Category Archives: Plymouth

2000 Plymouth Voyager

Overview:

This 2000 Plymouth Voyager along with all minivans are perhaps the best family cars ever produced. They are low slung so little people can get in and out easily, are comfortable and easy to maneuver. The model I drove was a trip back to basics, which  means no power seats, windows or door locks.  Hand cranks on the door panels are not seen much any more but it’s a step up from Isinglass curtains that “roll right down in case there’s a change in the weather”.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not being a “power snob” but in this size vehicle I consider power windows and door locks a necessity. You might be able to reach knobs on the passenger side of a small two seater but I wouldn’t own this vehicle without these two features. Power seats? Now that’s a different story. You can function without power seats in any vehicle. But it’s a real pain when you exit the car to have to check every portal to be sure they are all locked and windows rolled up. Spoiled? No I don’t think so. These are practical considerations. The majority of time you drive your car, you are alone. After you drop the kids at school and push on to the next task of the day, you’ll find yourself walking around to close and lock doors and roll up windows. It doesn’t take long to tire of not having these “Basic Necessities”.

Handling/ Performance:

Excellent car like comfort and feel. Some think it is under-powered, but for the majority of time you’ll be well serviced by this 158 horsepower V6 engine. And you wont be stopping as often at the gas pump as you would with the 180 horsepower version. 

Styling:

It’s that old “Cookie-Cutter” design because all minivans look pretty much the same. Like identical twins Johnny and Donny, or was that Donny and Johnny. In the Chrysler family, in fact, this Voyager is virtually the same vehicle as the Dodge Caravan but for a slight difference in the grill work. I suppose all manufacturers have adopted the same design because people simply like it. The only recent difference that comes to mind is the innovative sliding door roll-down windows on the Mazda MPV. Other minivans may have more or better storage compartments, easier seat removal devices and such, but by and large the outward appearance is the same. 

Fit and Finish: 

The Voyager is assembled in Canada and they do a good job, eh?

Conveniences: 

Bare bones, but aside from not having power windows and door locks, I had few complaints. However, you can add options to suit your need and pocketbook, which you often don’t have the ability to do on many other brands. Some manufacturers try to improve efficiency of production by including all options as standard equipment, but there is no free lunch and you end up paying for more than you need. The Voyager now has an option to include an entertainment center so you can pop a video in to occupy the kids who get bored on journeys or even local commutes. And yes, you can even opt for power windows, door locks, seats, air conditioning, CD player and cruise control.

Cost: 

Young families can have all the convenience of a minivan at a great price by eliminating unnecessary features.

Recommendation:

I was most recently impressed with Mazda MPV and also liked the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. I haven’t tested the Pontiac Montana or the Mercury Villager. With this Plymouth you get nice affordable styling and have options to add those things you simply can’t live without.

The competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20650-29,350, Dodge Caravan $18,850-32,450, Ford Windstar  $19,910-33,455, Honda Odyssey $23,400-26,000, Mazda MPV $19,995-25,550, Mercury Villager $22,510-27,210, Nissan Quest $22,259-26,699, Oldsmobile Silhouette $25,345-31,940, Pontiac Montana $23,765-25,635, Toyota Sienna $22,368-27,334.

Good News:

As Bob Barker says, “The price is right”, handles like a car, decent gas mileage

Bad News: 

Poor storage in the 7 passenger model, driver area storage compartments are insufficient, rear hatch is full door that’s heavy and hard to open and close.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter 158 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, dual air bags, power front disc and rear drum brakes, power steering, 5-passenger seating, AM/FM radio with cassette and tinted glass. ( I told you it was basic).

Gas Stats:

18 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $18,685.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1999 Plymouth Grand Voyager Expresso (231)

Overview: 

This week’s review is one of the popular mini-vans. The Plymouth Voyager is basic and well priced, but sometime it’s the simple things that impress us. This was the case for simple me regarding the simple addition of a cargo net between the front seats. Does anyone else have a problem with lose stuff flying around at every turn or stop? Well you’d expect the inventor of the Mini-van, Chrysler, to be a step ahead of the followers, and although that isn’t always the case, this Voyager enjoys the prestige of being first with lots of firsts like all-wheel drive, extended-length, an optional driver’s-side sliding door and seats with rollers for easier removal. The operative word there is “easier”. Let’s face it, removing seats is never easy. In fact, where do you put them after removal and you get out of hernia surgery? The garage won’t hold another straw and … well, you know what I mean.

