Babble Best Picks:
2011 Minivans for the Family
Want to know the difference between all the minivans on the market? Babble asked me take each of them out for a spin to figure out which were best for which families. Most minivans got a thorough refresh this year, and many received better interior materials, more power, and higher fuel economy. After cargo capacity, safety is typically a minivan shopper's main concern. These large family haulers tend to do well on crash safety tests, and we included the results from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's independent crash test results. To find out what others thought, we added the Consumer Reports score and their Customer Satisfaction rating when available as well.
We hope you find this information helpful in your search for a family crossover. Don't see your favorite vehicle on the list? Nominate it here! - Liane Yvkoff
Best minivan for dads | 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T
MSRP: $30,695 ($23,995 – $30,695)
FUEL ECONOMY: 17/25
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.
A half-inch lower ride than other Grand Caravans, a grill painted the same color as the body, and 17-inch wheels give the R/T model a more aggressive look, but it’s not a drastic departure from the typical appearance. Inside the van, the all-black interior sets apart the top-of-the-line R/T from other model trim level configurations. 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.
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 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. Also available with the minivan is a dual-screen entertainment package for the second and third row, with an optional Sirius satellite television subscription that streams Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network.