2001 Chrysler Voyager Review

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High Gear Media Staff High Gear Media Staff  
September 11, 2000

Know why so many women buy those cheesy Richard Simmons stretch videos?

So they can reach up and close the tailgate of their minivan.

No kidding. Some female owners have been known to carry an umbrella so they can pull down with the handle. Others tie a cord inside and swing like Tarzan.

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Ladies, stretch no more. The brand new 2001 Chrysler and Dodge minivans feature the world’s first power-operated liftgate. Punch a button on either the key fob, or overhead console, and an electric motor powers open the tailgate.

Talk about a brilliant idea. Even if you’re not altitudinally challenged like the little guy in Fantasy Island, a power tailgate will make minivan ownership even more of a delight.

How many times have you filled your arms with grocery bags and then used your teeth, your elbow or your chin, in a valiant attempt to close the tailgate? How many times has water dripped down your collar when you’ve closed the tailgate in the rain?

More rich-looking interior features in this generation of ChryCo minivans – note the chronometer-like gauges.

Naturally, the power tailgate — it costs an extra $295 — can be specified along with power sliding side doors, so that the whole minivan can be opened up at the touch of a button. And, of course, there are obstacle-detection sensors to stop various body parts being chopped off when the doors close.

What’s next? Power-lifting hood? Or how about power jacks, like Jeff Gordon has on his NASCAR racer? Power cupholders would make sense too.

2001 Chrysler Voyager

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Groceries begotten

What DaimlerChrysler has done with its new minivans is listen to the voice of the customer and incorporate many of the features they requested.

Take the floor-mounted center console. Some owners said they needed storage space in the back; somewhere to plug in a car phone; somewhere for the kids to hook-up a Game Boy. Chrysler’s solution? Design a center console that can be unclipped from its mounting between the front seats, and relocated between the middle-row seats. Smart.

Then there’s the usual complaint of groceries spilling out of their bags in the middle of the first curve after leaving the supermarket parking lot. Chrysler thought of that one too.

They came up with a rear cargo organizer, behind the back row of seats, with flip-up sections to stop your avocados going on the rampage.

2001Chrysler Minivan cargo organizer

2001Chrysler Minivan cargo organizer

Enlarge Photo

The cargo organizer: handy for many duties except filing away noisy children.

Of course, innovation is pretty important if you have the world’s best-selling minivan and you’d really like to hang on to that title. Every year, Chrysler sells around 1.5 million of its Town & Country and Voyager minivans around the world. Nothing else comes close. And it’s been that way since it launched its groundbreaking van way back in 1983.

But that said, it’s a little disappointing that DaimlerChrysler designers haven’t incorporated some of the other stand-out innovations that have appeared on competitor vehicles. Like third-row seats that disappear into a rear well to create a completely flat floor, as in the Honda Odyssey or Acura MDX. Or how about power windows incorporated into the sliding side doors, like Mazda’s new MPV? Or front seats that can be turned to face rearwards (France’s Renault Espace). Or even middle buckets that slide together to make a bench, as you’ll find in both the Honda Odyssey and Mazda MPV.

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2001 Chrysler Voyager

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Smoother and more fun

At least these new Chrysler/Dodge minivans are stronger, stiffer, safer, more powerful, smoother-riding and more fun to drive. But don’t expect head-turning and gasps of admiration when you drive by. Fact is, the new Chryslers look, er, rather a lot like the previous models. Yes, the profile has been given a more ‘wedgy’ look, with a roof and

beltline that rises towards the rear. The front end has also been tidied up, with bolder new grilles, and headlamps that are almost twice the size as before.

With no Plymouth versions in the new lineup, the range consists of Chrysler Voyager and Town & Country models, along with Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan. Spotting the different versions is fairly easy. Voyagers come with a larger, deeper grille with the Chrysler winged badge at the top, while the T&C has a larger winged badge smack in the middle. Dodge Caravans, on the other hand, have the traditional cross-hair design grille with a big ram’s head badge centrally-mounted.

What’s more important than the styling is the beefing-up that’s gone on beneath that new skin. The new body structure, for example, is 20 percent torsionally stiffer than before, which improves the way the minivan rides and handles on the road.

In terms of driving enjoyment, the new minivans are a major step up. For starters, they offer more power. The base 3.3-liter V-6 gets 22 more ponies – up from 158-hp to 180, while the 3.8 V-6 leaps from 180 hp up to 215 hp, a 20 percent hike. And next year, there’ll be a 3.5-liter V-6 available, with 230 hp, making it the most powerful in its class.

To cope with the extra power, the brake system has been beefed up, with bigger rotors and calipers. The suspension and steering have also been upgraded to give less roly-poly cornering.

Our 3.3-liter, long-wheelbase Voyager tester certainly showed how far the new minivans had improved dynamically. Those extra ponies provide stronger performance off the line, and more energetic mid-range punch. The V-6 seems quieter and more refined too, particularly at the top end.

The cargo organizer: handy for many duties except filing away noisy children.

Push hard into a tight curve and you’ll notice body roll has been reduced dramatically, and any top-heavy-tippy feel has all but gone. There’s a big improvement in the feel of the steering too, thanks largely to changes in the geometry and the stiffer platform. The helm is now nicely weighted – not too light, not too heavy – and gives the minivan an agile, almost sporty feel. Full marks too for the quality of the ride; lumps and bumps get absorbed without sendin

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