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1997 Dodge Caravan

  • 1997 Dodge Caravan Base Minivan
    • MAX MPG
      25
    • SEATS
      5
    • HP/TORQUE
      150/167
    • ENGINE
      2.4L I4
    • MSRP
      $17,235
  • 1997 Dodge Caravan ES Minivan
    • MAX MPG
      24
    • SEATS
      7
    • HP/TORQUE
      158/203
    • ENGINE
      3.3L V6
    • MSRP
      $25,805
  • 1997 Dodge Caravan LE Minivan
    • MAX MPG
      24
    • SEATS
      7
    • HP/TORQUE
      158/203
    • ENGINE
      3.3L V6
    • MSRP
      $25,135
  • 1997 Dodge Caravan SE Minivan
    • MAX MPG
      25
    • SEATS
      7
    • HP/TORQUE
      150/167
    • ENGINE
      2.4L I4
    • MSRP
      $19,925
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1997 Dodge Caravan Review

Dodge’s segment-leader is perfect for the family.

Reviewed by Automotive on

Overview

Dodge’s segment-leading minivan continues to be one of the best family vehicles on the market. The 1997 Dodge Caravan brings a lot to the table and shows just why the line has been the top-selling minivan. Adequate engines, a great choice of trims, and a driver’s-side sliding door all come in a modern, aerodynamic design that shows a big change from the boxy minivans of previous generations. The Caravan drives like a car, tows like a small truck, and offers the cargo space of a van, which makes for a great combination.

Very little has been updated for the new model year of the Caravan. Much of it affects the cosmetic department, but there have been additions that make the Caravan easier to operate and safer.

The Range

Body Styles: minivan
Engines: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 3.0-liter V-6, 3.3-liter V-6, 3.8-liter V-6
Transmissions: three-speed automatic, four-speed automatic
Models: Dodge Caravan, Dodge Caravan SE, Dodge Caravan LE, Dodge Caravan ES

What's New

In only the second year of the new generation, the 1997 Dodge Caravan gets little in the way of updates. Traction control becomes available on the LE or ES, but not on the base or SE. An enhanced accident response system comes standard on all models and unlocks the doors and turns on interior lights automatically in the case of airbag deployment. New paint colors also become available; a new wheel style has been given to the base; and the interior receives additional sound dampening. The transmission gets new software for smoother shifts.

Exterior

The outside of the 1997 Dodge Caravan is a far cry from where it started. Where the original caravan looked boxy, the new Caravan appears angular in the front and rounded-off in the back. More colors become available this year and new wheel covers come on the base. The driver’s-side sliding door is unique to the Caravan and comes standard on the LE and ES. This feature makes a great addition to the minivan model range, and it would not be surprising to see this work its way across to the other carmakers. The second sliding door allows passengers and cargo to be loaded and unloaded faster and with less confusion.

Interior

The inside of the 1997 Dodge Caravan seems spacious and considerate of the needs of a family. With seating for five or seven and enough storage space for the necessary cargo, it works well for long trips, soccer practice, and all family applications in between. The easy-out roller seats make it so that two people can easily remove the seats in a matter of seconds. The seats themselves feel comfortable. The dashboard looks extremely well laid-out and easy to navigate. Driver visibility looks good, with plenty of windows and slim pillars.

Performance & Handling

The 2.4-liter four-cylinder that provides the standard base engine in the 1997 Dodge Caravan proves adequate for the base five-passenger model, but it feels underpowered for any other arrangement. The 3.3-liter engine partnered with the four-speed transmission should be adequate for almost any normal use. For towing, the 3.8-liter is almost a necessity. With the short wheelbase and sitting low to the ground, the Caravan handles very well, more like a car than the usual truck-like van handling. The ride feels smooth, and the van seems very easy to control and maneuver. The lack of four-wheel drive on the Caravan disappoints, although it remains available on the Grand Caravan.

Safety

Driver and passenger front airbags come standard on the 1997 Dodge Caravan. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are available on the base and come standard on all other models. The Caravan receives four stars out of five for both driver and passenger protection in a frontal crash from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Caravan a ""Marginal"" rating for overall safety, including a “Good"" rating for head, neck, and chest safety measures.

EPA Fuel Economy

Dodge Caravan, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, three-speed automatic: 18/23 mpg city/highway
Dodge Caravan, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, four-speed automatic: 16/23 mpg city/highway
Dodge Caravan, 3.0-liter V-6, three-speed automatic: 17/22 mpg city/highway
Dodge Caravan, 3.3-liter V-6, four-speed automatic: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Dodge Caravan, 3.8-liter V-6, four-speed automatic: 15/22 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Very low price
  • Plenty of interior space
  • Great handling for a minivan

You Won't Like

  • Inadequate base engine
  • Pretty useless base model

Sum Up

Dodge’s segment-leader is perfect for the family.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Dodge Grand Caravan
  • Honda Odyssey
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