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First drive: Chrysler Grand Voyager

2008-08-29 10:49

Wilmer Muller

The Grand Voyager is the jewel in the Chrysler crown. By far the most important Chrysler vehicle, the all-new model is now available in South Africa.

For the American car group currently facing a lot of challenges to re-establish itself after its divorce from Mercedes-Benz, the Grand Voyager is a make-or-break product for Chrysler.

After all, Chrysler claims that it invented the MPV segment in 1983 with the launch of the Voyager and has dominated this category in the US.

Even in South Africa, the Voyager became a favourite among affluent families looking for comfortable and luxurious people carriers.

With the latest Grand Voyager, which is the fifth generation model, Chrysler is trying to show that the brand has still a role to play.

The Voyager is key to Chrysler’s future success, and over the past three decades Chrysler has gained so much knowledge about what people want from a people mover that it is to share this info with other car brands. In fact, Chrysler is to build Volkswagen a minivan based on the Voyager.

Fresh, bolder look

The new Grand Voyager has ditched its predecessor’s jellybean look in favour of a more square and muscular design. It features a bold look with styling cues from Chrysler’s 300C sedan.

According to Chrysler executives the box-shape appearance is the result of optimised interior space.

Chrysler’s research shows that Voyager buyers are more concerned about what’s happening on the inside than what the vehicle looks like. These customers want space, and lots of it… And of course luxury, stowage, versatility and safety should be part of the mix too. Chrysler also says there are 30 new or improved features on the Voyager.

Locally Chrysler has simplified the range by offering only two engine options, and two trim levels, LX and Limited. There is a new six-speed automatic transmission too that is standard for both the 3.8-litre V6 petrol and the 2.8-litre turbo diesel engines.

The Voyager offers space for seven passengers and several seating options are available.

Again the Voyager comes standard with Chrysler’s excellent “Stow ’n Go” seating and storage system, where both second- and third-row seats fold into the floor to create a flat loading space. It’s a really simple process to fold the seats away and soccer moms don’t have to fear breaking their manicured nails.

An optional seating system, Swivel ’n Go, is available too. This arrangement offers second-row seats that swivel 180 degrees to face the third row and a removable table that installs between the two rows.

With both seating options there are several covered storage bins in the floor.

Comfort and convenience features are plentiful – after all the Grand Voyager is all about luxury. Features such as power sliding doors, an electric tailgate, movable, pinpoint LED reading lights and a tri-zone heating and cooling system are standard.

Entertainment options in the Grand Voyager are also worth mentioning. Buyers can spec there Voyagers with a dual DVD system that can play different media at the same time as well as Chrysler’s MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System that includes navigation, a USB port and a 20-gigabyte hard drive.

Behind the wheel

Improvements have been made to sound insulation, ride comfort and handling resulting in a much better driving experience than before. However, the Voyager is humongous and you are aware of it.

On the road, the Grand Voyager is fairly quiet and both engines offer reasonable performance.

Obviously the Voyager is much more at ease on the open stretches than on twisty roads as there is plenty of body roll through corners. However, its long-distance cruising abilities and comfort deserves a thumbs up.

And although handling and stability is better than before the Voyager is still a massive van to manoeuvre. Fortunately parking aids, such as parking sensors and a rear-view camera, are available.

The Grand Voyager’s V6 petrol engine produces 147 kW at 5 200 r/min and 312 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min.

In 2.8-litre turbo diesel guise you get a power output of 120 kW at 3 800 r/min and 360 Nm of torque at 1800 r/min. The claimed average fuel consumption for the petrol model is 12.7 litres, while the diesel derivative sips 9.3 litres per 100 km.

The new six-speed automatic gearbox is also an improvement, but it's rather slow-changing and not as slick as other modern transmissions.

There's an extended list of safety equipment including side curtain airbags, Isofix child seat mounting points, three-point seatbelts, ABS brakes and stability and traction control.

Better than before?

Chrysler has improved the Grand Voyager considerably and it remains very versatile. The Voyager’s vast cabin carries seven passengers with ease with more than enough space for their luggage too.

Although the newcomer is a much improved vehicle than the one it replaces, the interior quality is still not up to scratch. Some of the plastics appear cheap and the overall design is rather uninspiring, but Chrysler says that is has launched a programme to boost overall quality in the next two years.

On the plus side, as a practical and versatile people carrier, the Grand Voyager remains a good choice. It is comfortable and spacious, while the “Stow ’n Go” seating system is impressive.

Chrysler Grand Voyager 3.8-litre LX Auto: R329 900
Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8-litre CRD LX Auto: R369 900
Chrysler Grand Voyager 3.8-litre LTD Auto: R399 900
Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8-litre CRD LTD Auto: R439 900

Optional extras include:
MyGIG™ Multimedia Infotainment System: R19 900
Power Sliding Doors (LX Only): R9 900

All Chrysler Group products come standard with a three year / 100 000 km warranty and maintenance plan.

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