Sunday, April 05, 2009

Ode to a Grand Caravan

I just returned from a week in Washington D.C., visiting my money. This was a driving vacation, and it was made painless, even enjoyable, thanks to the creature comforts of our 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan. I've given Chrysler quite a bit of flack lately, much of it for lack of depth in their product line and for lack of quality control, but I have to say that in the 2 and a half years that I've had my minivan, I have had no significant problems, and it has been a top notch family traveling partner.

For our family of 4, we flop the small side of the 3rd row seat flat, and use the space for a cooler. The middle seats can be pushed back to nearly limo-like legroom, with much equipment stowed in the Sto'n'go compartments under the floor. The kids can watch dvd's and play video games in silence while the parents listen to satellite radio up front. In the old days, when the kids fought more, it was very useful to be able to separate them into separate rows. Now we mostly use the third row to hold stuff.

The most striking thing about the Chrysler minivans is the potential for very decent highway fuel economy. For about half the price of the $50,000 Hybrid Chevrolet Tahoe, you get just as much useful room, with superior highway MPG. For the last leg of our trip, from West Virginia to Indianapolis, the trip computer recorded a record high indicated 27.4 mpg. (Based upon past experience, the measured MPG will be about 1 MPG less.) Conditions: 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT (3.8L-A4) Load - 4 adult-sized occupants, a full cooler and a week's luggage. Preparation: 35-psi in the tires and a freshK&N air filter. Conditions: hilly to rolling terrain, cruise control on 65-70 mph, air temperature 50-60 degree air temperature and a predominate slight crosswind. I'll be curious to find out whether the K&N air filter made a significant difference. If I notice a significant difference in MPG, I'll post.

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