Chrysler Grand Voyager 2008 Review

July 23rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


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

Chrysler and Great Wall to work together

July 8th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

You may remember ‘Great Wall’ car company from recent Car and SUV news of the brand’s imminent arrival in New Zealand.

Chinese media report that the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding in mid-June that will allow them to explore a shared sales network and component purchasing. Great Wall Motor is recognized as an independent (not in a joint venture) SUV and pickup manufacturer with annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles.

The report also notes that one year has passed (July 4, 2007) since Chrysler signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Chery Automobile, but that no further developments have been seen since then.

Chrysler LLC and Great Wall Motor Co Ltd. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to assess the feasibility of developing a long-term, mutually beneficial strategic relationship covering a broad range of areas. Under the agreement, the two parties could leverage each other’s distribution network and component and technology capabilities to benefit consumers around the world. The MOU represents part of Chrysler’s ongoing efforts to explore opportunities to expand the Company’s involvement in the development of China’s auto industry, as well as growing Chrysler’s global business through partnerships.

The two parties have agreed to not disclose further details of the discussion until more specific plans are developed and approved.

Chrysler Sebring 2007 Review

September 1st, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler Sebring 2007 rq

Many people don’t know that Sebring has a very special meaning for New Zealanders: it’s where, in 1959, Bruce McLaren became the youngest driver to win a Grand Prix — a record he held for over 40 years until Alonso won at Hungaroring in 2003.

With all this racing heritage, you can understand why a company would want to ride on its coattails and American car companies have a history of calling their cars after places of note, something the English haven’t done since, perhaps the Morris Oxford. Placenames can evoke memories and imply kudos, but is the Sebring really an out-and-out racecar, or is it designed for the armchair spectator? To find out, I took it to the very slightly American Coatesville, West Auckland.

Coatesville does have a frontier town ring to it, and certainly there are big ranches out there, but it’s also got some exceptionally twisty roads that no self-respectin’ wagon driver would miss. Mustering the 173 horses under the bonnet requires heavy use of the throttle. The Sebring is underpowered. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder VVT engine is very quiet when cruising on the flat, but it has a harsh, intrusive tone when pushed. Braking, though, is good and pushing into the corners the inside wheel chirps as the ABS kicks in. The 215/55R18 tyres do their best to stay on the road, but aren’t helped by the large amount of safety-conscious understeer that’s dialled in.

A clue as to why the engine struggles and the car understeers is found in the interior: lots of heavy extras like well-padded leather seats with some of the best (and quickest) heaters I’ve experienced, a photochromic rear-view mirror to reduce glare at night, a sunroof, and tortoiseshell accents artfully placed. My current favourite in-car gadget sits adjacent to the driver’s left elbow: a cup holder that both heats and cools drinks (though not at the same time due to some fairly unbreakable laws of physics). Press a button and it chills your 40oz Diet Pepsi; press another button and it warms your Frappocappumochaccino. Perfect. Almost. I don’t drink soft drinks or coffee (it’s a religious thing: I worship my body), and the cup holder does not fit a water bottle to allow me to maintain easily accessible optimal hydration.

Time to take my mind off my impending thirst by checking the sound system. Being built for the American market, the stereo will be optimised for either country or hip-hop. Take a guess: it’s hip-hop. It’s a Boston Acoustics speaker setup driven by an integrated 6-disc CD/DVD/MP3/radio head unit. Controls for the stereo are found on the back of the steering wheel in unmarked buttons. The right hand side changes the volume and the left hand side the tuning and channel. If you can’t find anything on the radio, you can plug an auxiliary device in like an iPod.

A first for me is the sequential gearshift arrangement. Rather than being the usual forwards/backwards style, move the stick to the right to change up, and left to change down. This is sort of intuitive because in a manual shifting up (i.e. second to third, or fourth to fifth) involves moving the stick to the right.

The switchgear and trip computer are from the Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge parts bin, so you get the tyre pressure gauge like the Nitro and Wrangler do, as well as a compass, trip timer and thermometer. Though, unlike the Nitro, the controls for the trip computer are on the central console, not the steering wheel, leaving a clean and elegant looking wheel with its tortoiseshell section at the top. The ignition key is to the left of the wheel, like the Chrysler SRT, which takes some breaking of a lifetime habit of putting the key on the right.

External styling is flattering from some angles (e.g. rear three-quarter and slightly stunted from others (side view). The bonnet is ribbed for your pleasure, and other than the optional 18-inch wheels and the enormous Chrysler badge on the boot, everything is quite smooth – there are few stand-out elements in the design.

In this price bracket, there’s some stiff competition: Hyundai Sonata V6, Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo to name a few. The Sebring does beat them in terms of interior plushness, so if you don’t need the speed, you can be happy with your piping hot coffee the whole way to work.

Price: from $39,990 (car tested included optional sunroof at $2,250 and chrome alloys at $350)

What we like:

  • Comfortable
  • Well-appointed with luxuries

What we don’t like:

  • Noisy, underpowered engine
  • Understeer
  • Cup holder doesn’t take a bottle

Words and photos Darren Cottingham

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