minivan - van
My foray into minivan territory came as my work vehicle (a 2014 Ford Escape) had to go in for a recall. Sure no problem I said as they told me that the dealer would cover the cost of the rental. But little did I know that I would soon come victim to the inevitable truth that they didn’t add me to the rental list. This in turn gave the rental company a leg up on unloading the never wanted minivan onto me. But I guess that’s my fault for not really fighting for a better vehicle. And in the end I wound up with a 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan. Sure I’m not paying for it, but really an Escape for a Caravan, something’s off here.
Well my first day wasn’t the greatest as with any new vehicle you have to get yourself use to it. I know this is me were talking about, someone who can adjust to anything quickly. But as we are smack dab in the middle of winter, this was a bit of challenge for me. For starters, I had to go back a few years to my last front wheel drive vehicle and remember how you handle them in the snow. Sure it didn’t take long for me to figure it out, but without snow tires, the hills were a bit of challenge.
Over the next couple of days I started to notice a few things off with this model. Sure I did have the Grand Caravan which has all of the features (power everything & heated everything), but this didn’t help with my ongoing issues with the van. No I didn’t get a lemon which had mechanical issues, these issues were model issues. The type of issues that all of the Grand Caravans would have. And they were starting to bother me. So what did I do, well I am the owner of AutoLooks.net and thought maybe would should write a full review of this model. Sure ones already been done a thousand times over, but this was an overview from AutoLooks, one which will really hit the minivan on the head.
Up front the 2017 Caravan still retains the bland changeover styling which was all new in 2008, but 10 years on its still not that great. Sure the new flat front is more in line with the box styling of Japanese or late 80’s American styling, but really besides the well proportioned lower spoiler and grille, not much is all that great.
Out back the bland box styling of the late 80’s is more relevant as the simplistic tail lights and oversized bumper are all to prominent. Sure you can see out the back window easily and you know what it is, but that’s all it has going for it.
Along the side the carryover from the 90’s cheap plastic bumper cladding and simple window layout are still visible. One added feature to this model now is that unlink models from the late 90’s, it does have some sort of wheel well.
The overall appearance really shows how a new age designer thought they could fool the car buying public into purchasing an old model. Sure it seems to look somewhat new, but really this design is just the evolution from the early 90’s model rather than an alteration to the 2007 model. Guess someone thought it was easier to borrow from the past, rather than try to move forward. But when it comes to early 00’s cars from Chrysler Corp. does it really surprise you (ie. Charger, 300, PT Cruiser). Sorry Chrysler, but someone had to say that your design is older than it really is.
Now onto the inside and where we really found issues with this bland model. Sure there are a few good features we found in this model, but for starters were going to focus on the bad.
Our first impression of the interior was that it wasn’t so bad. Well for a minivan it wasn’t so bad. So, we're off to a good start, but that feeling soon dissipated as we then tried to connect our phone. Sure the U-Connect is there, but really this system is far behind when you compare it against the Sync system in my Escape. For starters, I had to go online to figure out how to setup the system. Not good when you’re using the vehicle for business, as most of us don’t want to use data to set up our phone. After I found out how to activate the system, I found myself immersed in a lengthy battle between me and a list of possible voice activated commands. Unlink the Sync, U-Connect gives you a minor window to ask it something, then it goes through a lengthy list of possible commands. Well once I figured out which one I needed to ask for, I asked for it. But NO it's not that easy. Unlike other systems, the U-connect makes you listen to the entire list before the voice activation turns back on so that you can ask it a question. Kind of like that co worker who has to tell you their life story before you can say how your weekend went. Well after a few minutes (15 to be exact) we made it through and we were on our way.
After that we decided to test the system out and make a call. And guess what, it actually worked. So for calling the system is similar to others, well once its setup.
So after we made a call home to see how it worked, we decided to change the volume on the radio. Yes I know I’m using the radio instead of utilizing the USB port for my mp3 player or connecting via Bluetooth. But after our phone incident we weren’t going to try any other Bluetooth connections. So as for turning up the volume on the radio, it just like the phone didn’t go well. Being use to a standard volume button on the front of the steering wheel, like in my other vehicles I pushed the up arrow on the steering wheel. This did nothing and as we found out later on, the volume button is on the back side of the steering wheel. The button we were pushing was for the dash information. But that's not where this story ends. No we found that there is a media button in the middle of the volume button. And after hitting this a few times we finally figured out that there actually is a volume up button (its just above the media button). So we finally had more sound.
