Say you are looking for a vehicle to carry you, your family, and all of their stuff; what do you get? Previously you could get a station wagon or an SUV. But both types of vehicles have fallen out of favor for different reasons and new types of vehicles have mostly taken their place. Those vehicles in question happen to be the crossover and minivan. For most people, the crossover is the more appealing choice instead of a minivan because they don’t want to be seen as a ‘soccer mom’. That doesn’t mean crossovers get away scot-free. Their biggest problem is the ‘can do everything, but not really well’ conundrum.
So which one should you consider? Well, I happened to have the Dodge Durango Citadel and Grand Caravan SXT 30th Anniversary within a couple weeks of each other. So why not compare the two and figure out which one is better.
Let’s begin with the Grand Caravan first. The overall shape of the a rounded rectangular box hasn’t changed since it was introduced back in 2007. 2011 saw Dodge give the model some tweaks with a new front end treatment, somewhat revised rear, and new wheel choices. Compared to other minivans on the marketplace, the Grand Caravan sits somewhere in the middle.
Then there is the Durango, which in my books is one the best looking crossovers on sale today. The look is mean and aggressive which such details as the large crosshair grille, race track inspired taillights, and the twenty-inch aluminum wheels that come standard on the Citadel. The Durango has the look that it could beat up on other crossovers.
The Grand Caravan’s interior does show some of its age by keeping the same dash layout and certain controls from 2007. The plus side is that the layout is very easy to understand where everything is. Materials range from soft-touch on the dash and certain parts of the door panels, to hard plastics in other parts. I believe this is a good mix of materials since the Grand Caravan will likely be carrying kids and you want something to stand up to that.
Passenger space is very good with all three rows getting a decent amount of head and legroom. Front passengers get power adjustments and heat. Cargo space is a slight disappointment with the third row up as it measures only 33 cubic feet, the smallest space for all minivans. However when you fold the third row down, the Grand Caravan’s cargo space grows to 83.3 cubic feet. The Stow n’ Go seating Dodge introduced in the last generation vans is surprisingly easy to use when putting the seats down. Putting them back up is a little bit more difficult as you have to follow the instructions to a T for them to go back up correctly.
The Durango on the other hand is a really nice place to be in. Dodge gave the interior some tweaks last year to bring it more in line with the rest of their lineup. The dash layout is reminiscent to the Charger and Dart with a simple design and the large 8.4-inch touchscreen smack dab in the middle. Material quality has also seen a noticeable improvement compared to the 2012 Durango. One disappointment I did have is that that Citadel really didn’t feel that luxurious to me. I mean there are such touches as the Nappa leather and the ventilated seats for the front passengers, but I was expecting something more for the price tag.
Comfort-wise, the Durango features very supportive front seats with power adjustments for both passengers. The second row in my tester featured bucket seats that provided a decent amount of head and legroom. The third row is best to be folded into the floor as it's a bit hard to get back there, and there isn’t enough head and legroom unless you are a small child. Folding the third row also increases the cargo space from 17.2 cubic feet to 47.7 cubic feet.
Another sign that the Grand Caravan is old is the optional infotainment system. The Grand Caravan still uses the first-generation UConnect system on a smallish 6.5-inch screen. The interface is somewhat clunky looking and isn’t nice to look at. But the first-generation system is very much easy to use and features such as navigation, satellite radio, and more are here. The Grand Caravan also came equipped with an optional BluRay player with a screen for the rear passengers.
The Durango is bit more modern in this department. It begins with a seven-inch color screen in the instrument cluster that handles the speedometer and trip computer duties. The screen is clear and vibrant, til the sun hits it and the screen becomes a bit washed out. The 8.4-inch touchscreen features the latest version of UConnect that features an integrated 3G connection and an app store. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to try out either feature during the Durango’s week-long stay. What I can say about the latest version of UConnect is the system retains the easy-to-use interface that I have praised before.
One item both vehicles have in common is the engine, which happens to be the 3.6L Pentastar V6. In the Grand Caravan, the V6 makes 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The Durango makes do with 290 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. How the power gets down to the road is a bit different for both vehicles. The Grand Caravan makes do with a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive, whereas the Durango utilizes an eight-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive (rear-wheel drive is standard).
As I have previously written, the 3.6 Pentastar is a wonderful engine as it's really smooth and moves both vehicles with authority when you climb up in the rev range. However, I felt the Grand Caravan was a little bit quicker than the Durango. This comes down to Grand Caravan’s curb weight of 4,510 pounds, versus the 5,097 pounds of the Durango. As for transmissions, both are very smooth and are able to pull the most out of the 3.6. The Durango had the better average fuel economy for the week, with 20.5 MPG. The Caravan only got 19.4 MPG for the week. Thank the extra two gears in the Durango for that.
Ride and Handling:
The two models have similar ride and handling characteristics, which is somewhat surprising. On the daily drive, both models provide a very comfortable ride. Bumps and road imperfections are mostly ironed out in both models. As for quietness, the Durango is slightly better than the Grand Caravan when dealing with road noise. Both are equal when it comes to isolating wind noise. As for driving on the back roads, both models are surprisingly fun to drive. The Grand Caravan hunkers down when you decide to push it. Steering is very responsive. Meanwhile, the Durango is surprisingly nimble for its size. When you decide to have a bit of fun, the suspension keeps body roll to a reasonable level. Steering is excellent with good weight and feel.
The crossover and minivan have their respective places in the automotive marketplace, with their high and low points. Most people will go towards the crossover, as it offers the look and space of an SUV. But keep in mind that you’ll end up with some of the downsides of many vehicles. Minivans have an image problem. But if you have a lot of people and stuff to move around, then a minivan becomes a perfect option.
But what about the two vehicles in question, the Durango and Grand Caravan. Well, both vehicles happen to be impressive choices in the respective classes. The Durango is a sharp looker and not a bad crossover to drive around in. The Grand Caravan is excellent a value for what you get and can still give newer vans a run for their money.
No matter which one you choose, you’ll end up being very happy.
Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Durango and Grand Caravan, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Citadel AWD
Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 290 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/24/19
Curb Weight: 5,097 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Detroit, Michigan
Base Price: $43,395
As Tested Price: $50,570 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
Technology Group - $1,995
Rear DVD Entertainment Center - $1,995
Trailer Tow Group IV - $995
Second-Row Fold/Tumble Captain Chairs - $895
Second-Row Console w/Armrest and Storage - $300
Model: Grand Caravan
Trim: SXT 30th Anniversary
Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 283 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21
Curb Weight: 4,510 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
Base Price: $26,795
As Tested Price: $32,475 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
Dual DVD/Blu-Ray Entertainment - $2,295
Customer Preferred Package 29P - $1,200
UConnect 430N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV - $795
Security Group - $395