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dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
12/21/14 7:04 p.m.

We've been half-heartedly looking for another vehicle that will fit the six of us (four children, oldest is 8). We checked out AWD crossovers with a third row, but like the convenience of a minivan (we own an '05 Honda Odyssey). Our plan would be to keep our Odyssey and sell either our RAV4 or RAM Quad Cab pickup once this vehicle was purchased.

I was browsing CL last night when I couldn't sleep and this popped up:

http://newyork.craigslist.org/fct/cto/4806599045.html

Cliff Notes: '13 Grand Caravan SE with 39k for $12.9k. Oil changes every 6k (dealer). Primarily used for trips from CT to their other home in SC. No kids (or so they claim), main option was Stow & Go.

I did a Google site search of GRM for feedback on the newer Grand Caravans and came up with an overwhelmingly positive response. We love our Odyssey, but replacing it with a newer equivalent would be about double the cost of the Grand Caravan. At some point in the longer-term, we realize we'll have to replace the Odyssey, but this would give us the flexibility of second vehicle that could fit all six of us for a reasonable financial outlay.

I realize we may be giving up some things (the most obvious is the power sliding doors) when compared to the Odyssey, but this van seems like a very reasonable compromise to me. To pick up a 2 year old vehicle with 39k miles for $12.9k, with the balance of a 6 year/100k powertrain warranty seems like a great value compared to the crossovers and newer Odysseys we've been shopping so far. I realize these were only something like $20k new because it's the lower trim package.

Are we crazy? And if we aren't, what are the things I should look for when viewing/driving it?

ebonyandivory
ebonyandivory SuperDork
12/21/14 7:10 p.m.

We've been driving caravans for many years.

We currently have a 2009 and we love it. Can't imagine the later ones are much different.

You don't see so many for no reason.

ronholm
ronholm Dork
12/21/14 8:06 p.m.

That price seems like almost a steal.. Least it would be around here.

petegossett
petegossett PowerDork
12/21/14 9:59 p.m.

What's the verdict on how the current generation of Mopar minivans deal with high-miles? I found an '08 with 150k for $5600, is that high enough to be weary of looming failures?

Grtechguy
Grtechguy UltimaDork
12/22/14 6:23 a.m.

My 05 is at 166K and I'm taking it from Michigan to Florida tomorrow without a second thought.

tuna55
tuna55 UltimaDork
12/22/14 7:20 a.m.

Mine is still pretty rock solid so I have nothing to tell you to look for. We have a weird issue with the clock on the radio that is too minor to even explain, and a slight knocking from an underbody heat shield. An alternator stopped working suddenly, but that's all.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/14 8:37 a.m.

I have an '08 I bought a little over a year ago. It's also a bare-bones version with minimal options and the base 3.3L V6. While it's been reliable enough for the last year and 30K miles (I drive a lot and I can't get motivated to fix the TDI), it still has issues. Currently has 110K. There's some water pipe on the engine that leaks coolant. I think the engine is sick (the last oil change wasn't pretty). The 4 spd trans hunts like crazy. Not very efficient (24 mpg tops; mostly around 21). The stow-n-go is nice, but those seats aren't very comfortable - a trade-off on their ability to fold-up. It gets the job done, but I look forward to seeing the end of my ownership. Simply not big enough for my needs (camping w/ bikes).

Definitely get a newer one with the newer base engine and a 5 spd trans.

2002maniac
2002maniac Dork
12/22/14 8:44 a.m.

In reply to Ian F:

So, you're saying it's no E30?

When my wife's '95 Odyssey (190k, could be a while) bites the dust I'll probably be replacing it with a Pentastar Caravan.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/14 8:49 a.m.

In reply to 2002maniac:

It's more reliable than that. My E30 couldn't go 300 miles without self-destructing. Forget 30K.

tuna55
tuna55 UltimaDork
12/22/14 8:51 a.m.

