Minivans aren’t the same boring people movers your parents used for the soccer carpool. Auto manufacturers are working overtime to bring style to the staid market, and they’re packing them full of the latest technology inside and out. They’re hoping to appeal to a younger generation of savvy car buyers — with big families and gear in tow — who often reluctantly need to go big to go home.
The minivan market is a little smaller this year, but choosing the right vehicle is still a difficult decision. To help readers figure out the differences between each model, Babble asked me to compare all the minivans on the market. In addition to taking them for a spin, I examined the seating options and cargo capacity, and looked for family friendly technology options. For a more comprehensive review of each vehicle, we also cross-checked with Consumer Reports to find the Customer Satisfaction rating from current owners. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top minivan for dads | 2013 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/25 mpg
A “performance minivan” may sound like an oxymoron, but Dodge gave this entry-level family hauler a little mojo. Dubbed the “man van,” the Grand Caravan R/T is part of Dodge’s performance line of vehicles and is targeted toward dads craving a little style and fun while running the carpool. The 7-seater is standard equipped with a more-than-adequate 3.6L V6 engine that delivers 283-hp and is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Earning the minivan its R/T badge is its performance-tuned suspension, which offers a sportier drive experience instead of the smooth “couch on wheels” ride you’d expect from an almost-17-feet-long vehicle.
The dash, steering wheel, gear shifter, and seats are clothed in black leather with contrast red stitching to give the vehicle a sports car-like feel. The monochrome black exterior and black-on-black interior is the signature look of the R/T, and this year it adds 17-inch satin carbon aluminum wheels. Like its tonier cousin, the Town and Country, the Grand Caravan features standard Trailer Sway Damping that will help control the swaying of boats, campers, or trailers in tow. Optional safety equipment includes rear-parking assistance and blind-spot monitoring.
SEATING + STORAGE
For better or worse, the R/T automatically gives you the larger, “super console” storage compartment between the driver and front passenger seat, which provides a couple more storage options. The downside is that it takes away the floor space between the dash and the center console that perfectly accommodates a purse or small diaper bag.
The second- and third-row seats fold flat into the floor, and as an added bonus, the third-row seats also reverse to become a rear-facing bench when the tailgate to the cargo area is open, making this man van perfect for, well, tailgating.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
Unique to the Grand Caravan R/T is a high-performance sound system with nine Infinity speakers, subwoofer, and a 506-watt amplifier. You can add navigation with a rear-view camera to the uConnect voice-activated entertainment system that includes a 30-gig hard drive, which stores music.
Dodge’s “man-cave on wheels” will be even more appealing to dads in charge of the carpool with the addition of Blu-Ray technology. The performance-tuned version of the typically staid family-mobile gains the industry’s first dual-screen Blu-Ray DVD system in the second and third row. The system includes USB ports for mobile devices, an HDMI port for gaming, and a 115 volt outlet for powering everything else.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
Consumer Reports gives the Grand Caravan a score of 74 out of 100 points, and 62 percent of owners said they would buy the vehicle again.
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