By Samuel Ee
The quintessential American MPV now has a rather uncharacteristic engine under the hood - a turbodiesel. The Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8L TDI is the first diesel model from the US marque to debut here. Previously, this full-sized seven-seat minivan used a 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine to power the front wheels.
Now, this four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbodiesel touts fuel consumption of 12.7 km/litre under the combined cycle or a 50 per cent improvement over the petrol V6, both of which are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Together with diesel's better fuel efficiency compared with petrol, there is also the torque factor. The 2.8L TDI packs 360 Newton-metres, or 18 per cent higher than the petrol V6.
On the road, this translates into pretty brisk performance for this 2,242 kg model. The usual diesel clatter isn't obvious although the engine does make itself heard from inside the cabin.
What is obvious is the frugal performance. Considering its size and weight, this Chrysler MPV claims fuel consumption of 7.9 litres per 100 km under the combined cycle, or an amazing 12.7 km/l.
Handling is similar to other MPV models in its class, with its soft comfortable ride turning into high speed float when going faster. But otherwise, this big Chrysler is not difficult to drive and park, with its easy steering and good all-round visibility.
But with the lower centre console set low, the gated gear lever of the auto transmission is all the way down there. It is not difficult to reach except when the arm rest is down.
Its position also complements the gearbox's Mercedes-Benz-like manual shifting feature, which requires the lever to be nudged sideways instead of forwards/backwards, because in this instance, it is more ergonomic to use.
The interior itself has been updated with a new and more pleasing combination of wood and faux metal trim as well as better-looking plastics.
But the dashboard's geometric layout remains old school with its large centre console and relatively small controls, instruments and touchscreen, which offers UConnect bluetooth telephony for up to eight phone pairings (presumably for the seven human occupants and one family pet).
Still, the best feature of the seven-seater Grand Voyager has to be its cabin space and versatility.
|Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8L TDI
Engine: 2,776cc turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic transmission
Max Power: 163 hp @ 3,800 rpm
Max Torque: 360 Nm @ 1,800-2,800 rpm
0-100kmh: 12.8 secs
Top speed: 185 kmh
CO2 emissions: 207 g/km
Distributor: Chrysler Jeep Automotive of Singapore 6479 3333
Open the two electric rear doors to find the familiar Stow 'n Go feature, which allows the two individual second-row seats to be folded into the floor. Together with a fully retractable third row, the Grand Voyager can be transformed into a cavernous minivan with a flat load floor if necessary.
But since most people don't move house every weekend, the depressions in the floor when Stow 'n Go is not in use become large storage bins to complement the four overhead compartments.
One new feature for the Grand Voyager 2.8L TDI is the fully electric third row. This 60/40 split bench can also be made to face backwards and with the electrically operated tailgate up, it is perfect for a picnic or a day at the beach.
Other thoughtful features are the built-in flashlight and myriad cubby holes and cup holders.
The biggest attraction, however, has to be its price. With the COE premium accounting for more than half the price tag, it makes the user-friendly Chrysler Grand Voyager a great value family car.
This article was first published in The Business Times.