What's New for 1997
Changes for 1997 include updated transmission software, an upgraded antilock brake system and an enhanced accident response system that unlocks the doors and turns on the interior lights if the front airbags deploy. Additionally, Plymouth has made improvements to the cabin insulation (to reduce noise and vibration) and cassette stereo units. Standard lighting elements now include front map lights and liftgate flood lamps; a cargo bay power point is also part of the deal. New options include an eight-way power driver seat and an overhead console with a trip computer, compass and outside temperature display. Finally, base models get new wheel covers.
In the past, Plymouth renderings of Chrysler Corporation's popular front-drive minivans have been virtual clones of the Dodge Caravan. In engineering and design, that's also true of this latest iteration, introduced in last year as an early '96 model. In an assertive marketing move, however, Plymouth is pushing value pricing, aiming squarely at entry-level buyers who are shopping for their first minivans. Instead of the three-model lineup that Dodge shoppers face, Plymouth offers only two short-wheelbase Voyagers: the base model and a step-up SE.
Even a base-model Voyager is loaded with style and features, though anti-lock braking is an option here, unlike the other Chrysler minis. Sleek, lengthened, freshly-rounded bodies surround roomier-than-ever interiors, claiming more cargo space than the competition. Views to the ground and all around have improved, as a result of increasing the minivan's glass area by 30 percent and lowering the cowl. An "Easy Out" roller rear seat makes it easier to modify the passenger/cargo layout to suit specific needs.
Leading the list of appealing innovations is the optional driver-side sliding door--a boon to suburbanites who might want to load their minivans from either side. Two out of three buyers are expected to choose this option. Snowbelt-dwellers who've endured frosted windshields might also like the new optional electric windshield-wiper de-icer.
Anyone who appreciated the prior Voyager's car-like characteristics will be even more pleased by the latest edition, with its light steering response and super-smooth ride. This is an easy minivan to control, with a body that stays reasonably flat through curves--but threatens to lean just a little too much if pushed overly hard.
Base engine is a new 16-valve dual-cam four, whipping out 50 more horsepower than the prior four-cylinder. That's an impressive output hike, but many buyers are likely to choose the 3.0- or 3.3-liter V6 anyway. Sport-minded customers can select the Voyager Rallye or the Grand Voyager Rallye which is new for 1997.
Soft seats are amply supportive, and cupholders "ratchet down" to smaller size. Climate controls are a little too complex, and the column-mounted gearshift is oddly-shaped, but the dashboard exhibits an alluring curvature. Inside and out, the latest Voyager and Caravan look poised to retain their league-leading position in the minivan race.