The Voyager used to be a Plymouth, but now that the old make is fading away, the Voyager assumes the Chrysler badge for 2001. Available in the base or upscale LX trim level, the Voyager comes only in short-body form with front-wheel drive; previous Voyagers had been offered with either a regular or extended wheelbase. The 2001 Voyager is related to both the Dodge Caravan and the longer, higher-priced Chrysler Town & Country.
Dimensions are similar to the 1996 2000 Plymouth Voyager, but the body is about 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider. In addition to fresh, evolutionary styling, which includes larger headlights and new wraparound taillights, the Voyager promises more power from a V-6 engine in LX editions, while base-model Voyagers retain the four-cylinder engine from the prior generation. A new optional power sliding door has a manual override so it can be opened and closed by hand while the power phase is in operation. It also features obstacle detection in both the open and close modes.
Available only in regular length, the Voyager has a 113.9-inch wheelbase and measures 189.1 inches long overall. Dual sliding side doors are standard, and a power passenger-side sliding door is optional only on the LX.
Unlike the Honda Odyssey and Mazda MPV, Voyagers lack a third-row seat that folds away. Among the options, however, is a 50/50-split third-row bench. The new Quad-Command seating, which features second-row buckets, also is optional. A new tilt mechanism makes it easier to get in and out of the backseat. Buying an LX brings such extras as power windows, tilt steering, cruise control and an electric rear defroster. Options include dual-zone temperature control, an odor/particulate air filter, a CD player and an in-dash four-CD changer for the LX.
Under the Hood
A 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine goes into the base Voyager, driving a three-speed-automatic transmission. A 180-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 that teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission is standard in the LX.
Front airbags now have dual-stage inflators, and side-impact airbags are a new option. Seat belt pretensioners for the front seats are installed. Antilock brakes are standard in the LX and optional in the base Voyager. Child-safety seat tethers are installed in the second and third rows.
Chrysler has been the leader in minivans since 1984 not only in sales, but also in the family-oriented functionality of its products. The 2001 redesign did not produce as much of a forward leap as the 1996 restyling, and competition has stiffened considerably since then. Even so, Chrysler and Dodge are still the minivans to beat.
Lively acceleration from a standstill with the 3.3-liter V-6 engine is not quite matched by the Voyagers passing and merging prowess, but its more than adequate. Typical buyers probably wont find the four-cylinder model to have sufficient strength.
Chryslers minivans handle with a relatively light touch, but not in a disconcerting manner. On the contrary, they feel secure on the highway and are very easy to drive, with no unpleasant surprises to mar the experience. The Voyager maneuvers adeptly in urban driving and is confident and capable in difficult spots or bad-weather situations. The driver faces a down-to-business dashboard in an appealing interior.
Voyagers are quiet, though wind and road noise can be heard at times. Quality problems of the past appear to have been resolved, and the current minivans seem well constructed and nicely refined. One serious annoyance is the parking-brake release lever, which is a long reach for the driver. Sun-visor extenders, in contrast, are a helpful bonus. Though odd in shape, the column gearshift lever operates easily.
Seats are more comfortable and more agreeably cushioned than those in the Ford Windstar. The standard analog instruments on the LX are easy enough to read during the day, but the light green numerals are more difficult to see at night.