The sweet smell of success at Chrysler Corp. since its initial 1984 introduction of the minivan is being carried forward with the 1996 models.Chrysler, which for the most part has put the station wagon on the shelf, is establishing a new minivan benchmark with a product line that ranges from entry-level to luxury.The entry level is the all-new 1996 Plymouth Voyager, while the intermediate level is the Dodge Caravan. The luxury segment is the Chrysler Town & Country, whose name harks back to the days of "woodie" station wagons."We think the best seller is going to be the long-wheelbase Grand Voyager SE," said Kevin O'Brien, president of Tom O'Brien Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle. "That's the way it was for the '95, and I feel that's going to continue."Building on a base that has remained a best-seller for 12 years, Chrysler's new minis improve on the requirements of maximum space utilization and compact form.There are short- and long-wheelbase models for all three nameplates, three engine choices with specific engines available on specific models, and two automatic transmissions, a three-speed and a four-speed. From that base, it's possible to tailor a van in about any configuration.Chrysler feels its entry-level Voyager is designed to introduce new, first-time buyers to its minivan store. As the next-generation mini, the Voyager has or offers as an option many of the technical features found in the upscale Town & Country."After entry-level buyers purchase a Voyager," O'Brien said, "they move to a Grand Voyager and then to a Town & Country. We have a very loyal buyer group."Styling emphasizes Chrysler's cabin-forward theme with a low cowl and aerodynamic front end. The low cowl contributes to a car-like appearance and enhances front visibility.The product mix has been juggled to avoid duplication on opposite ends of the price scale.For instance, the 2.4-liter, double-overhead-cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine in the Voyager and sporty Voyager Rallye isn't available in a Town & Country. Conversely, the Town & Country's 3.8-liter, overhead-valve V6 isn't offered either in the 113.3-inch wheelbase Voyager or Rallye vans, but can be had with the longer 119.3-inch wheelbase Grand Voyager.The beauty of a minivan is that while it's a van, it drives and rides like a car. Just step in, drop the automatic in drive, and go. And a van is now an accepted status symbol at the country club.Social significance aside, Chrysler designed its minivans for functionality and ease of operation. And in this area, a new driver's-side optional sliding door creates levels of convenience and flexibility that couldn't be achieved in any other way. This unusual door came about through input from consumers who wanted more convenient access.When a seven-passenger configuration is employed, both rear-seat backs fold forward for additional cargo space. And if you want to take the seats out, new, optional "easy-out" roller seats make removal a breeze.In developing a car-like quality, the vans embrace captain's-chair approach in which a driver is in command of everything in sight. Instruments in the popular Grand Voyager SE takes in the standard speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, fuel and temperature gauges and a 7,000 rpm tachometer. Since there's no manual five-speed transmission, I'd say the tach is just along for the ride.Buyer preference for the larger SE seems predicated on there being more of everything over the smaller base unit. Six inches of additional wheelbase translates into 13.3 inches of additional length and the ability to transport seven people versus five.The maximum cargo volume with seats removed comes to 172.3 cubic feet vs. 146.2 for the smaller five-seater, with corresponding increases in leg room. There's also a new dual-comfort-zone system that Chrysler says is the first of its kind for minivans.Based on buyer selections in the past, the engine and transmission choice for the Plymouth line seems to be a 3.0-liter (181.4-cubic-inch) V6 with a three-speed automatic. An optional four-speed automatic with Chrysler's optional 3.8-liter (230.5-cubic-inch) engine is available on the upscale Grand Voyager.Chrysler seems to feel that the base dual-cam four-cylinder engine for the smaller entry-level Voyager isn't suited for the longer-wheelbase vans. Even though the dual cam's 150 horsepower is equivalent to the 3.0-liter V6, it has less torque.Interestingly enough, you can get a short-wheelbase Town & Country, but only with a 3.3-liter (201.5-cubic-inch) V6 or a 3.8, and only an automatic four-speed.These obviously are better-equipped vans, and bear sticker prices to prove it. An SE carries a base of $19,595 vs. $23,960 for a Town & Country.On either end of the price scale, Chrysler's 1996 minivans provide the broadest array of van features in the company's history, and are a fitting tribute to the personal-carrier revolution that started 12 years ago. 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager SE Base price: $19,595.Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, seven-passenger, minivan.Engine: 3.0 liters, OHV V-6, 12 valves, fuel injected, 150 horsepower, 176 foot-pounds of torque.Transmission: Three-speed automatic.Mileage: 18 mpg city/ 23 mpg highway.Wheelbase: 119.3 inches.Length: 199.6 inches.Width: 75.6 inches.Height: 68.5 inches.Curb weight: 3,766 pounds.Options: Premium stereo package, air conditioning, rear heater, carpeting, overhead console, rear defroster, power locks, tint solar glass, intermediate and rear seat head restraints, engine block heater, lamp group, liftgate light bar, roof rack, seven-passenger deluxe seats, driver's side sliding door, smoker's convenience package, conventional spare tire, heavy-duty suspension, trailer-tow package, security system, 15-inch aluminum wheels and wiper de-icer.
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||September 28, 1995|
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||April 16, 1995|
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Plymouth Grand Voyager
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.