What's New for 2001
Chrysler's low-end minivan receives an available 3.3-liter V6 engine that's been massaged to put forth more power, an improved suspension and drivetrain to increase ride comfort, dual sliding doors, and available side airbags, all under new, sleek sheetmetal.
The Voyager is to Chrysler what Old Navy is to the Gap conglomerate: Chrysler needed a value leader in the minivan class, as its Town and Country is too upscale. So the spirit of the demised Plymouth nameplate lives on in the low-priced Voyager line. With it, DaimlerChrysler covers the gamut of the minivan spectrum.
The 2001 Voyager sports a more wedge-like profile than its predecessor, along with a larger, deeper grille. Some of the changes include a hood that's been raised by an inch and larger, better illuminating headlamps. As the extended-wheelbase model, deemed the Grand Voyager, is no more (if you want the longer wheelbase, you have to spring for the T and C or Dodge's Grand Caravan), buyers can choose between the base Voyager or the more upscale Voyager LX. If you want a good, solid minivan for under 20 G's, look no further than the Voyager. You won't get all the frills of its upper-class brethren, but you'll get a solid, dependable ride for seven, with standard air conditioning, front and rear power outlets, and a rear bench with rollers that'll facilitate its removal or installation. Step up to the LX and you get standard ABS with a front disc/rear drum setup, power door locks and windows, cruise control, and the option of an in-dash four-disc CD changer.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine good for 150 horsepower and 167 foot-pounds of torque is standard on base models, but the Voyager benefits from a little extra oomph when the LX trim is selected. Acceleration with the 3.3-liter, 180-horsepower (up from last year's 158) engine is strong from startup, with 201 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm providing a good amount of low-end grunt. Automatic transmission shifts are neat and smooth, and engine and tire sounds are virtually absent.
Though tautly suspended, the ride is seldom harsh or jarring, unless you get onto truly rough surfaces. Handling is exceptional for a minivan. You might even call it fun. Combined with light steering wheel response and great visibility, the Voyager is easy to handle in urban traffic and suburban shopping centers.
Although Chrysler minivans have been criticized in the past for not measuring up to their counterparts in terms of safety ratings, the Voyager's optional side airbags should help in raising these scores. Those, and improved brake components, should go a long way toward protecting the well-being of the occupants of this minivan.
Newly revised minivans from Honda, Ford, Mazda and GM are the strongest challengers, but the Voyager holds its own when it comes to value, especially with the weak Chevy Venture as its only domestic competitor. Where else can you get a commodious and decently equipped minivan for 20 grand?