Minivans revisited

2012 Dodge Grand Caravan

Last year, we took a look at some of the best selling minivans including the Chrysler Town and Country, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. This year, we’ll revisit these models with the addition of the Dodge Grand Caravan.

The Dodge Grand Caravan comes in first with an eRating of 104 when scored with the American Value Package, a budget-conscious trim level that is new for 2012. But don’t let the ultra-affordable $21,990 price tag fool you; the package includes Chrysler’s acclaimed Pentastar V6, a 3.6 liter engine that puts out 283 horsepower, along with air conditioning, seven airbags, power locks, remote keyless entry and cruise control as standard features. The Grand Caravan also offers Chrysler’s now classic Stown ‘n Go seating, which allows the seats to fold down easily — and with only one hand — into the floor to quickly increase cargo space.

Aiding its best-in-class showing on the AutoEcoRating scale, the Dodge Grand Caravan’s key fuel-saving features include low rolling resistance tires, a rear spoiler and engine drag reducing technologies as well as a transmission with a driver-activated Eco mode. When selected, this setting modifies the transmission’s shift pattern to enhance fuel economy. Chrysler’s Pentastar V6 also boosts the environmental performance of the Caravan by reducing tailpipe emissions by 41% when compared to the average new vehicle.

2012 Chrysler Town & Country

Sharing the Caravan’s Chrysler pedigreed powertrain and coming in a close second, the Town and Country earns an eRating of 102. But befitting the Chrysler brand market position, the Town and Country brings in many luxurious interior features. Standard are leather seats, a rear seat DVD entertainment system and Chrysler’s Uconnect touchscreen media center with hands-free phone technology. The Uconnect technology package is also available with Uconnect Web, which turns the minivan into a WiFi hot spot. That upgrade provides internet access to all passengers, enabling engaging distractions for the kids in the back while making for a more peaceful ride for mom and dad up front.

The Honda Odyssey also earns an eRating of 102. Engineered and assembled in the states by Honda North America, it earns an impressive 27 mpg on the highway through drag reductions and an engine load management system that deactivates two or three cylinders when high power isn’t needed. The Odyssey also comes with some very useful interior features including a trash bag ring that extends from the available center console and highly versatile second-row seats that can change width and allow for multiple configurations. For those who enjoy weekend projects around the house, the Honda Odyssey can hold 4×8 sheets of plywood or 10 foot long 2x4s when the second-row seats are taken out.

The Toyota Sienna rounds out the segment with an eRating of 96. The Sienna is the only vehicle scored that comes equipped with a four-cylinder engine as standard and provides optional all-wheel drive. Toyota also placed an emphasis on interior functionality with the inclusion of second-row seats that can be moved backwards and forwards on rails embedded in the floor, allowing for adjustable legroom and access to the third row. Also innovative is the available 16.4 inch wide-screen rear entertainment system that can be configured to display a single full-width video or two separate, side-by-side videos.

As a group, this year’s minivan models notch up a 12 percent gain in environmental performance compared to their counterparts from 2011. That’s an impressive feat considering that none of the vehicles received a major refresh for the 2012 model year, offering more families a way to move around with less fuel.

Make and Model$MSRPSpecsCity/Hwy/Comb
Dodge Grand Caravan21,9903.6 L 283 hp V6.,
6-speed auto
17 / 25 / 21104
Chrysler Town & Country30,9303.6 L 283 hp V6,
6-speed auto
17 / 25 / 20102
Honda Odyssey29,2053.5 L 248 hp V6,
5-speed auto
18 / 27 / 2197
Toyota Sienna25,8702.7 L 187 hp 4 cyl.,
6-speed auto
19 / 24 / 2196

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