BY ANDREW MUZAMHINDO
It is one of the best Multi-Purpose Van (MPV) I have driven. MPVs used to be popular before the advent of Crossover and SUVs. It was popular with families and businesses for loading up the whole household and heading out on the weekend or down to the holiday destination, fully loaded with holiday luggage and gear.
It was also useful for transporting staff or clients. Or maybe it never caught on in Zimbabwe. I would like to think the MPV remains popular in the Americas and Europe.
One of the best examples of these were the Volkswagen Kombi and Caravelle. But its popularity has made way for the SUV, and the Kombi/Caravelle has taken on a more commercial role, rather than the family bus it once was. In South Africa the VW Caravelle is popular.
As such, the MPV such as the Chrysler Grand Voyager is no longer on the typical family buyer’s consideration list. Most people rather get the SUV.
Chrysler is, and has been since 2008, the sole supplier of a luxurious sumptuous large MPVs It was given a facelift in 2012, and the smooth but thirsty 3,8 V6 engine was dropped from the line-up, leaving only the 2,8-litre CRD diesel engine, in LX or Limited trim levels.
The feature-rich Chrysler Grand Voyager Limited has power-sliding doors, which means that both rear doors and the tailgate can be closed and opened using remote control. Inside the big lux-van there are switches on the pillars to open or close the doors, while the front occupants also get a set of controls for doors and tailgate.
Apart from the entertainment value for occupants and spectators it is extremely convenient being able to press a button to open or close a door. The side doors are large, and most other passenger-carrying vehicles with sliding side doors are quite difficult to move by hand, or close easily — these electric doors cancel the problem with manual doors which often need a second or third hefty shove to shut the sliding doors. Electric doors are standard on the Limited spec.
The Limited, compared to LX, also gains high intensity discharge headlamps with automatic levelling, power liftgate, upgrade from 16 to 17-inch alloy wheels in a more upmarket design, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dim rear-view and driver’s mirror, chrome-finished exterior mirrors and various chrome mouldings, portable rechargeable “trouble light” (as Chrysler names the torch), second and third row retractable window shades, part-leather trim with suede microfibre accents, wood dash and door inserts, front bucket seats, front electric seat adjustment, heated seats for front and second row, power sliding doors, power-folding third row (rear-most) seats, touch-screen, 30GB hard drive for recording music, rear back-up (reverse) camera, tyre pressure monitoring, Uconnect phone . . . all these features and more, for R59 000, seems superb value.
The LED “halo lighting” is an ambient halo downlight that emits a soft greenish-blue glow along the centre overhead console, neatly concealed above a cover length-wise in the roof lining. Creates a real sense of occasion. The Stow ‘n Go feature allows the middle row of seats to sink completely into its belly.
No-one needs to wrestle with stowing rearmost seats anymore: simply press the buttons located in the luggage area to pack away the rear seats flush with the floor —either seat, or the whole row. And the rearmost seats can tumble onto their backs to create a bench over the rear bumper, so we can park and chill. OK now that is nifty.
The 2015 Grand Voyager comes with two nine-inch DVD screens that flip down from the overhead console, game-console inputs — the kids do not have to settle on just one thing to watch. The video system can be operated from either the rear-seat entertainment unit or the radio head unit. Sounds antiquated as cars now come with USB ports.
The CRD engine is not the quietest, though it pulls strongly even with passengers on board, and its claimed 8,4 l/100km is fair for such a large van. The 6-speed automatic works well with the engine, though the gear selector is oddly positioned — it is quite a reach to select a gear, and although it has tip-shift for manually overriding gears, it is too low to really use comfortably.
At 5,14 metres in length and 1,95 wide (without mirrors), it is a properly big vehicle. This also means the seats are big and have a properly roomy feel in the second row, enough space in the rear, and an open feeling up front.
The Chrysler Grand Voyager Limited, especially with the entertainment group option, has so much space and special luxury features — this lux-van is ideal for a family for regular use and the perfect vacation transporter, and suitable for business to travel in style to/from hotel, airport and meetings. Grand Voyager is the perfect descriptive name for it.