.   Brakes: Front: 11.1-in. vented discs Rear: 11.4-in. solid discs Single piston caliper, ABS   Overall length: 200.5 in.   Overall width: 78.6 in.   Overall height: 68.8 in.   Curb weight: 4,252 lbs.   EPA mileage estimates: 18mpg/city 25mpg/highway

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