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Discussion Starter #1
Some background: Got my first, a SWB ’95 Caravan with 3.0 cammer engine, as a company car with 27K on it, bought it when I left that company and eventually donated it with over 300K miles. Since I liked it so much I replaced it with a ’95 GVLE with the 3.3 pushrod engine and ’92 K miles and it now has 175K+. While I like the extra space in a Grand I do not particularly like the 3.3 after having had the 3.0. The first van was much more fun to drive, sportier feeling and entirely different engine characteristics.

The 3.3 GVLE is up for replacement and I’m thinking of a used 2005-ish van with a four cylinder and my big question is, do I give up a lot to have the four and will there be a noticeable improvement in fuel economy with it? My old 3.0 averaged about 24 MPG, the 3.3 ranges from 18-24. I would not mind a moderate downside to the four, but would want better mileage in compensation. Too much to ask?

What I’d really like is a Turbo Caravan or Voyager but they are getting hard to find around here (Virginia).

Thanks in advance!
 

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Vaguely badass...
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In my own personal experience, I would take the 3.3 over the 2.4 in the '05 Caravan. Fuel economy is rated the same, and there wasn't very much difference in the "fun to drive" department between the two.
 

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Plus the 2.4 they used was a DOHC design. It was better suited to high revs, not the low RPM use you'd generally expect in a inivan.
 

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Radioactive
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I don't know much about the more recent 4's, I had a 1996 shorty, and replaced it with a 1995 LWB 3.3. Fuel consumption was about the same.

The 1996 was good for around town, but didn't have what it takes on the highway... I recall one time I pulled out to pass a logging truck on a hill and had to tuck back behind it.
 

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Vaguely badass...
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The 2.4 in the '05 was pretty much the same as the 2.4 in my '98 Stratus. In the car, completely acceptable - but thirsty in the city. The Caravan weighs a bit more, negating any potential MPG savings.
 

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Agreed, the 2.4 is not the same as the 2.2/2.5 engines and none of them really had a lot of torque. That was great for the lighter weight, no airbags, no safety equipment, 84-95 shorty vans. Not so great for anything 96+. The 96-00 vans were "OK" with the 2.4 but you'll find most of them with a 3.0 or 3.3 anyway. For the newer 01-07 vans I think the 3.3 is the perfect choice.

I can't wait to drive a coupe 2008-2009 vans to see if the 3.3 is decent enough, if the 4.0 is as strong as people say, and I've already had a bad experience with the high revving 3.6 cammer in a rental so I don't think I'd be interested in a 2011+ model. Not so much the engine's fault, but the transmission couldn't pick a gear with my whole family in there on even fairly flat roads, even when I limited it to 4th or 5th. I feel a pushrod engine is the way to go and the 3.3/3.8 family was designed for and is well suited to long body vans for sure at least through 2007.

My 3.3L driving experience is limited to a pair of '96-97 Intrepids, one '99 Voyager I drove for a couple weeks as a taxi, and a '92 Dynasty LE sedan. I like that engine with a 4-speed automatic in any size vehicle. The 3.0L I had in a 1993 Dynasty base sedan, owned for 3 years and 70K miles, totaled it twice, rear ended a car in '97 and then in '99 slid sideways into a telephone pole on ice (at 15-20mph even) and it bent the roof and rocker and they wouldn't fix it. The 3.0L was nice, it had enough low end torque to drive well, unlike 2.8/3.1 GM vehicles (which is what I have now, a 1995 Ciera sedan inherited from my grandmother).

Reminds me to pick up a '95-'97 or so Olds 88/Buick LeSabre with a Series II 3800 to swap into my Ciera. That should make it a lot smoother and would probably even give better mileage since I wouldn't have to wind it out to 2500-3000 in normal acceleration.
 

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Vaguely badass...
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Note that the 4-cylinder 96-00 vans only used a 3-speed automatic.

I've rented an '08 Caravan with the 3.3/4-speed, and a '10 with the 3.8/6-speed. Both were adequate - the 6-speed liked to get thru the gears as fast as possible - a definite change in 'feel' from the 4-speed.
 

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Depends on what you're using it for.....If you're just going back and forth around town and not loading it up with stuff, the 4 should be fine.....On the highway, they'd get about the same mileage, since the 4 would be working harder......The 4 in the older pre-2000 models gets you off the hook with any of the tranny issues the 4 speed was notorious for (personally, I don't think they ever ironed all the bugs out of that one).....Not that it's a big issue, but something to consider maintenance wise - The 3.0 and the 4's have timing belts, while the 3.3 has a good old fashioned chain......if it were me, and I had to take a six, it would be the 3.3, as it never had the valve issues and was a much less complex engine.....Among the 4's, I'd take a 2.5 with the 3 speed.......Stick would be fun & bullet proof, but WAY hard to find.....
 

