The world craves entertainment. The more we have, the more we want. The more we want it, the more manufacturers pander to the stimulation of our eyeballs and the expansion of our waistlines.
There is no country that more epitomises this mantra than the USA. It has brought us Hollywood, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Oprah and Snickers. All designed to either stimulate or satiate.
Everywhere you go the benchmark is raised. Even my dentist has an LCD TV attached to his ceiling so that while he’s looking at tooth decay, I can be looking at adverts for products that cause it. Could this be some conspiracy theory?
Cars have not escaped the gradual slip towards anodyne comfort. Your average car now has several cup holders and a stereo that twenty years ago would have made first page news in any technology rag.
But the Chrysler Grand Voyager isn’t your average car. When it comes to MPVs — people-movers — the Grand Voyager is the grand daddy of them all. It stops short of the luxury of stratospherically priced limousines, but only just, and at a fraction of the cost.
A few years ago when I first drove a car with a DVD player and a screen in the dashboard I thought that was cool. And it’s not even that common now. But three screens?
The first screen is in the dashboard — the MyGIG touchscreen unit. The second screen is for the middle row of seats. Unusually, this consists of two armchair style seats (and there’s even an optional table configuration). The third screen is for the back row of seats — a three-seater bench which is angled slightly backwards so that your precious little ones don’t have to strain their necks backwards to watch the roof-mounted unit. This rear screen can be powered by a games console or external media player plugged into auxiliary inputs located in the rear.
Chrysler understands American children. They have to either be stimulated 100% of the time, or be on Ritalin. Consequently, the Grand Voyager contains several receptacles for cups with which to wash down the narcotics, should the entertainment systems not prove to be enough.
In another family-friendly stroke of genius the Grand Voyager’s rear seats electronically fold down to form a flat loading tray, or you can have them fold right the way back so that what was the three headrests now becomes three comfortable perches on the back of the tailgate — watch the rugrats play soccer in the rain, protected by the lifted tailgate.
he second row of seats also easily folds up (manually) into cavities in the floor just behind the front seats, giving a total load area of almost 3300 litres. This space (itself 118 litres) can be used for secret additional storage for a laptop or other valuables when out and about if the seats are up.
This ‘Stow n’ Go system is genius and gives you the flexibility to easily use the Grand Voyager to carry large loads like a van would.
I could honestly write a whole book just on the versatility of the entertainment system in this Chrysler. For a family with five needy children, though, all you need to be able to visualise is a long journey totally free from a) fighting siblings, b) ‘are we there yet’, and c) having to play ‘I spy’ and the like.
Yes, all you’ll have to do is periodically pull over to allow them to drain their child-sized bladders, grab another low-fat, kid-friendly snack, and merge back into the traffic. Actually, that’s not quite the only thing you’ll have to do because Chrysler has neglected to include much room in the footwell, meaning you can’t stretch out your left leg while driving. And the pedals are strangely skewed to the left — the first couple of times I when to push the brake pedal to put it in gear, I pushed the accelerator full to the floor.
How is it to drive, then? Well, it’s essentially a minivan with a whole lounge and entertainment system contained within, so make sure you take it easy around those corners. The Grand Voyager is quite large, quite heavy, and probably slightly under-tyred.
Typical of many American cars the 3.8-litre engine doesn’t put out as much power as you’d expect (only 142kW), but does manage a reasonable 305Nm of torque, and the lack of power means you can achieve fuel economy in the 10-11l/100km range.. The six-speed gearbox changes smoothly, and you’ll want to leave it in automatic because the gearstick is uncomfortably far away from the driver’s seat.
There’s so much more you can say about the Grand Voyager — the plethora of bag hooks, the umbrella holder, dual gloveboxes, tri-zone air conditioning, the torch in the rear, and the brilliant (and convenient) automatically opening and closing side doors and tailgate.
But wait, there’s more, as they say on the telly. No, you don’t get a set of kitchen knives, but I think I can still hear the stampede of jaded parents. The Grand Voyager is a triumph of passenger comfort, perhaps even the ultimate passengers’ car, but seemingly (unfortunately) at the expense of driving ergonomics. At $74,990 it will be a considered purchase, but it’s still much cheaper than many of the top-end SUVs (and limos).
Price: from $74,990
What we like
- It’s a mobile audio/visual store
- Seating and loadspace versatility
- Cinema seating function — very cool
- Despite its size, it’s easy to park with reversing camera and sensors
What we don’t like
- Cramped footwell not good for long journeys
- Pedal position
- General driving ergonomics need work — gear lever too far away from the seat, for example
Chrysler Grand Voyager Specifications
- Advanced multistage driver front-passenger airbags, supplemental side-curtain in all 3 rows, driver and front-passenger front seat-mounted side air bag
- 3-zone automatic temperature control
- 4-wheel disc ABS brakes
- Overhead console includes interior observation mirror, sunglasses bin, switchable on/off lamps
- Single rear overhead console system including 3 storage bins, 2x DVD screens, 2nd and 3rd-row swivel LED lamps and halo light ring
- Electronic stalk mounted cruise control
- Electronic Stability Programme, Brake Assist and all-speed traction Control
- Front & rear fog lamps
- Rearview, day/night autodimming interior mirrors
- Power 8-way driver’s seat, dual power sliding doors and manual driver-seat lumbar adjust, power liftgate and power quartered vented windows
- Rear Park Assist System
- Remote Keyless/Illuminated Entry
- Roof rack
- Stow ‘n Go Seating and Storage System
- MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System with 20GB hard disk drive
- Infinity Acoustic Surround Sound – 9 amplified speakers with subwoofer
- Power sunroof
- Vehicle Information Centre
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
- 17″ aluminium wheels
- Power front one-touch up/down driver and front passenger and power 2nd-row
Words and photos Darren Cottingham