2012 Grand Caravan R/T: Dodge's "man van"

Dodge aims for soccer moms and dads who want a little more sport to their family hauler with the new Grand Caravan R/T.

While certainly not the most exciting R/T model to be revealed at the Chicago Auto Show, the "man van," AKA Grand Caravan R/T could prove to be a vital part in Dodge's plans to make the Grand Caravan the segment leader in sales.

That is not to suggest the the Grand Caravan R/T itself will sell enough to make a difference, but the image boost and talk created from this unique model that boasts segment-leading horsepower may help to get a few more families into a Grand Caravan of another trim level - and that's exactly what it is intended to do.

Unlike most R/T models, the Grand Caravan's unique styling leans toward tame, and is even less aggressive than the Toyota Sienna SE - which is its biggest rival. But Dodge wasn't expecting a dressed up minivan's looks to do much talking. Instead, an all-new powertrain centered around a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with best-in-class 283 horsepower was intended to do the trick.

For the Grand Caravan, the addition of the Pentastar V6 marks a momentous leap forward from the previous model which made due with a 3.8-liter V6 that managed a measly 197 horsepower. Dodge also mated the Pentastar V6 to a six-speed automatic transmission, which allows for matched fuel economy to the significantly less powerful outgoing model.

This minivan has major handling upgrades
In addition to the big news under the hood, Dodge says there is equally big news under the entire van in the form of a significantly overhauled suspension for vastly improved driving dynamics. Part of those changes include the Grand Caravan R/T sitting 12 mm lower for a meaner look and sporty stance. The R/T also features lower-rolling resistance tires, a new spoiler and reduced brake caliper and rear bearing drag for improved fuel economy and aerodynamics.

It's inside that counts
When it comes to minivans, what really matters is what the interior has to offer as owners look for ways to safely transport their families while keeping them entertained, and package in a way that allows for easy ingress and egress. Of course, adding a little style helps too.

The R/T features an exclusive all-black interior with perforated leather seats highlighted with red stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well as a premium nine-speaker sound system with a subwoofer and 506-watt amplifier. Other content will be the same as in the standard Grand Caravan.

Dodge believes that the Grand Caravan R/T will appeal to shoppers used to sporty sedans who need a bit more room for the kids and their gear, and with an on-sale date of Spring 2011, we shall know soon enough just what the consumers think of this fresh approach to the minivan.

Pricing starts at $30,595 plus $835 destination for the Grand Caravan R/T, which will hit dealers soon.

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