The ride everyone loves to hate, the minivan does its thing better than any other form of transportation. In fact, most people who buy sport utility vehicles actually need minivans; they just don’t want to be seen in them. If you find yourself reflected in that statement, you’re going to like this next one. With the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid, you get all of the goodness of a minivan, with a profile that looks somewhat like a sport utility.
It’s true, check out the upright styling language, the huge wheels, the long hood, the expansive windows and the gracefully upswept rear pillar; these are all SUV styling cues. But then, where sport utility vehicles start running short on actual utility, the 2017 Pacifica flaunts sliding doors on both sides; seats that fold flat into the floor to liberate what can only be called a cavernous cargo hold and a driving experience more akin to that of a car than a truck.
Power for the standard version of the Pacifica comes from a 3.6-liter V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 ft-lbs of torque. Yeah, that’s nearly 300 horsepower and the Pacifica will move out smartly when you get aggressive with the throttle. A nine-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front wheels. Fuel economy is estimated at 18 mpg in the city, 28 on the highway and 22 combined. We averaged an even 20 over seven days of driving. The Pacifica will also tow up to 3,600 pounds.
Pacifica Hybrid (the first plug-in hybrid minivan ever offered in the United States) supplements a less powerful version of the V6 with a pair of electric motors and a continuously variable transmission for a total system output of 260 horsepower. The plug-in hybrid powertrain is capable of traveling up to 30 miles on a full charge without assistance from the gasoline engine. A full recharge takes place in just under two hours with a 240v charging station. Regenerative charging is also supported, as with all other hybrids. Range is quoted at 530 miles and the EPA estimates 32 mpg overall, which we achieved quite handily.
In its standard configuration, Chrysler’s new minivan seats seven, though this can be bumped to eight if you forego the Stow ‘n Go middle row in favor of the optional (and removable) bench. Generously spacious in every way, adults can happily occupy every seat in the Chrysler, including the third row. The second row captain chairs can even be tipped forward with child safety seats installed to ease access to the third row.
Standard amenities for our Touring L Plus test model included an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, ambient interior lighting, second- and third-row sunshades, heated second-row seats, a 13-speaker surround audio system, a second-row rear entertainment system with dual 10-inch touchscreens, a Blu-ray player and additional USB and HDMI inputs.
The Platinum trim package with which our Pacifica Hybrid test model was also equipped with the rear-seat entertainment system, but it added automatic cruise control, a 360-degree camera, navigation, upgraded leather, more safety features and driver aids, along with hands-free sliding doors and an automatic liftgate.
Going down the highway, Pacifica delivers comfort and quiet (thanks to its active noise control system), exceptional smoothness and easy outward visibility. Make no mistake though, this is a large vehicle and when it comes to parking, you’ll be quite aware of its girth. However, Chrysler offers an optional automated parking system (for both parallel and perpendicular parking), so the Pacifica handles this chore on your behalf.
Driving the hybrid requires no additional effort. In fact, other than the sometimes silent running of the gasoline/electric powertrain, you’d won’t experience any real difference in the way it drives. Yes, it’s a bit heavier than the standard model, but this also makes the ride quality a bit smoother, particularly since the suspension system was upgraded to handle the additional weight. You’ll also forgo Chrysler’s innovative Stow ‘n Go seating, which folds the second row seats into the floor. However, the tradeoff is exponentially better fuel economy, so you’ll choose between maximum range and ultimate cargo capacity. Other than that, the Hybrid requires no sacrifices.
Optional safety features include lane departure warning, lane departure intervention, forward collision warning, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree top-down camera system (standard on Pacifica Platinum). The Pacifica will even stop itself if you’re about to back over something (or someone).
All in all, the paradigm in the minivan arena has shifted once again. By the way, if the name sounds familiar, it’s because Chrysler used it once before on a crossover wagon. Compared to its Asian rivals, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is easily the most advanced minivan available, while the hybrid is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on sale in the US — for now. Others are certain to follow.
Pricing for Pacifica Touring L Plus starts at $37,895. As tested, the total price came to $43,445. Pacifica Hybrid starts at $44,995, our Platinum trimmed test vehicle came to $47,885 in total.