The 1999 Plymouth Voyager is available in six trims: Voyager (base), SE, and Expresso, all with either a short (Voyager) or long wheelbase (Grand Voyager). Engines range from a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder to a 180-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. The only engine I recommend is the V6 for all that we demand of our cars and if nothing else, our road system requires that you can scoot along with an all too fast flow of traffic.

There is a good selection to chose from in this segment of the market and if you follow my column, you’ll remember my favorite in this class leans a bit to the Honda Odyssey. That is partly due to the fact that I love the dual automatic sliding side doors that are standard. They are so practical for today’s lifestyle and demands. The other thing that impressed me and will also impress you is the third seat that uniquely folds completely into the floor. So much for the “easier” seat removal in this Voyager, as noted above.

I also liked the Sienna from Toyota and I’m yet to test the Montana and Ford Windstar. You’ll want to test drive all noted here because they are all so very close in performance, features and styling. Good luck, and let me know which you preferred via my web page at www.atthewheel.com or simply e-mail me.

The competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20,795 – $23,095, Dodge Caravan $18,005 – $31,510, Ford Windstar $18,375 – $30,415, Honda Odyssey $23,000 – $25,800, Mercury Villager $22,415 – $25,015, Nissan Quest $22,159 – $26,299, Oldsmobile Silhouette $24,510 – $31,100, Pontiac Trans Sport $20,840 – $23,190, Pontiac Montana $21,325 – $23,930, Toyota Sienna $21,428 – $26,494.

Good News: 

Car-like ride and handling, well priced for the rest of us, easy entry / exit.

Bad News: 

Unusual placement of turn indicators and nearly silent warning, rear hatch difficult to close.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans., front wheel drive, air bags, 7-passenger seating, air, cruise control, tilt wheel, power mirrors, easy roll out seats, anti-lock brakes, dual sliding doors.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 24 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $22,775

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1999 Plymouth Prowler (204)

Overview:

It doesn’t matter what your age; you have to love this Plymouth Prowler, now in its second year of production. Just when I thought cars were getting boring, Chrysler makes a statement that a major manufacturer can build exciting cars. This Prowler will capture your imagination. The movie LA Story came to mind for me, and especially the scene where Steve Martin is in a Santa Barbara hotel with a much too young friend and has the occasion to exclaim “I’m young”! In fact what you’ll notice driving this Prowler is that little kids will be especially attracted to this car more than any you’ve driven. Son Mike told me why. Dad, dah! They like it because it looks like the “hot wheels” colorful little model cars they play with. Easy for him to know. But once he said it I knew instantly Chrysler’s idea of making the first ever production hot rod is genius. Even the air bags are “next generation”. For the little kids their tiny car’s come alive and I have to tell you, their smiles are worth the price of admission. I was driving by the Old Town Pasadena Weekly office one day and a little boy in his Karate robe with mom and sister said it all – “cool car”.

Well if you haven’t noticed, I just love this car. I tell everyone it is in the top five of the best ever cars I’ve driven. How do I love this car? Let me count the ways.

It’s yellow. No, really. They couldn’t have picked a better color. My daughter’s neighbor, Hans from Sweden said, “ya that is really yellow. It voke me yup ven you drove into the drive vay.” Hans is cool too.

The design is a mix of nostalgic ’30s Ford Roadster and space age technology. They put in some obvious high tech stuff like the stunning molded instrument cluster on the dash but also threw in subtle touches like the tachometer that is conspicuously mounted on the steering column like you bought it at Trak Auto and put it there yourself. Even the wire shows. Really, Chrysler designers at Pacifica (just north of San Diego, CA) deserve a raise for this one. And they probably would have gotten one if they had figured a way to include some trunk space. You’ll crack up when you see the trunk. Just stop an owner and ask them to see the trunk. Really, I’m serious; it’s ok to do that. I was in a Chevron gas station in La Canada and this guy made a U-turn, parked the car and came over to me and started asking questions, like “how did you ever get one of these? I’ve been trying to buy one and can’t find one under $70,000”. Say what! I know V-dubs are going for at least $5K over window, but read my lips, the car has an MSRP of less than $40K. It’s errie, like you can hear a voice out of the blue whispering, “build it and they will come”.

