2000 Dodge Caravan ES AWD new car reviews

Two years ago last month, we bought a new 1998 Chrysler Town & Country. After putting 50,000 trouble-free miles on this vehicle (10,000 to 15,000 of these miles with a race car in tow), we feel pretty safe giving you an honest opinion about the nearly-identical 2000 Dodge Caravan ES AWD that we tested just recently.

To put it succinctly, buy one! We have driven hundreds of tow vehicle/daily drivers over the years, and we still like these Caravans the best--by far.

Why? because they offer the best combination of practicality, style and drivability of any vehicle. We just can't find any other family "truckster" that rides and handles as nice as a Dodge Caravan. We can't find any other vehicle that offers so much interior volume and seating versatility--from one to seven passengers--as a mini van.

We also have had absolutely no problems towing a light race car all over the country. The new Caravan comes with a 200-horsepower, 3.8-liter engine, while the towing package is rated for 3500 pounds of towing capacity. A small open trailer and small sports or vintage car easily fall within these limits.

When you are not towing, you have a practical, comfortable van that drives like a big front-wheel-drive car and is easy to park and live with on a day-to-day basis. Gas mileage is around 16 to 18 mpg around town and 20 to 22 mpg on the highway. Towing at any reasonable speeds will yield 15 to16 mpg. What more could you want?

We know, you want all-wheel-drive like them fancy sport utilities have. Well, the 2000 Dodge Caravan ES AWD has this feature, too. This AWD seemed to work flawlessly and quietly when we got in some real ugly weather. We still had the confidence to drive at highway speeds.

Four-wheel-disc brakes are also new to the specification list. When we bought our 1998 Town & Country, rear discs were not available. This addition brings the braking on these vehicles up from marginal (our one real complaint with our 1998 van) to really excellent. While we were not able to do brake testing on our test track, we were amazed at how much better the four-wheel-disc brakes felt compared to our front disc/rear drum setup.

The only downside of all this is perhaps the price. Our test van listed for $33,385. In addition to the base price of $32,175, our vehicle was equipped with trailer towing package ($175), "value plus" air conditioning, alarm, quad seating package ($1320), and child seats ($125).

If you have kids under four years old, these child seats are a godsend. Trust us--we have lived through this stage of life and made good use of those child seats.

A destination charge of a $590 is tacked on, but a package discount of $1000 is also deducted. Yes, a bit much, but in the realm of new cars a very fair price.

In our experience, you should be able to buy this van (rebates are in effect for the summer) for just under $30,000. Yes, a lot of money, but again we have owned three of these vans and will definitely buy another.

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