DRIVE AMERICAN: Return of the Voyager

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By KEVIN WEAKS

Chrysler revives Voyager name for Pacifica line

Remember Plymouth? Founded in 1928, its logo was a stylized depiction of the Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. It was a voyager. Get it?

In the late 1970s, Chrysler began a development program to design “a small affordable van that looked and handled more like a car.” The result was the first American minivan, the 1984 Plymouth Voyager. The Voyager debuted the minivan design features of front-wheel drive, a flat floor and a sliding door for rear passengers. The Dodge Caravan was also released for the 1984 model year and was sold alongside the Voyager.

THE VEHICLE THAT STARTED IT ALL, the 1984 Plymouth Voyager, which retailed for $9,109. The Voyager nameplate is being revived.

In 2001, as Plymouth sales slowed, Chrysler decided to ditch the 90-year-old brand. It was a surprise for most people except for Plymouth dealers. Plymouth had been the high-volume, entry-level seller for the automaker until the late 1990s when Japanese rivals started attracting young buyers. Nothing seemed to work, so in November 1999 Chrysler threw in the towel. Plymouth would depart at the close of the 2001 model year. Plymouth’s lineup, the hot rod Prowler and the Voyager minivan, would become Chryslers.

The Plymouth Voyager minivan was assembled by Chrysler at its Windsor Assembly facility in Ontario, Canada; from 1987 to 2000, the Voyager was also assembled right here at home at St. Louis Assembly in Fenton, now a vast vacant lot.

THE 2020 CHRYSLER VOYAGER is a more affordable version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, with the same 287-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at around $28,480.

A LESS EXPENSIVE VERSION OF PACIFICA
In 2017, Chrysler unveiled the Pacifica. Introduced as a more upscale replacement for the Voyager and Town & Country minivans in 2017, the Pacifica was designed to combine the convenience of a minivan, the elevated position of an SUV, and the handling of a sedan. However, the well-tricked-out Pacifica was also expensive, and sales were droopy against real SUVs and Japanese competitors like the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and also the Chevrolet Traverse.

Sensing that it had overshot the market, Chrysler decided to offer a more affordable version of the Pacifica minivan, leaving the Pacifica badge for the more premium versions. The new name is a familiar one: Voyager.

Essentially a rebadged version of the previous Pacifica’s L and LX trim levels, the new budget-oriented 2020 Chrysler Voyager is otherwise mechanically identical to the Pacifica, with the same 287-hp 3.6-liter V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. The Pacifica itself should continue on unchanged, although it will now only include higher-priced trim levels with more equipment.

THE 2020 CHRYSLER PACIFICA VOYAGER’S base L trim level comes with manual climate control, cloth seats, and a second-row bench seat that makes for seven-passenger capacity. The Voyager LX adds second-row captain’s chairs, a power driver’s seat, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

The Voyager will come in L and LX trims and add an LXi for fleet sales. The Voyager’s base L trim level is fairly sparsely equipped with manual climate control, cloth seats, and a second-row bench seat that makes for seven-passenger capacity. The Voyager LX adds a fair bit of equipment including second-row captain’s chairs, a power driver’s seat, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and SiriusXM satellite radio.

Meanwhile, the 2020 Pacifica will continue to offer what critics have heralded as one of the best-styled minivans ever. This is all thanks to its rounded edges, bold and luxurious grille, and shapely but functional rear hatch. Inside, the Pacifica starts with an upscale look that improves as you move up through the trim levels. These improvements include high-grade materials, a two-tone color scheme, a “luxury” two-tone steering wheel, twin 10-inch rear touchscreens, and much more.

THE DODGE GRAND CARAVAN will cease production in May 2020, according to sources not confirmed by Chrysler, which hopes to entice Caravan buyers to choose the new Voyager minivan.

DODGE GRAND CARAVAN STILL AROUND FOR NOW
The new Voyager was originally intended to replace the Dodge Grand Caravan, and that now seems imminent. It was announced July 22 that the Grand Caravan will remain in production through May 2020 as Chrysler aims to transition Caravan buyers over to the Voyager. Meanwhile, the Grand Caravan remains the least expensive new minivan on the market, starting around $27,000.

The seven- or eight-passenger Grand Caravan has a single selling point: lots of room at a thrifty price. And there’s those trick rear seats that can fold into underfloor bins when not in use. The Grand Caravan shares the Stow ‘n Go system with the Chrysler Pacifica. The available second-row folding seats disappear neatly into underfloor storage bins.

Despite its age, the Dodge Grand Caravan has the highest sales of any minivan. The Grand Caravan is even outselling its nearest competitor, the Chrysler Pacifica, by more than 55 percent.

VOYAGER PRICING STARTS AT $26,985
It is expected that the Voyager will get a slight price cut compared to the lowest trim level Pacifica L. Publications predict the base Voyager will start at $26,985 before a $1,495 destination charge, for a total of $28,480, competing directly with the Grand Caravan in price.

The 2020 Chrysler Pacifica will not go through any big changes, so you can expect pricing similar to the current model, which ranges from $28,480 to $45,940 (destination fees included). Pacifica also offers a hybrid version. Both the 2020 Pacifica and Voyager production kick off next month. No doubt Chrysler hopes the new Voyager will have smoother sailing than the Pacifica.

Contact Kevin Weaks at kweaks@labortribune.com

 

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