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

Launch Story

Chrysler logo31 Mar 2008

By GEORGIA OCONNELL

CHRYSLER has continued to march its venerable people-mover upmarket with the fifth-generation Grand Voyager launched last week in Australia.

Kicking off from $56,990 to $75,990, the new RT-series seven-seater wagon will not be offered in either short-wheelbase ‘Voyager’ guise or with an all-wheel drive option.

The upcoming Dodge Journey – a compact SUV dubbed a CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) and based on Chrysler’s JS platform that also underpins the Chrysler Sebring among many other vehicles – will instead cover these ex-Voyager variants as Chrysler’s answer to the Honda Odyssey, Holden Captiva and Ford Territory.

For the RT Grand Voyager, Chrysler has rationalised the range into a premium-priced long-wheelbase front-wheel drive wagon offering all-new styling inside and out, a completely redesigned rear suspension and the availability of a diesel as well as petrol engine.

New seating configurations, significantly uprated safety features and upgraded audio and media functionality should also add new gloss to a nameplate that arrived in Australia in 1997.

Three versions are available – LX, Touring and Limited – with stability and traction control, ABS brakes (with brake assist), no less than 10 airbags and a reversing camera fitted to each model.

The design is the work of Ralph Gilles, the man behind the aggressive look of the highly successful 300C. Going for that car’s art deco look was the goal, but not without retaining the Chrysler people-mover’s signature hidden door tracks and dual sliding doors.

According to Chrysler, the 300C connection is reflected in the Grand Voyager’s similar body-to-glass proportion, large wheelarches, low daylight-opening drip line, big grille, chrome accents and detailed ornamentation. The upshots are cleaner lines, 10 per cent increased visibility (thinner pillars help here) and palpably more interior space.

The latter is evident in a roof that is 152mm wider, with a more upright tailgate, a greater beltline rake, a longer wheelbase and overall length (3078mm versus 3030mm and 5143mm versus 5096mm respectively), and lower, pulled-out sills also helping liberate more cabin room.

A 2+2+3 seating arrangement continues inside as before. However, the so-called “Stow ’n’ Go seating system introduced in the RG in 2004 – which sees the second and third row seats fold neatly flush into special floor cavities in under 30 seconds to turn the seven-seater MPV into a two-seater panel van – can now be overlooked for a second seating set-up called ‘Swivel ’n’ Go.’

For an extra $1500, this replaces the middle duo of seats for a completely removable pair of captain’s chairs that weigh around 30kg each and swivel 90 or 180 degrees for rearward facing “conversation seating” or easier entry/egress. They do not fold into the floor. There is also a foldaway table with it for in-car conferencing between the second and third row of seats.

The 118-litre cavity that would normally swallow each of the Stow ’n’ Go centre-row seats is used for added storage space with Swivel ‘n’ Go. Chrysler has also devised a power-operated third-row seat option with power recline that can be folded into four different positions, including ‘stadium’ rear facing seating for tailgate-open picnic scenarios. Unlike before, the side door windows now retract.

More money can now also buy ‘halo’ interior illumination for a domestic home lighting look, second- and third-row sunshades and a removable and rechargeable torch light, while a $2000 “Power and Remote Entry Group” package adds an eight-way powered driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, dual power sliding doors, a powered tailgate lift (that is both faster and quieter than before) and powered rear-quarter vented windows.

Unlike all previous Voyager generations, the RT dispenses with the leaf-spring rear suspension set-up for an all-new twist-beam rear axle with coil springs and a load-levelling feature, to go with a redesigned MacPherson strut arrangement up front.

According to Chrysler, the benefits include improved stability and ride comfort. The implementation of improved airflow quality, a stiffer body structure and added sound-deadening treatments (in the form of more seals, body fillers, silencers, padding and thicker carpet underlays) also serve to reduce NVH.

Reducing wind noise in particular was a priority, with better aerodynamics (0.35Cd) resulting with the help of the body’s smoother surfacing, more streamlined roof racks, rolled-frame design front doors (that offer improved sealing), wipers that are now below the air stream, sleeker (though larger for better vision) door mirrors and thicker side door glass.

But the really big news underneath is the $3000 option of a VM Motori-supplied 2.8-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder CRD turbo-diesel engine. Using a variable geometry turbocharger with responsive cold-launch performance and reduced turbo lag, the oil-burner delivers 120kW of power at 3800rpm and 360Nm of torque at 1800rpm.

The CRD’s combined fuel consumption rating is 9.3L/100km respectively, while its CO2 dioxide rating is 247g/km. This contrasts with the 3.8-litre V6 petrol’s 12.3L/100km and 302g/km output.

Having said that, the overhead valve V6 offers more power and torque: 142kW at 5200rpm and 305Nm at 4000rpm. The previous RG Voyager used a 128kW/278Nm 3.3-litre V6 petrol mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox.

Both petrol and diesel engines are mated to a Chrysler-designed six-speed automatic transmission, with two different four-gear ratios depending on whether it is up- or downshifting for optimal performance and economy.

Steering is by powered rack and pinion, resulting in an 11.9m turning circle with the standard 16-inch alloy wheels and 12.07m for the 17-inch Limited model. Four-wheel disc brakes are employed, with vented, 66mm single-piston callipers up front and a solid disc and 13mm single-piston stoppers at the back. Kerb weight varies from 2100 to 2025kg.

All models include three-zone air-conditioning with automatic temperature control, cruise control, power windows, remote central locking, rear parking radar, reverse camera, power mirrors, a trip computer, front seatback trays, roof racks, and Bluetooth integration. The latter is part of Chrysler’s MyGIG multimedia screen and interface that includes CD, radio, MP3, USB connectivity and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

The Touring adds a more comprehensive trip computer display called EVIC, powered sliding side doors, an alarm, foglights, powered opening rear quarter vent windows, side-window sunshades and a host of minor cosmetic variations. The high-end Limited includes HID headlights, leather upholstery, an upgraded MyGIG media and audio system, satellite navigation, a sunroof, and second-row seating.

There is up to 3295 litres of storage space available on the Grand Voyager, with all second and third row seating folded/removed, up from a minimum of 396 litres.

Chrysler says that NCAP has not yet tested the RT Grand Voyager, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded it a maximum of five stars for front and side impacts, and a class-leading four stars for rollover safety.

The previous Voyager in European diesel specification only achieved a two-star with a strike-through rating in 2006.

A restyled version of the RT Grand Voyager will be released in North America as the Volkswagen Routan. Both will be assembled at Chrysler’s plant in St Louis, Missouri. Magna Steyr in Austria built all pre-RT Voyager models for Australia.

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