Chrysler’s introduction of the minivan during the 1980s instantly captured the American family’s desire for an edgy, functional, and spacious family car. Sold under the Dodge brand, the Grand Caravan aimed to be a long-wheelbase complement the original Caravan. And despite the emergence of multiple rivals in the minivan category, the Grand Caravan was able to retain its competitive sales through the years.
First generation: 1984 – 1990
Initially a longer version of the Caravan, the Dodge Grand Caravan’s first generation came in three trim levels: the base, mainstream SE, and upscale LE. With its slightly longer body, the first gen Grand Caravan offered a significantly larger cargo space than the Caravan. Its front-wheel-drive design gave the Grand Caravan the look and feel of a station wagon instead of a full-sized van.
All inline-4 engines came with a 3-speed TorqueFlite, Chrysler’s automatic transmission, and a 5-speed manual. Due to its sluggish performance, the original 2.2-liter engine was replaced by the fuel-injected 2.5-liter inline-4 engine in mid-1987. However, it only produced a decent 100hp with 135 lb-ft torque. This paved way for the addition of a more powerful engine option, the turbocharged version of the base 2.5-liter. It gave the first gen an outstanding 150hp with 180 lb-ft torque. And by 1990, a new 3.3-liter V6 engine was added to the power options.
Second generation: 1991 – 1995
The Dodge Caravan’s second generation came feature-packed, including the Quad Command bucket seating, anti-lock brakes, and integrated child-safety seats. Aside from a redesigned trim in the 1992 model year, the second gen had upgraded roof-racks and door handles. In 1994, the woodgrain and wire wheels option on higher level models were already discontinued, and from the previous 3.3-liter V6 engine, the second gen added a 3.8-liter V6 engine option. It gave Grand Caravan users 162hp with 213 lb-ft torque.
A special 10th Anniversary Edition model of the second gen Grand Caravan was available in 1994, offering users the option for a 2-tone paint scheme. This included a contrasting light gray-colored lower break, along with a gold fender badge.
Third generation: 1996 – 2000
The Grand Caravan’s 1996 model year came with a number of Chrysler’s innovations, such as a driver’s side sliding door and a seat management system called the Easy Out Roller Seats. These new features, however, were not exclusive to the Grand Caravan, and were also presented in the 1996 model year of its nameplate variant, the third gen Town & Country.
Introduced at the 1995 North American International Auto Show, the third gen Grand Caravan used the Chrysler NS platform. It retained the 3.8-liter V6 engine but matched it with a more efficient 4-speed automatic transmission.
Fourth generation: 2001 – 2007
The fourth generation Grand Caravan was revealed in the 2000 North American International Auto Show and was offered in 2001 as a redesigned model, together with the 2001 Town & Country.
Noteworthy improvements on this generation include remote-operated sliding doors and rear hatch. This innovation allowed users to open and close the hatch with the simple push of a button, either inside or outside the vehicle. By 2002, all Grand Caravan model years dropped the Dodge badges on their front doors. However, the 2003 model year received minor changes such as the standard 16” chrome wheels and the dismissal of the AutoStick Transmission option.
Fifth generation: 2008 – present
With the fifth generation, all Grand Caravans came in the long-wheelbase form. A number of Chrysler’s innovations were features in the fifth gen, including those features shared with the fourth gen Town & Country.
Aside from the standardization of the Electronic Stability Control, the 2011 Grand Caravan experienced a facelift, which included a heavily retuned suspension and a lower ride height. A new, basic style trim called “AVP” was introduced for the 2012 model year and the option list expanded to include features such as a touch navigation panel.