If statistics are to be believed, we’re getting bigger at a fairly astonishing rate. We’re getting taller and we’re also getting broader.
Our kids are bigger than ever before and our homes need to be bigger to house us and all of our gear. Families these days demand space and plenty of it. Were you designing the ultimate family car from a clean sheet of paper, it would not be family hatchback size any longer. It would probably resemble something more the scale of Chrysler’s latest Grand Voyager, a car that makes no bones about being big.
Smart packaging, seats that slide and collapse, multifarious stowage spaces and other tricks of the trade only buy car designers a certain amount of leeway. In the final reckoning, there’s no substitute for size and the Grand Voyager aces most of its rivals in this regard. It’s not just a big crew bus either. The latest model is extremely well finished.
Two engines are available. There’s a 190bhp 3.8-litre V6 (that you’d probably need to be crackers to sign up for given its thirst and emissions) and there’s a very good 2.8-litre turbo diesel that will be the choice for sensible consumers. The difference between the two engines is best illustrated by the fact that you’ll need to rev the 3.8-litre petrol unit to 5,200rpm to achieve its peak power figure, whereas you’ll need just 3,800rpm on the board to get the best out of the 161bhp diesel. This means that while the diesel is a far more relaxing engine to drive, it feels no slower because the torque figure of 360Nm aces the petrol’s 305Nm showing. Overtaking is therefore safe and unstressed, even when you’re carrying a full load of passengers and gear.
The 2.8-litre CRD diesel engine has proven a real winner for Chrysler Jeep and has been rolled out across a number of vehicles. It’s not the most refined unit of its ilk but it’s big-hearted and good to drive. Visibility out of the Grand Voyager is one of the best in class with big mirrors, short overhangs and a clear commitment to reduce the width of pillars.
"the Grand Voyager gets the basics right but adds to this a whole host of comfort and convenience features"
MPVs stand or fall on their practicality. There have been any number of attempts by manufacturers to hoodwink the buying public with ‘family’ cars that fall short on interior space and they invariably fail. Take a look at the sales charts for this sort of car and it’s clear that size sells and on that basis, the Grand Voyager is off to a very promising start. It is seriously big, seating seven with ease and featuring the Stow ‘n Go seating system which means that the vehicle can be transformed from a seven seater to a two seater in less than 30 seconds. Because all of the seats store in the floor, it’s not as if you’ll need to clutter your garage up with them either.
This generation Grand Voyager is bluffer and squarer looking than its rounded predecessor but looks a little more distinguished for it, distancing itself from the midsized sports-orientated vehicles like the Ford S-MAX and the Mitsubishi Grandis. It’s not the most distinctive piece of styling but it caters to a buyer that wants the best without drawing attention to that fact. The cabin has stepped upmarket on the latest models with upgraded trim accents but it’s still the amount of equipment that impresses more than the quality of the ambience.
Three trim levels are available if you plump for the 2.8-litre CRD diesel engine. The range kicks off with the LX before extending up to the Touring and tops out with the Limited, which can also be yours with the 3.8-litre petrol V6. Even the standard models get the Stow ‘n’ Go seating system in the front two rows, powered sliding side doors, a powered tailgate, electric sliding windows in the third row, a removable torch in the boot, LED reading lamps and automatic three-zone climate control for all passengers. The Limited models has Stow ‘n’ Go in all three rows, a reversing camera and rain sensing wipers.
There’s even the option of a dual-DVD system with two screens available to second row passengers to play games or watch a different movie to those in the third row. The Uconnect infotainment system offers MP3 compatibility, a 30GB hard drive and touch screen and voice controlled sat nav.
Passenger safety comes courtesy of traction control and ESP stability control, tyre pressure monitoring, front and all-row curtain airbags as well as seven full-sized seats with inbuilt fixings for three ISOFIX child seats and active headrests. A Swivel ‘n’ Go seating system is also available that allows the second row of seats to swivel for ‘conversational seating’, the third row seats power-reclining into one of four positions at the touch of a button.
Were the petrol-engined car a good deal cheaper to buy than its diesel counterpart, then it would have been possible to make a case for it to very low mileage buyers. As both the Limited petrol and diesel models are similarly priced, it’s hard to see why you’d go for the petrol car. Its emissions and fuel economy can’t touch those of the 2.8-litre CRD and you’d need a particular – and rather outdated it has to be said – aversion to diesel cars in order to select the V6.
Depreciation is an area where the Grand Voyager is going to do reasonably well. It’s helped in this regard by upfront pricing that looks very reasonable and by the fact the Grand Voyagers have traditionally been bought by individuals who have come to recognise that viable alternatives are few. Only the Renault Grand Espace and luxury versions of the Volkswagen Caravelle rival the Grand Voyager’s interior space and as a compromise between the Renault’s style and the Volkswagen’s internal acreage, the Grand Voyager has found itself in particular demand.
Updating a successful product is always fraught with risk. Go too radical and you can easily alienate existing buyers. Play too safe and it’s possible that bolder rivals will erode your market share. With the latest Grand Voyager, Chrysler has adopted an interesting tack. The exterior is ultra conservative. Indeed it’s hard to imagine a more generic MPV silhouette. Where the company has really blown the budget is in dreaming up ways of making the Grand Voyager so much more liveable inside.
With its smart seating system and genuine ability to seat seven adults, the Grand Voyager gets the basics right but adds to this a whole host of comfort and convenience features that make it the consummate vehicle for the big family. Add in excellent safety provision and here’s one that you can’t afford to overlook.