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4-wheels, 1200 pounds of man, and an open track. It’s called the Man Van.

Dodge just rolled out the 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T. The general premise of the project was to see how far the engineers could take a minivan. The car was lowered, a stiffer suspension bolted on, along with some extra chassis bracing. The 3.6 liter V6 got some extra tuning, and the interior features all the bells and whistles with a killer performance-inspired seat design, black with red stitches.

If you read the very first post on this site, you will know how I feel about minivans. I hate them, more I hate what they represent–the complete loss of manhood in a car. There is a minivan in my driveway, the wife drives it everyday. As hard as it is for me to say this, it is my second one. Having three kids, it is really tough to find a vehicle with 3 rows of seats that gets decent gas mileage. For that, I appreciate minivans, they do what they are supposed to do, but for a gearhead, they are the antithesis of the cool factor. So this is probably the only time you will EVER hear me say–this is one cool mini van. Damn, I feel as if I just lost a piece of my soul.

So why am I posting about a style of car that I absolutely loathe? Because at the recent track day for the Texas Auto Writers held at the Texas Motor Speedway, we put 6 dudes in the new Dodge Grand Caravan R/T and drove the piss out of it on the track–the 1.07 mile infield road course at the Texas Motor Speedway to be exact. I spoke with track officials about the average lap times: a high-performance street car with a trained driver averages 45 seconds, while a professional driver in a race-prepped car can make the run in 30 seconds. Loaded down with 1,200 pounds of man (that’s a conservative 200 pounds per adult), the 4,500 pound vehicle (lighter than you would think for a mini van) ran the course at a best time of 59 seconds, driven by yours truly.

There were two drivers for this test; myself and Jiyan Cadiz from Dodge, whose lap times were almost identical to mine. This was the most fun I have ever had in a mini van. We didn’t have a mini van when I was in high school . . . .

Jiyan ran two laps, I ran three. My second lap ran the course in 59 seconds, but Jiyan exited the track on his second lap, so we can only estimate the time based on the video. A very close estimate of Jiyan’s time is between 56-60 seconds.

So, without further adieu, I present Red Dirt Rodz TV’s exclusive track test of the Dodge Grand Caravan R/T. Enjoy. This video was shot with a GoPro Hero HD. Don’t forget to comment and share with everyone you have ever met. Yes, even the weird guy at the 7-11 who asked if you wanted a slurp of his slushy.


5 Responses to “4-wheels, 1200 pounds of man, and an open track. It’s called the Man Van.”

  1. Jefferson.
    I love the work that you are doing at Red Dirt Rides. Great JOB!!!
    Thanks Fred Murfin

    Posted by fred murfin | May 5, 2011, 10:25 am
  2. The “Man Van” video looked great but look at all you had to do to it to prepare the thing for the track. All the frame stiffening and all Dodge engineers should be looking at doing anyway. Isn’t that what our Auto makers rely on for new ideas to intigrate into new cars and trucks is what is done to their new vehicles to race prep them? My burning question has always been, “When are the auto makers going to realize that polyurethene bushings and dust covers over ball joints and the whole package like comes from places like Energy Suspension(R), and others makes a huge difference in handling and suspension performance that rubber just can’t match. I replaced all the rubber in my pickup and it drove as well as my wifes Toyota Camry with it’s tight and rubber supplied suspension. The responce was incredible in turns and load up at heavy acceleration. I’ll bet if you replaced all the rubber in the Man Van it would have gotten down into the 40 something range in time. That sort of thing makes a difference that stiffening leaves off.

    Posted by WillofLa | May 29, 2011, 12:33 pm
    • I agree that polyurethane makes a big difference in handling, but where poly bushings are tighter, they are certainly much noisier than rubber, which can be seen as a drawback for the non-gearhead buyer. The other issue with poly bushings is that they handle well because they are less compliant, that means that on the other side of the coin, the car becomes less comfortable; again, not an issue for gearheads, but as they say- if momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.

      As a side note, this is a stock van, anyone can buy it as tested. It had a comfortable ride and actually had decent track manners, which was surprising to me.

      Posted by Red Dirt Rodz | May 29, 2011, 12:49 pm


  1. […] At the Texas Auto Roundup, we had the chance to put many different cars through many different driving experiences. We never got our shot at Dodge’s new 2012 Grand Caravan R/T, dubbed the “Man Van” by Dodge, but our friends at Red Dirt Rodz not only had the opportunity to put this van on the track, they proved it did quite well. Check out their video here, then go check out there site! RedDirtRodz.com […]

  2. […] out their video here, then go check out there site! RedDirtRodz.com Help promote txGarage! […]

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