FYI the Pentastar van transmission is actually a weirdo 6 speed. It uses five up normally but five down with (I think) four and five being the different ones. Not sure why, but it's fine in everyday use thus far.

dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
12/22/14 9:01 a.m.

Thanks for all the feedback, I'm going to look at it today. I looked up reliability at TrueDelta and it looks like the biggest complaint was around the transmission programming (which seems to improve with a reflash).

dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
12/22/14 9:04 a.m.
tuna55 wrote: FYI the Pentastar van transmission is actually a weirdo 6 speed. It uses five up normally but five down with (I think) four and five being the different ones. Not sure why, but it's fine in everyday use thus far.

This is a similar arrangement to our RAM Pickup, it has a 2* (prime) gear that is somewhere between 2nd and third, and only is engaged on downshifts.

Fueled by Caffeine
Fueled by Caffeine MegaDork
12/22/14 9:42 a.m.
dj06482 wrote:
tuna55 wrote: FYI the Pentastar van transmission is actually a weirdo 6 speed. It uses five up normally but five down with (I think) four and five being the different ones. Not sure why, but it's fine in everyday use thus far.

This is a similar arrangement to our RAM Pickup, it has a 2* (prime) gear that is somewhere between 2nd and third, and only is engaged on downshifts.

Chrysler started that with the Grand cherokee some time ago.. a 4speed thats really five, sometimes.

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Reader
12/22/14 11:47 a.m.

...wtf Chrysler.

Didn't they have some programming at one point that turned the 4/5 speed into a real 5 speed?

I've driven the 5/6 speed vans, and they really don't like staying in top gear on the highway unless you're going pretty quick. It's just geared too tall, and there's no way to make it hold the gear. Decent vehicle, but man that transmission frustrated the hell out of me, and I have a pretty steady throttle foot. Maybe they aren't all that way, though.

tuna55
tuna55 UltimaDork
12/22/14 12:45 p.m.
gearheadE30 wrote: ...wtf Chrysler. Didn't they have some programming at one point that turned the 4/5 speed into a real 5 speed? I've driven the 5/6 speed vans, and they really don't like staying in top gear on the highway unless you're going pretty quick. It's just geared too tall, and there's no way to make it hold the gear. Decent vehicle, but man that transmission frustrated the hell out of me, and I have a pretty steady throttle foot. Maybe they aren't all that way, though.

Mine has not showed this. Don't you also have the ability to shift it manually by moving the lever sideways? I do that from time to time.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
12/22/14 2:00 p.m.

Yeah-- my 2014 shifts fine. It occasionally selects a too-tall gear in traffic and has to downshift, but that's only when in ECO mode around town--- and it's not that big a deal. On the highway it's been pretty ideal. Holding gears in manumatic mode can smooth things out--- and you realize how much power that V6 puts out. These are not slow machines.

dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
12/22/14 2:19 p.m.

My wife and I took a look at it today, and are picking it up tomorrow. The Stow & Go is a huge advantage for us, as this will be replacing our pickup and getting to a flat load floor quickly is a big advantage for things like Home Depot/dump runs.

I drove it on the highway and thought the transmission worked fine and used the appropriate gears. I appreciated the ECO button, as that gives you two options for programming. Most vehicles now try to get you into OD as quickly as possible, it's nice that you can turn that feature off.

From a driving perspective, I was impressed. The second row seats aren't quite as comfortable as the ones in our Odyssey, but they'll do the job. Front seats seemed comfortable, we'll have to see how they hold up to a longer trip.

Overall, I thought it compared well with our '05 Odyssey. We may be giving up some features compared to the Odyssey (most notably the power sliding doors), but I think it'll work well as a second vehicle that will comfortably fit our family. As the Odyssey gets older, it will likely have more downtime for repairs/maintenance. This vehicle allows us to absorb that downtime while still getting everyone where they need to go. I was very impressed with the van, especially for the price point. I'd be hard-pressed to find a better value.