Well being that we said we are in the middle of winter, I then proceeded to turn on the heated steering wheel and seat. Sure these buttons were somewhat easy to find, but it was odd that they were just below the heating adjustment for the vehicle. And if you’re not looking at the buttons, you will usually hit the vent adjustment button while trying to turn on your heated seat. Not bad, but this could have been laid out better and it would have been better if there was a heat level control. One intensity of heat is kind of plain especially when its -30°C outside.
Now for me, that was pretty much it for trying to find options on my first day of using the minivan. I did find it easy to find the sliding door and hatch closure buttons easily, but when looking for them while in the front seat, you really don’t expect to find them on the ceiling. This was odd, but really if its not on the door, its probably above you. So as for finding these buttons, the average consumer can find them easily.
As for now I’m heading home for the day and now get to actually utilize the backup camera. Sure I used it earlier during the day, but when you have as long a driveway as I do, you really like to use the camera all the way for backing this bus up. So I got into my usually backup position and decided to backup without the use of my mirrors (not a good idea), but I was experimenting with this vehicle. And low and behold, if I hadn’t noticed that the red lines were showing, I could have backed into my wife’s car. Odd that this model either doesn’t have a audible detection sound for backing up, or that this one in particular was not functioning properly.
Well! that makes my first day in the Caravan, and so far my opinion of this model have not changed.
The next day I awoke to decent amount of frost on my windows, and like most people I cleaned off my windshield and side windows. Then I went looking for the rear defroster. And to my surprise I found it hiding on the passenger side of the centre dash. Odd, because all four (4) other vehicles in my driveway have this feature in the centre along the bottom of the control part of the dash. But after my first day of events, this didn’t surprise me.
Now it was time to turn the seat on and again I pressed the vent control button instead of the heater control. Great now I have to change my vent settings again.
So by now I’m kinda pissed that I had to fight to find one button and change another. But that still didn’t surprise me with this model. The one good thing that morning was that for the first time in a vehicle, I could actually see my coffee, as the cup holder area in the front of the Caravan is lit up. Cool feature Dodge, too bad I’m still pissed from the other issues.
Well by now my seat and steering wheel are warm and I’m starting to realize that the driving position in the captain's chair is kind of nice. Sure it doesn’t have any sort of sport feel (except the leather), but it's still nice to be sitting upright and be able to see everything around you. The large windows and high seat make for a perfect driving position. No I’m still not sold on the minivan though.
By now I’m passing the last light from my town and heading out on the throughway. Which with the V6 makes getting up to speed easy, but don’t get too excited as the transmission is a bit sluggish and has a hard time keeping up with my heavy foot on takeoff. But still it is nice to have a bit more power than what you find in the Escape. And by now I’m beginning to reach town and now its back to the traffic lights. By the 3rd red light I start to notice that this minivan has a bit of wheel slip up front. Could it be because of my quick takeoffs that I’m use to, or is it because its a front wheel drive V6 on sand. Kind of both for this beast. So as for the V6, the power is great but it could use a bit more traction control as mine hardly ever kicked on.
Well today I have to go and pick up some supplies and that’s when I get introduced to the stow n’ go seats of the Caravan. And this is where I start to see a benefit to the minivan, or at least the Caravan. It was easy with the power hatch to get product in and out and it took no time at all to flip the seats. Now add to this power sliding doors and you have total access at the touch of a finger. This is what I call great features, but I’m still not sold even by the end of day 2.
I’m now on to day 5 of having this rental and am still not sold on both it and its features. I have found many poor design elements and improper layouts for controls. Sure the 2017 Dodge Grand Caravan has amazing features with all the power, heat and stow n’ go, but really it still an outdated model which is trying very hard to keep up. Maybe when the new Caravan comes out (or whatever their going to call it), it will be better than this oversized toaster. Sure its over 10 years old, but that’s just the design, the technology shouldn’t be 10 years old as well. Hope you get it right next time Dodge.
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