CHELSEA, Mich. – Lee Iacocca, the larger-than-life former head of the Chrysler Corporation, recently passed away. He might not have been the first to put a multi-seat box on wheels, but the Plymouth Voyager created under his watch turned the minivan into a mainstream vehicle.
The company retired the Plymouth brand in 2001, and it was left to the Voyager’s twin siblings, the Dodge Grand Caravan and upscale Chrysler Town & Country, to carry on the people-mover tradition. But the Town & Country was axed for 2017, replaced by the Chrysler Pacifica.
Now, Chrysler is bringing back the Voyager name, as an entry-level version of the Pacifica. It will go on sale as a 2020 in the United States, arriving afterwards in Canada, likely next year as a 2021 model.
On its introduction, the Pacifica was (and still is) a considerable improvement over the Grand Caravan, but all-new costs cash. The Pacifica debuted in Canada with an MSRP of $44,000. Meanwhile, factory incentives on the Grand Caravan’s base Canada Value Package brought it in under $20,000. The Pacifica has come down to $36,995 for 2019, but the Grand Caravan is still $5,250 less (all before incentives). Competitors like the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey are pricey, too, and the Grand Caravan mops the floor with them. Last year, it outsold both those and the less-expensive Kia Sedona, combined.
But the Grand Caravan is an old design, further doomed by the company’s decision to eventually market Dodge exclusively as a performance brand. It’s soldiered on much longer than anyone expected, and the pull-the-plug date hasn’t yet been announced, but it is inevitable.
And so the Ontario-built Pacifica will offer the entry-level Voyager. It’s nice to get into the top-level Limited, but the minivan’s target market is families, most of whom need to make their money go as far as possible. The Canada Value Package didn’t soar up the sales charts on its patriotic name alone.
Like other Pacifica models, the Voyager will use a 3.6-L V6, making 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. This engine is used extensively in the company’s lineup, and for a simple reason: it’s very good, and it does an excellent job of pulling this minivan around. However, don’t expect to see the pricier Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid’s powertrain running around with a Voyager badge (or, at least, not anytime in the near future).
In my short stint with it, during a multi-vehicle presentation, I found the Voyager maintains all of the Pacifica’s driving characteristics. The ride is smooth and well-planted, taking corners with fairly sharp precision and a minimum of tippyness – always a good thing when you may have delicate young stomachs in the rear chairs. The steering is light enough for easy parking-lot maneuvering, but firm enough at highway speeds for confidence.
We don’t yet know how the Voyager will be packaged for Canada, where the current Pacifica comes in the base L, LX, three levels of the Touring, and Limited, but it will likely be similar to how the U.S. will sell it. There, the Pacifica and Voyager will be separate nameplates. The Pacifica will drop its two lowest trim levels, which will become the Voyager L and Voyager LX, along with an LXi exclusively for fleets. An accessibility model will be available as a BraunAbility conversion.
The Voyager L will include air conditioning, keyless entry, stowable third-row seat, heated mirrors, 17-inch wheels, cruise control, a front floor tray (more useful than a full centre console for stashing a purse or pack), front map lights, cloth seats, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The LX adds a “Touring-tuned” suspension, automatic headlamps, three-zone manual temperature control, full interior lighting, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power driver’s seat, and satellite radio. The fleet-only LXi gets more than the consumer models, adding power sliding doors, roof racks, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row sunshades, a full-length floor console, leatherette upholstery, and a garage door opener.
Seating depends on the trim level. The Chrysler/Dodge minivans are exclusive in the segment with their available Stow ‘n Go second-row fold-into-the-floor seats, but only the fleet-spec Voyager LXi gets them. The L’s second row is a bench, while the LX gets second-row quad seats, along with the in-floor bins where the folding seats go, but which are only for small-item storage in this model.
The LX and LXi will have an optional Cold Weather Package of heated front seats and steering wheel. All trim levels can add all-weather floor mats and cargo liners, and a Safety Tec package including blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, and rear park assist with braking. The current, base Pacifica L also lacks the folding second-row seats, and it can’t be optioned with the heated seats and wheel, so expect that to continue with the Voyager.
Much hinges on the price, and it will be a while before that’s released. With any luck, it’ll be close to Grand Caravan cash but for a better-performing vehicle. Even in a world of SUVs, you can’t beat a minivan for crowd-hauling, and the Pacifica is a very good minivan indeed.