Curbside Capsule: The Gen-three Grand Caravan – “Peak Minivan?”

A whole lotta lovin’ was heaped on the Gen-1 Voyager/Caravan the other day, and the comments made for great reading. A common theme, backed by our own experience (that’s us in late 2000, with our ’98 Caravan in the background), is that the Gen-3 minivans represent the very pinnacle of development for Chrysler’s popular people haulers.

Our own experience includes a pair of third-generation vans (the ’98 Caravan in the top picture was totaled, and was replaced by the red ’98 Grand in the above photo), as well as a pair of Gen-4 vans: the above-pictured ’06 GC –which was totaled by a lightning strike–and the ’05 T&C (pictured below) that replaced it. Also, we drove a borrowed first-generation Caravan with the turbo four during the couple of months we looked for the Caravan’s replacement.

The Gen-1 was quite serviceable, but its K-Car roots were very much in evidence. Our Gen-3s were easily two of the best vehicles we’ve ever owned (Son number two still drives the ’98 GC, which currently has 270,000 miles on it). The ergonomics, materials, fit and finish were all top notch, and the smooth 3.3-liter V6 has proven to be in the same league as the venerable Chrysler Slant Six. Our Gen-4s are okay, despite Daimler-era cost cutting being very much in evidence. Surfaces that would have had nice cloth or leatherette touches in the Gen-3s now have hard plastic or cheezy carbon-fiber “accents,” and the ergonomics, which were so excellent in the Gen-3s, apparently changed for the worse “just because we could.”

During the purchase process of our ’13 Beetle Convertible, we took time to look at a Gen-5 GC, and while the quality of materials and finish seem to be moving up, the interior, as often lamented here, is very cold, sterile and cave-like, without the warmth of the Gen-3 vans.

I read a while back that Chrysler was going to try to reposition the T&C van as a truly high-end version, with better materials and finishes versus the GC, but they’re going to have to try a bit harder if they want to get there, in my opinion. Thus, I now officially crown the Gen-3 Grand Caravan as “Peak Minivan!”