2002 Voyager New Car Test Drive
The Voyager represents the high-value end of Chrysler's minivan line, and value is its stock in trade. With it you get the minivan essentials-space, passenger and cargo flexibility, and maneuverability-at prices that are hard to beat. It's a simple formula, and it works.
The Chrysler Group's entire range of minivans, including Chrysler Voyager, Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan, underwent a complete makeover for model year 2001. (See separate nctd.com reviews of the Town & Country and Caravan.) The big news this year is pricing, as stickers increased less than 1 percent on average and actually declined in many cases, based on new standard equipment. Updates for 2002 are limited to a model realignment and new features, including a standard four-speed automatic transmission, power-adjustable foot pedals and some high-tech gizmos like a factory-installed DVD player.
We passed on most of the gizmos in favor of a standard Voyager equipped as a standard family might choose. Why? Because Chrysler (and its Dodge brand) dominate the market for minivans priced at $20,000 or less. Based on our road test, it's not difficult to understand why.
When the Plymouth brand was eliminated two years ago, Chrysler adopted the Voyager minivan to complement its more expensive Town & Country. The company called it a case of having your cake and eating it, too-mating a premium brand name with value-conscious pricing. Makes sense, we'd guess, although the proliferation of Chrysler minivans can be a little confusing.
We tested a Voyager, period, no further designation. This mid-level model (MSRP $19,155) mixes value with convenience: the base 150-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, standard automatic transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo cassette, ample cupholders, 12-volt power points and most other important minivan stuff. It's also the least expensive Voyager with standard seating for seven.
Yet there may be a better (though not widely publicized) alternative for value-conscious buyers in 2002. The new Voyager eC retails at a remarkable $16,355, and mechanically it's identical to the standard Voyager. It also comes with the air and AM/FM/cassette. The distinction is a few minor deletions (map lights, a smaller battery) and-more significantly-seating for five. Now we'll let you in on a secret. You can increase the Voyager eC's capacity to seven passengers with an optional third-row seat ($450), bringing MSRP to just $16,795. The catch? The eC is available in only four colors, and options are limited. It can't be equipped with the upgrade 210-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 ($970) or anti-lock brakes ($565).
Finally, Chrysler offers the Voyager LX (MSRP $23,155). The LX comes with the V6, a tachometer, rear-window defogger, floor mats, upgraded upholstery and sound insulation, and more convenience items, including power windows and rear vents, cruise control, and tilt steering.
All Voyagers are equipped with multi-stage dual front airbags that inflate at varying rates to account for the severity of an impact and limit potential for airbag-related injuries. All models offer optional front-passenger side-impact airbags ($390) and built-in toddler safety seats ($225).
Power-adjustable pedals ($195) are available on all three Voyagers. They allow the brake and gas pedal to move back or forward three inches to tailor the driving position. Other popular options include a power sliding passenger-side door, second-row bucket seats and wireless headphones for the rear seats (these play cassette, CD or radio broadcasts independent of what's playing over the external speakers). New features for '02 include the DVD player, with a 7 by 6.4 inch LCD screen and wireless headphones, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Many options are packaged in groups, so check details at a dealership or on the Internet at www.chrysler.com. Further, a number of features in Chrysler's minivan lineup are reserved for the Town & Country--including extended wheelbase and all-wheel-drive. Equipped with the full-luxury treatment, the Town & Country can approach $40.000.