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Some years on the 1996-2000 range the 2.4 did come with the 4 speed auto. At least the EPA ratings show the 2.4 with both the 3 speed auto and 4 speed auto.
There's also this table which says the 4 speed was offered with the 2.4 in 1996 and 1997 then went away until after 2000.
http://www.allpar.com/model/m/minivan-engines.html
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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Stephen said:
The 3.3 GVLE is up for replacement and I’m thinking of a used 2005-ish van with a four cylinder and my big question is, do I give up a lot to have the four and will there be a noticeable improvement in fuel economy with it? My old 3.0 averaged about 24 MPG, the 3.3 ranges from 18-24. I would not mind a moderate downside to the four, but would want better mileage in compensation. Too much to ask?

What I’d really like is a Turbo Caravan or Voyager but they are getting hard to find around here (Virginia).

Thanks in advance!
In short, no. As I recall the EPA ratings for the 4 cylinder were pretty much the same as the V6's.

Friends of ours had an '88 Voyager with the 2.5L/5 speed manual. It was okay in normal driving, but on the highway there wasn't any extra hp available for passing - especially going up hill. His everyday fuel mileage was maybe 1-2 mpg better than the V6 equipped models. Not worth it in my opinion - give too much up.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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My in-laws had the 2.4 in a SWB '98 Caravan. It was adequate, but not inspiring. Strat is right, it's fine in the lighter-weight car, but more work-a-day in the van.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks for all the input.

I still have not driven a four cylinder van yet but may sample one for sale at a local lot to see if I even like it. Most traveling will be done in a different vehicle so our van will do some commuting and all the local dog-and-lumber duties. If the four is up to that we might get one. We both prefer the stick trans but realize how limited that selection is in minivans (although we owned an '88 Aerostar with 3.0 V6 and 5-speed), but with our ages and numerous leg/ankle problems realize we should continue to have at least one automatic in the fleet.

The SWB '95 had a 3-speed trans replaced at about 80K and again at about 170K and that one lasted until it went away at over 300K. Never had a problem with that 3.0 engine. The '95 GVLE with the 4-speed auto had a replacement at 98K and that one is still going at 178K. Have not had a problem with the 3.3 either. Guess I'll have to take my chances with another used van, but my experience with the Mopars is that they're worth the gamble. Thanks!
 

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I've owned both and there is no way I'd ever go back to the four cylinder. For the trivial difference in mileage, it's just not worth it when trying to get on the interstate or haul things. 3.3 works great for me. That's kind of like driving a Journey with the four cylinder or one with the six. The six is the obvious choice.
 

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I give a vote to getting a 6, my grandmother had two van's with 4 cyl(86' 2.2 and 86' 2.6) they where ok around town and ok on the highways with 55 speed limits, but get going on the freeway at 70mph plus and it just took all the power to maintain that speed.

I had an 88' SWB in high school with a 3.0 and 3 sp auto, it was just fine on the high way and in town. With a full load of people and stuff, it would feel a bit strained going through hills, thre where 6 of us coming from Phonix, AZ back to CA and through hills the best I could do was 65mph.

All other vans in the family fleet have been 3.3/3.8 and they are best suited for the vans. The 3.3 will give great economey when drive with a light foot.

Our new van has the 3.6 and that is much diffrent than any other van I have owned, tones of power and just as good mpg as the old 3.3.
 

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i have similar experience. i owned a '96 SWB with the 3.0 engine. with the family and a load of groceries, it was pathetic. later on, we ended up with a '97 LWB with the 3.3 and i was a happy camper. it was very strong compared to the 3.0 and didn't struggle when loaded up. i drove a 4cyl once. i honestly have no idea which engine it was, but it was adequate for just me solo. i wouldnt bother with the 4cyl unless it was a commuter in town that rarely saw 55.

just my opinion based off of limited comparison.
 

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Get a V6. Not much of a fuel economy penalty but loads more power. I've had minivans with the 3.0L and 3.3L V6s; they all had decent power and got 24+MPG on the highway. With a 3800+ lbs. vehicle, you need the torque of a higher displacement engine.
 

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I have owned 2.2 87, 2.5 turbo 89, 3.0 91, 3.3 92, and 3.8 94. I like the pushrod motors for long term ownership, loved the turbo for WHEEE. just change tranny juice every 50K and drive, baby drive. 2.2 died at 180K, 2.5 ran strong at 225K when it was hit by a tornado, 3.0 died at 330K, 3.3 ran strong hit by same tornado at 180K, 3.8 traded at 280K and still ran OK.
 

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Glad I ain't the only one who doesn't really like the new 3.6L in the current minivans...the thing was too revvy and seemed to be working pretty hard to move all that mass around. I drove an '09 with the 4.0L and it had a quite a bit more whack than the 3.6L, though even it was revvy from my perspective. I'd take a 3.8L pushrod any day.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Well, this discussion has just been rendered moot. I was up late last night compiling a list of possible vans found on the local CL and this morning cranked up the computer to show my wife since she is starting to be serious about replacing the '95. Top of the list and new in the last hour was a one-owner 2005 Grand Caravan SXT with 3.8, Stow 'n' Go seating, 2" receiver hitch, 130K miles and low price. We just got back from inspecting and test driving it and agreed to buy the van. The biggest change will be going from white to candy red. Wowzer! Almost as important is that it has some scuffs and scrapes, so I won't feel bad about filling it with dogs and lumber as we do our current ride. We'll be donating the old van when the moment arrives to part with it. Not a bad ten years, old paint.
 
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