Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

The Daily Drivers: 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Blacktop

RECOMMENDED READING


Can a minivan really be sinister? Dodge, the pioneer of the modern minivan, thinks so. Maybe that's why the Grand Caravan SXT now comes with an available Blacktop appearance package. So did we go over to what Dodge calls its "dark side"? Not entirely.

Appearance: The overall style hasn't changed since Dodge last updated the Grand Caravan for the 2011 model. Our tester came with the Blacktop package ($595), which includes a blacked-out grille, black headlight bezels, 17-inch aluminum wheels with black-painted pockets, black interior with silver accent stitching, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. An important deletion to note with this package: a roof rack. We have to admit: The Blacktop package does make a stock minivan look as aggressive as is possible. We'd go as far as to borrow a competitor's line and say it has some swagger.

Performance: No matter the trim level, the Grand Caravan comes with Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which puts out 283 horsepower. The power is certainly adequate, but the engine can get noisy under hard acceleration. Plus, it's mated to a six-speed transmission that's not the smoothest-shifting gearbox. We wish it was paired with Chrysler's 8-speed automatic, which we like. Maybe the Caravan has been slow to get some of the upgrades we've seen in other Dodge models, but the powertrain left us with the impression it's not as refined as its competitors. Lyra even found the accelerator pedal slow to respond. We both found the steering feel to be heavy. On the plus side, the Caravan has a 3,600-pound towing capacity, which isn't bad for a minivan.

Interior: When you think Dodge and Chrysler minivans, you think Stow 'n Go second-row seats that go into the floor to create more cargo room. We think the seats are the van's best feature — they fold with a simple pull of a lever. This is one area where the Caravan outdoes the competition. The versatile seats make up for the fact that the Caravan can only seat up to seven, where some of the competition seats eight. The third-row seats fold by releasing latches in the rear. Says Lyra: "You'll feel like a puppeteer with all the straps you tug and pull." There's also a tailgate seat feature where the third-row seats can flip so they are facing out the rear of the van when the tailgate is up. This seems useful for families with small children, especially at outdoor activities. Elsewhere, the Caravan's interior quality now has more soft-touch surfaces but still lags behind the competition in refinement. (When Peter reached under the driver's seat, he encountered some sharp edges. Ouch.) We both thought the front seats could use more support. Even the 6.5-inch touchscreen seems too small for a vehicle of this size, which is too bad because Dodge's UConnect system is one of our favorites.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Storage: Lots of nooks, cupholders and storage drawers.

Seating: Stow 'n Go second row is a great innovation.

Blacktop: The package will stand out in the car circle.

Lyra Solochek

Gamers' delight: USB for charging; HDMI port; 115-volt outlet; two overhead 9-inch VGA screens, one each for second and third rows.

Versatility: Hauling people or lots of stuff.

Power liftgate: The closing button is at eye level.

The bottom line: If storage options are your priority, then the Grand Caravan deserves a look.

     
         
Comments
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Updated: 12 hours ago
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusi...
Updated: 9 hours ago