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2001 Chrysler MiniVans

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Chrysler is credited with inventing the "garage-able" minivan. Since 1983, DaimlerChrysler has been the leading producer of minivans, selling some 8 million worldwide to capture nearly 40% of the North American minivan market. It is credited with almost 50 minivan firsts, including several for 2001. For its 17th year, DaimlerChrysler has completely redone its minivans. The minivans come in Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country versions. The Plymouth nameplate, which was attached to the Voyager, is now history.

Dodges come in both short wheelbase Caravan and long wheelbase Grand Caravan form. The Chrysler Voyager is only available with the 113.3-inch wheelbase while the Town & Country comes only with a 119.3-inch wheelbase. Add SE, Sport, and ES trim levels on Dodges and base, LX, LXi and Limited levels on Chryslers, so even without Plymouth there are 14 models to chose from.

Realizing the minivan’s purpose in life, carrying people and lots of stuff, the restyled DaimlerChrysler haulers are very attractive. The stylists have done a good job in making them quite recognizable as Chryslers and Dodges, mainly through grille designs that are patterned after those used throughout the Chrysler and Dodge product lines.

There are also several engines to choose from starting with a 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine that is the standard engine in the base Voyager and Caravan SE. This dual-overhead-camshaft (DOHC), 16-valve engine produces 150-horsepower at 5200 rpm and 167 ft-lb of torque at 4000 rpm. These entry-level models come with only a three-speed automatic transmission. Standard on the Voyager LX, Town & Country LX and LXi, Caravan Sport, Grand Voyager Sport and ES models is a 3.3 liter, overhead valve (OHV), 12-valve, V6. This engine, which is an option on the entry-level models, is rated at 180 horsepower at 5000 rpm and 210 ft-lb of torque at 4000 rpm.

With this engine, the minivans are flexible fuel vehicles in that they can operate on E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline), straight gasoline, or any combination of the two. A 3.8-liter, OHV, 12-valve, V6 is optional on the Grand Voyager ES and Town & Country. This engine, which is standard on Town & Country Limited and on models ordered with all-wheel-drive, produces 215-horsepower at 5000 rpm and 245 ft-lb of torque at 4000 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission is used with all the V6 engines. Chrysler plans to offer a new, 3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC V6 with 230 horsepower engine in March 2001.

In keeping with it reputation as the minivan innovator, DaimlerChrysler offers several new industry "firsts." Height challenged people will appreciate the powered rear lift gate that goes up and down in only four seconds. Equipped with an obstacle detection system and pinch sensors on the sides to detect hands and other small objects, it also gives a beep-beep sound when in operation. Also offered are dual powered sliding side doors with

obstacle and pinch sensors. Other innovations include an optional center console between the front or middle seats that is removable and includes a 12-volt power port. Incidentally, without the console installed, the space between the front two seats is large enough for easy access to the rear without having to exit the vehicle. Also new is an optional pop-up organizer for grocery bags and other cargo.

I test drove a Dodge Caravan Sport. While not a sports car, nor a truck, handling, steering and braking was very respectable, indeed as good as found in any family-oriented sedans I have tested recently. Performance from the 3.3-liter V6 was very good and the transmission shifted effortlessly. I was especially impressed with the low wind and road noise. Even at high interstate speeds, it was easy to carry on conversations with those riding in the rear seats. The minivans come with three rows of seats, two of which are removable with a moderate amount of effort. As in most minivans, visibility in all directions is excellent. The centrally located controls for the radio/cassette/CD and climate controls are a little on the busy side but are easy to operate. The materials used appear to be of high quality and should wear well, and the more upscale Town & Country has wood styled trim.

Prices for the new minivans start at $19,800 for a bare bones Chrysler Voyager and Dodge Caravan, and you can easily top the $39,000 mark on the window sticker. The list of options and option packages is mind-boggling. As might be expected, many options are creature comforts for drivers and passengers including three-zone air conditioning controls, a variety of seats and seating configurations, steering wheel radio controls, several sound systems, and even an overhead video player that is ready for PlayStation 2.

Even though there are lots of great competitors in this segment of the market, DaimlerChrysler is still the Minivan leader, especially if you are looking for innovative features and styling. By Bill Siuru AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  By Bill Siuru AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   "DaimlerChrysler is still the Minivan Leader"
Topic:  2001 DaimlerChrysler Minivans
Word Count:   888
Photo Caption:  2001 DaimlerChrysler Minivans
Photo Credits:  DaimlerChrysler Internet Media
Series #:   2000 - 47

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2001 DaimlerChrysler Minivans

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