The Dodge Caravan is a family minivan manufactured by Chrysler Group LLC and sold under its Dodge brand. Along with its nameplate variant, the Plymouth Voyager, the Caravan was introduced for the 1984 model year. In 1987, the Dodge Grand Caravan long-wheelbase (LWB) model was introduced and sold alongside the short-wheelbase (SWB) Caravan. The SWB model was discontinued after the 2007 model year; and, since the 2008 model year, the van has been sold only under the Grand Caravan nameplate. Other nameplate variants of the Caravan include the Chrysler Voyager (1988–present), the upmarket Chrysler Town & Country (1990–present), and the Volkswagen Routan (2008–present). Chrysler manufactures and markets its minivan series worldwide. Together with its nameplate variants, the Chrysler minivans have ranked as the 13th best-selling automotive nameplate worldwide. Chrysler introduced the Dodge and Plymouth minivans in November 1983 for the 1984 model year, using an extended derivative of the Chrysler K platform, the Chrysler S platform. Chrysler followed with a long wheelbase (LWB) model, the Grand Caravan in 1987, also based on the Chrysler S platform. Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich had conceived their idea for a modern minivan during their earlier tenure at Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II had rejected Iaccoca's and Sperlich's idea (and a prototype) of a minivan in 1974, then rumored to carry the name "Maxivan". Iaccoca followed Sperlich to Chrysler Corporation, and together they created the T115 minivan — a prototype that was to become the Caravan and Voyager, known colloquially as the "Magic-wagons" (a term used in advertising). The Chrysler minivans launched a few months ahead of the Renault Espace (the first MPV/minivan in Europe, initially presented to executives as a Talbot in 1979, but not launched until 1984), making them the first of their kind — effectively creating the modern minivan segment in the US. The original Matra design for the Renault Espace was created when Matra was owned by Chrysler Corporation, so Chrysler may also be credited with originating the minivan concept in Europe as well. Since their introduction in the fall of 1983, the Chrysler minivans have outsold other minivans in the United States, with over 13 million Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth minivans in over 80 countries sold as of October 2008. Only recently, has Chrysler ceded the top-selling minivan spot to the Honda Odyssey, if Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country sales are considered separately.
Generation I Caravans used the Chrysler S platform, which was closely related to the K-cars, Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant. There were three trim levels on the Generation I Caravan: base, mainstream SE, and upscale LE. The Caravan was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1985. All trim levels were also available in a slightly longer body, called the Grand Caravan, which allowed significantly more cargo space behind the rear seat. Most of the interior trim, controls, and instrumentation were borrowed from the K-car, leading to a very "car-like" interior look and feel. Coupled with the lower floor that the front wheel drive design allowed, this helped to make the Caravan seem more like a large station wagon than a van, enticing many buyers who would not have otherwise been comfortable driving a van.From 1991 through 1995, the Caravan used the Chrysler AS platform; they were the last minivans derived from the Chrysler K platform.With Generation III, the Chrysler minivans long – and short – wheelbase models, three – and four-door configurations, and eight different powertrains – including electric and compressed natural gas, on a single, flexible platform.The redesigned Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town&Country were released in August 2000. The release was part of a promotional tie-in with Nabisco, which unveiled their new "Mini Oreos" inside the van during the unveiling. The first vans rolled off the line at the Windsor Assembly Plant on July 24. Beginning with Generation V in model year 2008, Chrysler only made the long wheelbase Grand Caravan. This van debuted at the 2007 North American International Auto Show and had exterior styling by Ralph Gilles. A new six-speed automatic transmission became standard with the 3.8 L V6 and the new 4.0 L V6. The four-speed automatic transmission is standard with the 3.3 L Flex-Fuel V6.
Major changes were made for the 2011 model year, both in styling and functionality. The suspension was heavily re-tuned, with both Dodge and Chrysler minivans gaining a larger front sway bar and new rear sway bar, increased rear roll center height, adjusted spring rates, a new steering gear, a revised front static camber setting, and lowered ride height. All three of the former engine choices were replaced by the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 with six-speed automatic transmission, now the sole powertrain choice for all models. Interior trim was restyled on both vans, in addition to major exterior revisions highlighted by the new "double-crosshair" grille on the Grand Caravan and a new chrome grille for the Town & Country. Other changes included extra sound insulation, acoustic glass, new seats, softer-touch surfaces, new LED ambient lighting and center console,and halogen projector headlamps with LED accents. The Chrysler models were adjusted so that instead of competing against equivalent Dodge trim levels, they were above Dodge in trim and features. In the US National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA)'s NCAP crash testing the 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan achieved a five star (top safety) rating in several categories. Both the 3.8 L and 4.0 L engines were paired with Chrysler's 62TE 6 speed automatic transmission with variable line pressure (VLP) technology (See Ultradrive#62TE). In Canada (2008–2010) the 3.3 L was the standard engine across the range, combined with the 4-speed 41TE automatic transmission. The 4.0 L engine and six speed combination was available as an option on only the top of the range SXT models. In 2011 the six speed transmission was specified as standard on the Town & Country.