Car-based crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V and the Lexus RX 300 were just hitting their stride in the late 1990s when Chrysler decided to dip its toes in the crossover pool with a concept car, called the XG Concept, based on its short-wheelbase Plymouth Voyager minivan. The highlights: wheels like those used on the bonkers Plymouth Prowler roadster, a huge retractable cloth sunroof, four captain’s chairs, a removable wheeled suitcase up most of the cargo and third-row area and a diesel powertrain with a stick shift.
Yes, that’s a lot to take in. Maybe reread that sentence. You missed nothing.
The XG was a curious last wheeze for the Plymouth division, which officially closed its doors in 2001 after a 91-year run. Its curious mix of a production body and a European-market powertrain provided some glimpse into the dartboard-style product planning going on at DaimlerChrysler after the German company best known for its swanky Mercedes-Benz models initiated a so-called merger of equals with Detroit’s smallest car brand.
By 1998, the third-generation Chrysler vans were about halfway through their product cycle. Even as buyers flocked toward SUVs, such as the automaker’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and its new Dodge Durango, Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth minivans remained popular with consumers. The vans were available in short and long (or Grand) wheelbases, and most were powered by one of three V6 engines. A 2.4-liter inline-four was standard on short-wheelbase models, though it was not a popular option.
For the Voyager XG, Chrysler looked to Europe — specifically, to Graz, Austria, where Magna Steyr assembled under contract Jeeps and Chrysler Voyagers with big "Made in Austria" stickers on their tailgates. The Chrysler assembly line was in the same complex where Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens have been built for decades, though Chrysler’s relationship with Magna Steyr predated DaimlerChrysler by several years.
The Voyager XG made use of a 2.5-liter turbodiesel inline-four rated at 115 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, which wasn’t much of an improvement over the production van’s 150 hp and 167 lb-ft. However, instead of a 3-speed automatic transmission, the XG courted enthusiasts with a 5-speed manual gearbox. Chrysler quoted 33 mpg on the highway, a big improvement over the American gas van’s 26 mpg hwy.
A gigantic power retractable cloth roof was fitted, and it worked as something of a case study for the production roof that would eventually be offered (and leak profusely) on the Jeep Liberty. The 17-in alloy wheels, cribbed from the Prowler, were finished in silver with anodized blue caps that matched the blue-toned rear window tint and the taupe and blue captain’s chairs fitted up front and in row two.
The cargo area held a removable bin on wheels with an integrated ice chest and storage drawer, predating the drawers that seemed to be installed in every 1990s Toyota Land Cruiser.
In its press release announcing the Voyager XG, Chrysler envisioned active, athletic types forgoing rugged SUVs for a tricked-out minivan. Here’s a snippet:
"We built the Plymouth Voyager XG concept minivan for the adventure-seeking, mountain-biking, trail-riding, ocean-surfing individual who has a lot of equipment and is always on the go," Ralph Sarotte, then general product manager of the Chrysler Corporation’s minivan platform, said in the press release before spouting off some marketing drivel. "The vehicle would expand the minivan market segment by attracting a new generation of minivan buyers."
Things didn’t exactly go as planned, and the Voyager XG Concept was quickly forgotten. A year later, the Chrysler Pacifica debuted as a true crossover concept, and it went into production in 2004. Find a Plymouth Voyager for sale