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By Jim Mateja
November 22, 1993
(Transportation/Aug. 22), it was on the streets and hills of San Francisco, where we tested a '94 Dodge Grand Caravan LE with all-wheel drive. Back in Chicagoland, the test vehicle was a '94 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE with all-wheel drive. Regardless
of the name, Chrysler pulled out all the stops for the new model year to try to keep its title as market champ in the mini-van segment. The '94s have standard driver- and passenger-side air bags; optional anti-lock brakes; optional child-safety
seats with a rear tilt feature to keepthe child comfortable when he or she dozes off; a standard movable front passenger seat for forward or backward play to adjust the legroom (the seat had been stationary for years); and a standard smoother, quieter
four-speed automatic transmission. Also, the 3.8-liter V-6 engine that's optional in the Grand Caravan and Grand Voyager gets a 12-horsepower boost, to 162, while protective beams have been added to both front doors and the side sliding door.
The interior was redesigned to be more user-friendly. A trio of air ducts in the center of the instrument panel provides improved cooling and heating; the radio is higher in the dash, for easier use; the power windows have paddlelike controls that you can
use without taking your eyes off the road; and a small tray has been placed in the center dash top to hold items such as keys or change. Also, the exterior features revised front and rear bumper fascias and new bodyside moldings and rocker-panel
coverings. The power door locks can be programmed to lock once you've reached 8 m.p.h.and unlock when you brake and put the gearshift in "park"; or to lock after reaching 8 m.p.h. and stay locked even after parking, until you press the release
button. There's also keyless entry, so you need only press a symbol on the key fob to lock or unlock the doors. A 1-inch-longer left-side windshield wiper keeps the driver's side of the window clearer, and there are enlarged cupholders to hold
wider-bottom containers. And rear-seat cupholders feature side cutouts tohold coffee-cup handles as well as pop cans. Our test vehicle here and in San Francisco came with the 3.8-liter V-6, a quiet yet sufficiently powerful engine, teamed with a
four-speed automatic transmission. The 15 m.p.g. city/20 highway rating is at least 3 m.p.g. lower than we'd like. Whether in San Francisco or Chicagoland, we'd like some changes made in thevan. For starters, the rearmost seat in the Grand Voyager
moves only slightly.In the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest, the seat rests on a track so that you can shove it far forward to make room for packages in back. We've had the opportunity to drive the '94 Chevrolet Lumina van (Cartalk/Oct. 24) with
its optional power sliding side door, and we hope Chrysler adds the feature in its vans. The $295 option in the Lumina is worth the price because of the ease of entry and exit created by
pushing the power button. Chrysler has developed a similar door, but it held off on making it available. Perhaps for the 1996 model year, when the Chrysler mini-vans will be restyled, the feature will be added. The Lumina, along with the Pontiac
Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette, which also offer the power sliding side door, will add traction control at midyear, another feature Chrysler should consider for its non-all-wheel-drive vans. Well after our trek to California, Chrysler finally
priced its 1994 vans. The wealth of new or improved equipment resulted in a stiff average price increase of $1,200 across the mini-van line. The Grand Voyager LE AWD we tested has a base price of $25,460. A $1,306 preferred option package added a
power driver's seat, power windows, tinted glass and AM/FM stereo with cassette and six speakers. A rear-seat heater/air conditioner (non-chlorofluorocarbon) added $466, the child-safety seats $225 (only with seven-passenger, n
ot five-passenger, seating), the 3.8-liter V-6 $302 and red metallic paint $97. The sticker topped $27,800. Freight adds $560.