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Driving Chrysler’s Innovative Pacifica Minivan

by Ron CoganAugust 22, 2016
Chrysler, the company that literally created the minivan with its Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models introduced more than three decades ago, now seeks to redefine the segment with its all-new Chrysler Pacifica. So unique is the Pacifica that it merits new terminology from the marketing department to underscore its versatility. Classified as ‘Multipurpose’ by […]

2017-chrysler-pacifica-frontChrysler, the company that literally created the minivan with its Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models introduced more than three decades ago, now seeks to redefine the segment with its all-new Chrysler Pacifica. So unique is the Pacifica that it merits new terminology from the marketing department to underscore its versatility.

Classified as ‘Multipurpose’ by EPA, Pacifica transcends the traditional role of the venerable minivan with more on its plate than merely taking the kids to school or handling family errands. The Pacifica is now ready to play starring roles previously cast only for trucks, SUVs, or luxury cars.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-interiorIn part, that’s because the Pacifica brings something to the segment not seen before: style. The model‘s sleek and sculpted exterior is not only wind-cheating but also pleasing to the eye, cutting a sharp image while offering a remarkable drag coefficient of 0.30, a figure low enough to typically be reserved for sports cars.

Image-conscious dads need no longer take a hit on their psyche while driving a minivan to the hardware store. Not that you’d necessarily want to, this amazingly versatile vehicle can carry 64 quarter-inch, four-by-eight foot sheets of plywood in the rear. For a double date night on the town, clear out the construction materials and fold down the Pacifica’s Stow ’n Go seats to provide limo-like spaciousness. In fact, make it a triple date night with the neighbors since the model’s choice of 2/2/3 or 2/3/3 front/mid/rear seating configurations handle the need with little effort.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-removable-seatsNotably, while third row passengers typically get squeezed, not so in this vehicle. Third row legroom is 36.5 inches with 38.7 inches of headroom. That compares favorably with the typically roomier mid-row seat that offers legroom of 38 inches and 39.6 inches of headroom.

When it arrives later this year, the Pacifica Hybrid will be the industry’s first plug in hybrid minivan. That’s a pretty big deal since families have been waiting for a hybrid minivan for years with no options in sight. The Pacifica PHEV will feature a 30 mile range solely from its 16-kWh LG lithium-ion battery, with total gas-electric range an exceptional 530 miles. The Pacifica Hybrid is EPA rated at 80 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) while operating on electricity. The conventionally-powered Pacifica is rated by EPA at 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway while driving on its 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. There are five versions of the standard Pacifica with the Hybrid coming in Touring and Limited trim levels.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-cabin-aThere’s more than exterior beauty and functionality to the Pacifica. These themes are also carried through in the interior, with the posh look highlighted in the Limited model’s perforated leather seats, a look that’s right out of a European luxury sedan. The same is true with the rest of the materials selected for the Pacifica with the vehicle offering an upscale look and feel. Cloth seats are standard with leather and premium leather as options. Four interior color choices are offered to accent the 10 exterior colors available, from Jazz Blue Pearl Coat to Molten Silver Metallic.

The Pacifica is as quiet as a luxury car due to its all-new platform that brings class-leading noise and vibration characteristics, something that was also noted by two fellow journalists during our test drives at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds. While the Pacifica Hybrid was not available to drive at this time, the standard version tells a lot about the model’s overall performance, exhibiting quite impressive handling for a vehicle of its size and curb weight of 4,330 lbs (the hybrid will weigh in at 4,943 lbs). The Pacifica’s independent front and rear suspensions play a key roles in its cornering and comfortable ride as do the vehicle’s electronic stability and traction controls.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-displayManufactures realize that sales are now driven by tech as much as any of the traditional buying touchstones of the past. Chrysler designers and engineers have delivered big time by offering over 100 standard or available safety and security features. Among the model’s many notable tech features is a 360 degree Surround View camera that includes a bird’s-eye view of a driver’s surroundings. The Pacifica’s UConnect Theater system offers 7- or 8.4- inch displays with accompanying sound systems featuring six to 20 speakers and brands like Alpine to Harman Kardon. Six USB ports are standard.

Perhaps the most beneficial option is Pacifica’s Stow ’n Go seating that allows the rear compartment to be configured entirely flat for optimizing storage and hauling capability. Aluminum sliding doors are hands-free and the liftgate opens by raising your foot at the rear, both will sure to be favorite options as well. The most practical offering is the model’s Stow ’n Vac, a system hidden in the door that allows for quick and efficient cleaning of the massive carpeted interior without requiring a stop at the car wash. For animal owners there’s even an optional tie-down pet kennel. When removed it also doubles as a kennel for hotel or campsite.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-stow-n-go-seatPower comes from a transverse-mounted 3.6-liter V-6 with 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft torque, a combination that delivers more than adequate performance for two-lane road passing. The coming Pacifica Hybrid is expected to provide 260 horsepower, although the addition of an electric motor with its immediate low-end torque will surely up the performance ante. The conventional Pacifica runs on unleaded regular fuel so there’s additional savings to be had at the pump. Both variants are front-wheel drive and well-balanced with a front-to-rear weight distribution of 56.5/43.5 in the Hybrid and 55/45 in the standard model.

A contributing factor to Pacifica’s performance and fuel efficiency is its use of a nine-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission and a torque converter clutch. Gears six through nine are all overdrive ranging from 0.81 to 0.48. Translation: maximum fuel efficiency gained by tall gearing that keeps engine rpms low. The Hybrid will have an electronically variable transmission standard with dual-motor electric drive capability and start-stop technology.

2017-chrysler-pacifica-engineUnlike the standard model, the Pacifica Hybrid is not recommended for towing. The Hybrid comes with a smaller gas tank at 16.5 gallons compared to the standard 19 gallon, although higher fuel efficiency will clearly make up the difference. Expect braking to live up to the model’s performance with standard 13 inch vented rotors front and rear plus ABS braking.

The final question for some will be, “Does it fit in my garage?” But of course. Pacifica features a length of 203.8 inches and a width of 79.6 inches. With the foldaway powered mirrors extended the width increases to 90.4 inches. The Pacifica will also fit in most folks' budgets with prices starting at $28,595 and moving up to the high $40,000s. As is customary, pricing for the Pacifica Hybrid will be announced closer to its debut.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid cutaway