New Car Review

1996 PLYMOUTH GRAND VOYAGER SE

by Tom/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 20,050
     Price As Tested                                    $ 25,255
     Engine Type                             3.3 Liter V6 w/MPI*
     Engine Size                                 202 cid\3250 cc
     Horsepower                                   158 @ 4850 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               203 @ 3250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                      119"/75.6"/200"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4035 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    20 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/65R15
     Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Five door/seven passenger
     Domestic Content                                 85 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            18/24/21          
     0-60 MPH                                       12.3 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                         19 seconds @ 74 mph
     Top Speed (Est.)                                        N/A

     * Multi-point fuel injection

(The Plymouth Voyager and its clones started the whole mini-van movement in 1984 and have been the largest selling version of the genre ever since. The Hagins are mini-van fans, have several in the family and agree that the newest Voyager is sleek, chic and roomy.)

BOB - When we first tried the original Voyager 12 years ago, it was poorly finished and under-powered. We couldn't get the windows to close right and the four-cylinder engine was balky. But Chrysler was on to something and now every auto maker in the world is playing catch-up. Chrysler's newest version is the first real redesign since the original, and the company has come up with some nice new touches. I like the idea that they can be had with sliding rear doors on both sides. That provides lots of room for us old-timers to get in and out of the back seats from the left side of the van without having to swing a barn-sized door into street-side traffic. The '96 Chrysler minivans come with four different engines, two different wheelbases and wear three different nameplates; Plymouth, Dodge and Chrysler.

TOM - The Plymouth Voyager is the carriage-trade model, Dad, but when it comes down to it, the mini-van concept says to provide maximum versatility and carrying capacity with a minimum of size and fuel consumption. Luxury and prestige is best left to the luxo sedans. And our long wheelbased SE is a good compromise between the top-of-the-line Chrysler and its Dodge flower-delivery windowless commercial van. Our test rig carried the low-tech pushrod 3.3 liter V6 that puts most of its power at the relatively low engine speed of 4800 revs - but it would be interesting to compare this one to the 3.8 liter engine.

BOB - Tom, remember some of the mechanical problems that the early Mitsubishi-built V6 had? Going for the tried-and-true Chrysler-designed pushrod engine seems like a pretty good idea since the configuration is simple and has been around at Chrysler for a long time. The torque on the 3.3 liter is good, and while the fuel economy is nothing to write home about, it's OK considering the size of the rig.

TOM - And it is indeed big, Dad. When you take out the rear seats, it's like Carlsbad Caverns back there and getting those seats loose is no trick but it still takes two to lift them. They're mounted on a roller system and besides being completely removable from the rear hatchback, they can be rolled forward temporarily without becoming a major engineering project. Once they're out, you can slide a dozen or so 4X8 sheets of plywood or wall board in there and still be able to shut the hatchback.

BOB - Funny you should mention that, Tom. Until you begin some major house renovations like the ones your mother has underway, you don't appreciate having a passenger vehicle that can hold construction materials like wallboard and eight-foot-long two-by-fours. I didn't use our test Voyager like that because the down side of construction work is that you get the interior really gritty using it like a pickup truck.

TOM - The only place where this Voyager loses out to a conventional sedan is in the handling. You can't pitch it around like you can the Plymouth Breeze or Neon. Part of it may be that Chrysler stuck with its old beam axle and leaf springs in the back, but there's an optional handling package available that would no doubt improve handling and reduce understeer. The other thing that takes some getting used to is that the driver can't really see where the nose of the van is, so downtown parking takes some practice.

BOB - Most Voyager owners won't buy them with high-speed rallying or autocrossing in mind, so the handling isn't so big a drawback. Its strong points are its versatility, and getting as much usable interior space and convenience into as small a package as possible.

TOM - The company makes a big to-do over the fact that there are nearly a dozen cup holders located around the cabin, too.

BOB - Remembering how you kids used to spill things when we went places, I hope those cup holders are really deep or that the Voyager interior is easy to wipe up.

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