The engine? It’s perfect for this car. Any more power and it would detract from the real purpose of owning this comfortable cruiser. For people who appreciate this car, cruising Bob’s speaks volumes.

The “rag top”? Easy to put down and stows neatly to transform the car into the roadster it is. In California, it’s beach time anytime and the drive will once again be as enjoyable as the cool breezes, hot sand and refreshing dips in the surf. You won’t even mind the traffic.

The overall feeling is nothing short of wonderful. At night you’ll turn on the lights and be enchanted by the turquoise glow from the instrument panel that will launch you back in time to the ‘50s and 60s. You’ll wonder why you can’t get a ‘car hop’ to come out and take your order for a Big Boy hamburger and fries with catsup and a cherry Coke. Boy was this a trip down memory lane.

The competition:

There is none, in my estimation. This is a one of a kind car. Surely it is the first and I predict it won’t be the last production rods. Just like the sport utilities, more of the major carmakers will have to get on the “band wagon”, or they’ll miss a golden opportunity.

Good News: 

It’s new, exciting and clearly different. Fun to drive. All the advantages of owning a classic rod with none of the disadvantages.

Bad News:

Small trunk space. They can’t make them fast enough so the going price is higher than it should be.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter V6 253 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic transmission with autostick, 4-wheel disc brakes, power rack & pinion steering, dual air bags with passenger on/off switch, air conditioning, power windows, tilt steering wheel and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 23 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $39,300.

1998 Plymouth Neon (192)

Overview:
Chrysler has come a long way and their products are a testimony to the American will to survive and succeed. First impressions are lasting, someone said, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped into this Plymouth Neon. Surely “basic” came to mind and I suspect you’ll agree. In fact, many features that are optional on Ford Escort, for example, are not even available on the Neon. Not necessarily a bad thing, because when you’re looking for inexpensive transportation great mileage is more important than a few frills.

This car was introduced in 1994 and is available in a 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe. Like the new “high in demand – high priced” VW Bug, both are manufactured in Mexico. I can’t imagine why more American imports don’t take advantage of the great labor resource of Mexico. If you’ve seen these two cars you’ll know that the place of manufacture is the only thing they have in common. This Neon and the competition listed below are true economy cars. And it’s interesting to note that just about half are from American automakers. That would appear to indicate the U.S. is back in the race to provide affordable cars to American consumers.

I have to tell you this car really grows on you. A lot of cars are “forgettable”, but I’m real impressed with the overall feel of this car. I predict it will be a real winner for Chrysler, and that means it will be a winner for those who buy one. At prices like this everyone can own a new well-built reliable car. Henry Ford probably said something like that a hundred years ago.

Good news: 
Very affordable. Roomy inside and lots of trunk space. Great gas mileage.

Bad news:
Several features, like cruise control, tilt wheel and power rear windows are not available options. Low horsepower (150 hp engine is an option).

The competition: 
Chevrolet Cavalier $11,610 – $19,410, Ford Escort $11,330 – $13,080, Honda Civic $10,650 – $16,480, Hyundai Elantra $11,499 – $12,549, Kia Sephia $9,995 – $10,995, Mazda Protege $12,145 – $15,295, Nissan Sentra $11,499 – $16,749, Pontiac Sunfire $12,495 – $19,495, Saturn SL $10,595 – $12,755, Toyota Corolla $11,908 – $14,798

Standard Equipment:
2.0 liter 4-cylinder 132 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, dual airbags, rear door child safety locks, power front disc with rear drum brakes, power rack & pinion steering, 4-wheel independent suspension, 4-speaker AM/FM radio, remote trunk release.

Gas Stats:
29 City and 41 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 
MSRP is $ 11,555. The model I drove included air conditioning, power sunroof, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power front windows, power locks and mirrors, cassette & CD changer with 6-speakers and special candy apple red paint. The total as equipped came to $14,445.