The heart of a minivan is its interior, and the Grand Caravan has one of the best in the business. With the removable second-and third-row seats, there's a cavern of free space for moving a bedroom to the college dorm. We were impressed with the Dodge's multiseat configurability, including the removable center console (with 12-volt power) that can be placed between either the front or rear seats, and the front mesh basket for holding small items. "The mesh basket between the front seats is invaluable," penned Nicks, "as is the detachable center console that houses a cell-phone holder and power supply."
Most of our van's life was spent weekend or vacation road-tripping to Northern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts between. Of course, that was when we could pry the keys from the hands of shooters Kiewicz and Newhardt, who proclaimed it "the perfect support vehicle for photo shoots."
Toward the end of the Caravan's tenure, the driver's window developed a mind of its own, with some editors having difficulty getting the glass down or up. In all cases, waiting 10 minutes and retrying the switch got it working. Like most trips to the doctor, each time we took the van in for service, the window worked flawlessly. Go figure.
Our Caravan proved a good performer in its nearly 15,000 miles in service, delivering cargo and passengers in total comfort, weather be damned. This new-for-'01 generation of mini proved a worthy, well-contented update of the previous model, our Car of the Year winner in '96. We also perceived an improvement in materials usage and build quality, problems that plagued previous Dodge/Chrysler/ Plymouth minivans. Although strong players like the Honda Odyssey, Mazda's MPV, and the value-minded Kia Sedona have toughened the competition in the minivan marketplace, it's not difficult to understand why Dodge still sells a gazillion of these things.