Some cars are built for luxurious comfort. Some built for fast corners. And some are built for exploring off-road. The Chrysler Grand Voyager, however, is simply built for one thing: moving kids.
Starting at $57,500 for the entry-level LX model, our Chrysler Grand Voyager Limited test car tops the range at $77,500.
Easily able to accommodate seven adults, or two adults and a ‘bedlam’ of children – that’s a thing now – the big American people-mover comes standard with three-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, three child seat-compatible seats (two in the second row, one in the third), a power tailgate and auto levelling rear suspension.
Six airbags (driver, passenger, curtain and front side) and stability control are also included, however, the Chrysler Grand Voyager is still yet to register an ANCAP safety rating and has never bettered four out of five with EuroNCAP (in left-hand-drive Lancia Voyager Premium guise).
Its party trick, though, is its unique Stow ’n Go seating and storage system.
Comprising two independent second-row seats and a 60:40 split-fold rear bench, the system allows the second seating row to be manually folded forward flat into the floor and the third row to be tucked flat into the 934-litre boot – the latter an electrically operated affair in Limited models.
Apart from making a somewhat unexciting minivan borderline cool, the easy to use and intelligent Stow ’n Go functionality also makes cleaning up after little ones a breeze and means the flexible cargo space can be expanded to a van-like 4100L.
For its $20k premium, the flagship Limited adds a 6.5-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and 40GB hard drive, nine-speaker premium audio with Bluetooth connectivity and 7.1 surround sound, DVD player, two drop-down nine-inch overhead video screens, 17-inch alloy wheels and a reversing camera.
Adding further differentiation are chrome exterior highlights, automatically levelling HID headlights, fog lights, leather-trimmed seats with suede microfibre inserts, eight-way power adjustable and heated front seats (driver's with memory function and two-way power lumbar adjustment), heated second-row seats and rain-sensing wipers.
Retractable second- and third-row window shades, displayed tyre pressure monitoring and a removable boot-mounted rechargeable torch are also included, while a sunroof is a $2500 option.
Open the slightly weighty door, step up into the driver’s seat and you’re met by a sea of hard materials, a dated dashboard and no driver’s footrest. Not a single piece of modern soft-touch trim appears in the cabin, with every surface being hard black plastic, hard silver plastic, chromed or a lacquered faux wood grain.
Feeling cheap in the hands, the multifunction steering wheel – offset to the right – is joined by two large plastic audio control buttons and a sole stalk on the left in charge of indicators, wipers and high beams.
On par with the steering wheel’s quality, albeit mixing hard plastics and faux leather, are the light yet clunky gear lever and the handbrake – the latter having its cable clearly visible at its base when pulled up.
The Voyager’s oversized sun visors are helpful in glary conditions, though (oddly) the clip to secure them in place is backwards (facing away from the driver), meaning they’re prone to popping out when being opened.
Wide seats provide couch-like levels of comfort and are joined by armrests and two-way adjustable headrests (up and down and able to be angled in or out).
Despite the rear end’s practical and versatile features, up front the Chrysler Grand Voyager offers few storage areas. There are no deep bottle or cup holders – one shallow place exists aft of the gear lever provided you remove the ashtray – and narrow hard plastic door pockets are all but useless.
Even the centre console bin is awkwardly compartmentalised and easily restricted or voided completely by DVDs that don’t fit in the small glovebox.
Teamed with soft suspension and tall 65-profile tyres, the 5.22m-long Grand Voyager Limited floats and bounces over suburban roads, adequately dealing with bumps and imperfections but never exhibiting much in the way of body control. The brakes too are so progressive that even under hard applications the Grand Voyager’s anti-lock brakes were never required.
The louder-than-it-is-torquey 120kW/360Nm 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is common to both variants and, teamed to a smooth, if a little slurry six-speed automatic transmission, provides enough low-end grunt to shift the family from A to B, though, it’s 12.8-second 0-100km/h tells the performance story.
A combination used to haul at least three kids around US roads since 2008, the 2255kg Chrysler Grand Voyager Limited claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 8.4 litres per 100km. Over our week with the car we averaged 12.8L/100km.
Entertaining and pleasing the little ones is what the Voyager Limited does best, with its two drop-down DVD screens and impressive audio package, twin remote sliding door ease of access, ample space and numerous plastic cup holders and storage cut-outs combine to make the Limited’s rear-end a terrifically kid-friendly environment. And one that would not only please the young’uns but no doubt their parents.
Unfortunately for the ageing Chrysler Grand Voyager, there are a number of rivals that offer the same number of seats – even more – in more tempting packages.
These include the new eight-seat Honda Odyssey and soon-to-be-replaced Kia Grand Carnival – both available from $38,990 – and the more compact seven-seat Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, Kia Rondo and Toyota Prius V.
Offering plenty of space, comfort, versatility and entertainment of their own, and at between $13,510-$27,510 less than the Chrysler, the big US minivan is an increasingly difficult value equation to make.