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Car reviews - Chrysler - Grand Voyager - people-mover range

Our Opinion

We like
Interior flexibility, comfort, ride, diesel economy, smoothness, versatility, refinement
Room for improvement
Diesel noisy, not a driver’s people-mover

31 Mar 2008

WHEN we first drove the Chrysler Voyager (in third-generation GS guise) in 1997, we were extremely impressed by how car-like the American developed (but Austrian-made) people-mover seemed.

With streamlined styling, an extremely versatile interior and V6 power, it was like a cross between a Toyota Tarago and Holden Commodore, and even sounded like the latter to drive.

Australians agreed, and liking what they saw, bought up big, with the Voyager establishing itself firmly as a people-mover favourite.

But then the Carnival came to town.

In one fell swoop, Kia redrew the battle lines with the cheap, large V6 Carnival people-mover, and suddenly all other seven-seater MPVs appeared far-too expensive. Sales plummeted, and despite the advent of the redesigned RG series of 2001, the Voyager never recovered from the South Korean onslaught.

Now Chrysler has rolled out a fifth-generation Grand Voyager.

Gone is the curvy styling, for a curiously boxy affair that – it must be said – looks much better in the metal than it might in pictures.

And while the Americans can do nothing about matching Kia and co. with inexpensive pricing, at least Chrysler has done the right thing by packing the Voyager with as much safety-related equipment as it can – including stability control, 10 airbags, ABS and a reversing camera – in order to address one of the more lingering issues that the previous model suffered from in recent years.

So even the base Grand Voyager lacks for nothing.

Better still, if you are going to lash out and spend up to $80,000 on a luxury people mover – and why not, since many of you do already with SUVs – then the Yankee MPV obliges with salubrious extras like a trick multimedia system, electric help for the seats, side doors, tailgate and third-row storage, tyre pressure monitors, three DVD screens with differing media capabilities, satellite navigation and Xenon-style headlights.

And you can pretend you’re in Star Trek Voyager with the optional ‘Swivel ‘n Go’ second-row captain chairs and foldaway table, like a junior Captain Janeway.

Of course, from the driver’ seat, this is really a box on wheels, so you will not have warp drive capabilities at your fingertips.

Opting for the standard 3.8-litre V6 petrol will give you smooth and fairly sprightly performance – aided by a slick six-speed automatic gearbox – but since prodigious pressing of the accelerator pedal is necessary when you need to press on, fuel consumption is likely to send your fuel bills skyrocketing too.

Thankfully, here is where the Grand Voyager can strike back into real people-mover contention: a diesel engine is now available.

Mated nicely to that six-speed auto transmission, it is adequately responsive and can return a respectable turn of speed when cruising along the freeway.

But this is not one of those new-fangled super-high-tech diesels that is silent or super smooth, since the 2.8-litre CRD is permanently thrummy in nature and quite loud when put under pressure.

You do get used to it however, and the 8.3L/100km that the trip computer was reading is more than enough to compensate for any lack of refinement issues.

This is the engine we would pick, no questions asked.

Otherwise, the Grand Voyager does an excellent job hauling seven people around in comfort and space – although that middle-rear pew really is a kids-only place.

The standard ‘Stow ‘n Go’ second- and third-row seats-into-floor mechanism takes a moment to familiarise with but works a charm.

We found the ride quality supple, the steering reassuringly stable and eager, and the brakes well up to the task.

And models fitted with the electric third-row seating adjustment and automatic-opening sliding doors and tailgate can provide hours of amusement for passers-by.

On the other hand, although the dashboard’s general fit and finish was fine, with easy-to-reach controls, capable ventilation and clear instrumentation, the pedals were too offset to the left for comfort – although we did get used to this after about an hour.

We also found the floor-mounted automatic gear lever too far away for comfort, meaning that the Tiptronic-style sequential shifter is almost useless since it is far too awkwardly-positioned for most drivers.

Plus the lack of overhead grab handles is an unfortunate oversight, as is no reach-adjustable steering - it tilts only.

But all these things are irritating, not deal-breaking, items. We believe Chrysler is offering a much better package in this segment that it ever has.

And although the latest Grand Voyager’s styling is obviously prioritising function over form, it does become more attractive the more time you spend with and, more importantly, inside it.

The only problem here is, the sort of people who could once afford the Chrysler people-mover but now cannot will never know just how much better it has become.

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