VVehicle overview We live in a global economy, but the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan is the minivan to get your patriotism pumping. It was Dodge after all, that invented this genre in 1984, striking that perfect balance between industrial-strength work vans and less versatile wagons and hatchbacks. The original Caravan's overnight success spawned legions of imitators, and a few from Japan have become formidable rivals. But the Dodge will always be the one that started it all, and that's got to count for something. The Grand Caravan was treated to a thorough overhaul for 2011, and those powertrain and interior updates remain appealing three years later. There's class-leading power under the hood, respectable frugality at the pump and modern technology in the cabin, as well as cleverly designed second-row seats that fold into the floor at the flick of a lever. Furthermore, a base Grand Caravan is considerably cheaper than its import-brand competitors. In other respects, however, the Grand Caravan comes up a bit short compared with the competition. Although that recent update did wonders to help the Grand Caravan's attributes, the van still suffers from a lack of refinement. It's particularly noticeable on the road, where you'll find that the engine is noisier and the transmission doesn't shift as smoothly. In addition, the Dodge's ride isn't as comfortable or composed. How important this is to you will likely depend on your priorities. We certainly suggest comparing the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan (and its Chrysler Town & Country twin) to the Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna, as they provide smoother engine and transmission performance, higher interior quality and a more comfortable ride. And even though all three lack the Grand Caravan's easy-to-configure seating, the Odyssey and Sienna offer eight-passenger capacity versus the Dodge's seven. The 2014 Grand Caravan may still be the patriotic choice, but it's got its work cut out in other respects. Performance & mpg Every 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan features a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission sends power to the front wheels. In Edmunds testing, a Grand Caravan with the 3.6-liter engine accelerated from zero to 60 in 8 seconds, an average jaunt for a minivan. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg combined (17 mpg city/25 mpg highway). Safety Standard safety features for the 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan include stability control, antilock disc brakes, active front head restraints, a driver knee airbag, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Optional features include a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking and cross-traffic sensors and a rearview camera. In Edmunds brake testing, a Grand Caravan came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet -- a bit longer than average for a minivan. An R/T was better, with a 119-foot stop. In government crash testing, the Grand Caravan was given an overall score of four out of five stars, with four stars for frontal impacts and five stars for side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Dodge Grand Caravan was awarded the highest possible rating of Good in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. Driving The 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan accelerates and handles rather well for a minivan, but there's a coarseness to its character that's largely absent from the Japanese-brand competition. The V6 engine is powerful enough, but it gets noisy under hard acceleration and the automatic transmission doesn't always shift as smoothly as we'd like. The Odyssey, Sienna and Quest still deliver more refined performance, and their suspensions smother bumps more capably. These won't be deal-breakers for everyone, but some drivers will be sensitive to such shortcomings. Interior The Grand Caravan's interior features decent if unexceptional materials and build quality, making it broadly competitive in this segment. Its seven-passenger seating matches the Quest, but falls one passenger short of the Odyssey and Sienna. The front seats are supportive, but the pedals are mounted unusually close to the driver seat, and that (coupled with the seat's limited rearward travel) might make it difficult to get comfortable behind the wheel. The second-row seatback cushions tilt rearward to better accommodate long-legged passengers. The third-row seatback cushions are reclined even more dramatically, creating a potentially odd sensation for passengers riding back there. One nice feature, though, is the tailgate function in SXT and R/T models that allows you to flip the third-row seats so they face backward for stationary lounging with a view -- useful at kids' soccer tournaments. Unlike minivans that require removal of the second-row seats for maximum cargo capacity, every Grand Caravan except the AVP features standard Stow 'n Go second-row seats (they're optional on the AVP). Stowing the seats couldn't be easier -- you simply pull a lever and down they go, flipping forward into the floor. The third-row seats fold backward into a deep cargo well and require additional steps to transform. Luggage space behind the third row is a generous 33 cubic feet. Stowing the second- and third-row seats opens up 143.8 cubes, which is comparable to other minivans.