I’ve never been very interested in cars. As long as they start every time and are big enough to get the
dog in the boot, I’m largely happy. And if they hardly burn any fuel, my cup runneth over.
I don’t care what make or colour they are and I don’t care what the registration is. My daughter is at
a school where these things matter more than world peace. In fact they will only be your friend if
you fulfil the make/colour/registration criteria and I don’t which is why none of them ever asks me
Recently the world of School Mums and Real Friends collided, and somehow my name came up.
One of the Real Friends mentioned some work I’d done and the School Mums were gobsmacked.
‘We had no idea,’ they said. ‘But then she is so quiet, isn’t she? Keeps herself to herself.’ At which
point the sparkly wine came out of the Real Friends’ noses.
When I arrived at school next morning, one of the ladies who’s never spoken to me before called
out, ‘Morning! You’re a dark horse, aren’t you?’ I assumed she was talking to someone else. She
hurried to catch me as I walked past her to my old jalopy. ‘We must have coffee sometime’, she
trilled. ‘I really don’t feel like I know you well enough.’
She must have struggled to believe the stories she’d heard as I stood rooted to the spot, gawping
soundlessly at her and then, because the lock on my door was bust, crawled through the boot to the
So when I agreed to review Chrysler’s new Grand Voyager, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed. I’m
not a petrolhead, I’m a mum; torque and acceleration from 0-60 are nowhere near as important to
me as which bits will collapse if you hit a truck and whether you can get a hoola hoop in the boot.
I remember driving the BMW X5 when it first came out. I was expected to be in awe of this
expensive new car, one of the first of the generation of ‘school run 4x4s’ and given to me with the
top spec . My verdict? Lovely stereo - but for listening to music, not comfy. And driving it was
horrible. The thick struts at the back made lane changing in London an extreme sport – I couldn’t
see a thing. There were loads of gadgets that made life harder and more complicated, rather than
easier. It took three days and an electronics degree to change the radio station.
When my Chrysler arrived, I wasn’t excited. It looked like a very big, silver American car. So far, so
exactly as expected.
But inside – O.M.G! as my daughter would say. I can only think that, for once, the consultant
designers on this family car must, in fact, have a family. Because they have thought of EVERYTHING.
The reason for having a car this size is because you are carrying lots of people and / or stuff. First off,
to make life easier the side doors slide right open remotely, as does the boot, so you can actually get
in - or out - while carrying school bags, shopping, children, dogs and double basses (which, by the
way, will fit in the boot). And once inside, you forgive how enormous the car looks on the outside
because, uniquely, it is that big on the inside aswell. My dog could lie down between the back seats.
In the middle row of seats there is hidden, under-floor storage which, hallelujah, is actually big
enough to put stuff in. So often this sort of space is a gimmick, loved by kids who can hide their
pencil case and sweets in it, but in reality, not a lot of use. In the Chrysler, heading off for the
weekend, someone peering through the windows would think we were taking nothing with us. The
140-mile trip away for the weekend was by far the most comfy ever, not least because we weren’t
all jammed in amongst our bags, despite there being five children in the two back rows of seats. Add
to this the fact that the car is very quiet, genuinely lovely to drive and temperature controlled (it was
a very hot weekend) and we could have doubled the distance without a complaint.
There are two other major plus points about the new Grand Voyager that make it the perfect family
car. Despite its size, it used no more diesel than my little hatchback. And to clinch it, when we
arrived at our destination, a narrow lane with a sharp bend off the main road, this enormous beast
turned almost on its own axis to manage the turn. The handling is amazing.
Of course the thing that makes me happiest is not always the same for the rest of my family. The in-
car entertainment system is the neatest, most useful I have come across.
The Grand Voyager has two rows of remote control drop-down TV screens. The dashboard control
panel is quick and easy to use. I’m technologically pretty dumb but in a couple of minutes I’d popped
the post code into the sat nav, flipped over the panel to put in the DVD and the children had their
headphones on and were enthralled. I set the controls back to the radio for myself and off we went.
Talking of what makes me happy, one of my absolute favourite gadgets on this car was the
automatic fish eye camera. The same central screen on the dashboard becomes a camera whenever
you start to reverse. So in addition to its brilliant all-round visibility and big wing mirrors you can
clearly see the cat sunbathing on the drive behind your wheels the instant you engage reverse gear.
This car ticks all my boxes, including the boxes I didn’t realise I had. If you’d asked me whether I
wanted to fold the entire bag row of seats into a flat boot by pressing a button, I’d have shrugged.
But when you arrive back at the car carrying a saddle, a couple of guitars and an overnight bag, you
don’t need seats, you need space – and you can get it without having to put anything down. It has
‘cigarette lighter’ points by the back seats so the Nintendos (or lap tops if you’re carrying adults)
don’t run out of batteries en route. It has a detachable, pretty decent torch clipped into the boot. I
could go on but you get the picture.
Admittedly I didn’t test whether you can hurl this beast around a hairpin at 100mph or screech to a
halt in snow at the same speed. I didn’t drive it into a wall and see if it collapsed. But it is a quality
build and if what you need is comfort, space and adaptability I think you would really struggle to find
anything better. My children didn’t speak to me for days after we handed it back.