We were cross-shopping Crossovers with the 3rd row. The GMC Acadia was the one we liked best, but would have been at least $10k more for one that was comparable with this van.

tuna55
tuna55 UltimaDork
12/22/14 2:27 p.m.

Yeah, good call, we cross shopped those two as well. The Acadia is far less reliable, far less efficient, and much more expensive. Nicer looking, but that's about it.

Our GC has the power stuff and it is super nice.

belteshazzar
belteshazzar UberDork
12/22/14 5:14 p.m.

when did the pentastar engines quit cracking the front cylinder head?

manifesting as a faint misfire at idle.

ronholm
ronholm Dork
12/22/14 6:39 p.m.

In reply to belteshazzar:

About ten minutes after the problem happened in the first year.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/14 6:48 p.m.
belteshazzar wrote: when did the pentastar engines quit cracking the front cylinder head? manifesting as a faint misfire at idle.

Oh great. I think that's what mine does. A sort of wonky idle... not to mention the chocolate milk that drained out of the pan during the last oil change. On the plus side, being an OHV engine in an engine bay designed for a OHC V6, there's lot of room to work under the hood...

mancha
mancha New Reader
12/22/14 6:52 p.m.

At my work, we have a fleet of about 10 of the 2012-14 RAM Tradesman, which is the cargo version of Caravan. We've had 1 van need an engine replacement (I believe it was the bad head that belteshazzar mentioned), 2 need a transmission rebuild, and several (3-4) with smaller issues like batteries, brakes, and alignment. All of these vans had less than 50k miles. That being said, I'm sure we're much harder on ours than you would be on yours. They are leased after all.

I've driven mine 12k miles since I picked it up new back in April. It's pretty quick for a work van, but it has some awful torque steer. The cruise control kinda sucks, as in it takes a second or so to register the press or release of the buttons. Steering is relatively tight for what it is. I can make a U-turn in my neighborhood street if both curbs are clear. Mine has the convenience package, which adds the hands free Bluetooth and satellite stereo. It's useful, especially since 1/1/15 it will be illegal to be holding your phone while driving in Austin. My biggest complaint by far is the transmission though. It can't hold 70/75 mph on the highway (probably in part due to the ladder rack "air brake" mounted to the roof), it always seems to be shifting either too much or not enough, and if you're off the throttle when it shifts, it's violent. Ram performed a software update on the transmission last time it was in the shop, but honestly I haven't noticed a change.

YMMV, but I wouldn't want to be stuck holding the trans rebuild bill when it comes around.

tuna55
tuna55 UltimaDork
12/22/14 8:00 p.m.
Ian F wrote:
belteshazzar wrote: when did the pentastar engines quit cracking the front cylinder head? manifesting as a faint misfire at idle.

Oh great. I think that's what mine does. A sort of wonky idle... not to mention the chocolate milk that drained out of the pan during the last oil change. On the plus side, being an OHV engine in an engine bay designed for a OHC V6, there's lot of room to work under the hood...

I am pretty sure you missed the mark here. The pentastar minivans are powered by a 3.6 dohc v6. They were made starting in 2011.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/22/14 8:13 p.m.

In reply to tuna55:

I guess so. Mine is an '08 with the 3.3L OHV. I took "pentastar" as simply meaning "Chrysler". Still doesn't help my problem...

dj06482
dj06482 SuperDork
12/22/14 10:13 p.m.

And... ....the deal fell through. My wife ran across something on the internet that mentioned rear heat and A/C being optional on the SE's. Not rear seat HVAC controls, but rear HVAC, period. Apparently all HVAC needs are handled through the front dash vents and some vents under the front seats. Given the cold and heat extremes we see up here in CT, the fact that the middle windows can't roll down, and the fact that we would be heavily utilizing the two rear rows made it a deal-breaker for us. We'll likely continue the hunt, but go for a higher trim package like the SXT.

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