Chrysler (now FCA) has been in the minivan business for over 30 years, and has added over 115 minivan innovations in that time – but nearly 40 of those are unique to the all-new 2017 Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid.
Pacifica carries the name of a crossover wagon/SUV from the mid-2000s, and replaced the discontinued Chrysler Town & Country.
It has been re-engineered from the ground up, on a new light-yet-strong platform for class-leading ride, handling, and noise, vibration, and harshness reduction. The new vehicle is boldly styled, with unparalleled functionality, versatility, and technology, and a well-finished interior.
Also available is this segment’s first hybrid, offering up to 84 miles per gallon equivalent, with the ability to travel up to 30 miles on electric power alone.
Gasoline-only models, with the award-winning 287-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, come with a segment-exclusive TorqueFlite nine-speed automatic transmission supplying power to the front wheels. EPA ratings for this one are 18 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined, with class-leading aerodynamics contributing to unsurpassed fuel efficiency.
Engine Stop-Start technology also contributes to fuel efficiency, stopping the flow of fuel and turning the engine off when the vehicle comes to a full stop. The engine restarts automatically when the brake pedal is released. ESS can be deactivated with the push of a button if desired. Innovative weight-reduction strategies, such as the lightweight frame, are another factor in fuel efficiency.
Pacifica for 2017 brings some new optional features, including a dual-screen rear entertainment system, automatic emergency braking, a built-in vacuum cleaner, and an available automated parallel and perpendicular parking system.
The new design is more sedanlike, with a lower floor and seating positions, a raked windshield, inward-curved side glass, and larger available wheels – up to 20 inches as opposed to 17 inches standard on most vans. The grille, HID headlights, and LED taillights are arranged horizontally, with a character line along the upper doors to the rear quarter visually connecting to enhance the longer, lower appearance.
Besides the Hybrid, Pacifica comes in five trims: LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited – the model I tested – priced from $28,595 to $42,495. The hybrid starts at $44,995.
My Limited was beautiful Velvet Red Pearl with black door panels and dash featuring Burgundy stitching, Alloy perforated leather seats with Burgundy piping, Alloy doors, lower dash, pillars and headliner, and satin Burgundy trim on the door handles, instrument cluster and touch screen.
Nine exterior colors are available, including Molten Silver, Dark Cordovan Pearl, Granite Crystal Metallic, and Tusk White, with a 10th color – Silver Teal – available only on the hybrid.
My Pacifica had an athletic stance and sculpted body, highlighted by strategically placed chrome trim. The eye-catching split grille and front bumper featured chrome from the top of the headlights, curving below the upper grille, and surrounding the LED fog lights, curving up around the lower grille. Chrome surrounded the side windows, and trimmed the door handles, the rocker panels, roof rails and rear bumper.
A tri-pane panoramic sunroof opened over the front row, sliding the first panel toward the rear, with a stationary panel over the third row.
The standard 18-inch polished-aluminum wheels were replaced by 20-inch aluminum wheels with five chiseled “V” spokes showing gray painted pockets, wearing all-season tires, and secured by locking lug nuts, in a $995 package.
The interior has been refined with soft-touch materials that look hand-sewn; a better selection of interior color schemes – monochromatic and two-tone, with Silver or Burgundy dash trim, depending on the model and exterior color chosen – and more horizontal graphics.
A new metallic rotary-gear selector knob on the center stack looks and feels more upscale than the usual stubby minivan shifter. All control knobs on the center stack, two center air vents, and the touch screen were surrounded by gloss black.
Even the heated steering wheel was classy, with a black rim, Burgundy-stitched Alloy spokes and inner surface, separated by silver metallic trim. The same metallic trim surrounded the controls on the spokes.
Pacifica’s open feel is enhanced by removing the previous van’s center console for an open floor between the driver and front passenger. An open rubber-lined tray – with Pacifica silhouettes – had two 12-volt outlets and corralled my purse and a box of tissues.
A deep drawer with coin holders, large enough for a tablet, popped out of the lower center stack, and a deep ledge above the Blu-ray/DVD player held my smartphone and was large enough for an iPad.
The center console had a covered cubby near my elbow – with a sliding cover, which made it easy to access, and there were a “French fry” cubby and a shallow tray for small items such as lip balm, parking stubs, etc.
Second-row passengers had a Uconnect Theater Package ($1,995) with two seatback-mounted 10-inch high-definition screens, 115-volt AC outlet for game consoles and other external devices, video/charging USB port, dual HDMI inputs, three-channel touch-pad video remote control, three-channel wireless headsets, and a 220-amp alternator to charge the battery when the engine is running and supply additional power for electrical systems.
The system also allows web-surfing and has built-in games and apps. Seatback pockets were designed to hold headsets and the remote control, with bag hooks to hold accessory bags out of the floor.
The second and third rows had ceiling-mounted air vents with temperature and fan controls, USB charging ports, door pockets and bottle holders, and wall cupholders and small cubbies.
Stow’n Assist front seat travel is increased, and buttons on the “B” pillar allow the seats to be moved forward from behind when folding the Stow’n Go seats. Heated Stow’n Go second-row captain’s chairs fold and collapse easily and store in the under-floor compartments, making a flat surface for hauling.
The compartments can be used for storage when the seats are in their upright position. The captain’s chairs also tilt forward and slide forward, even when a child seat – empty, of course – is installed, for access to the third row.
A removable second-row middle seat is newly available, to allow Pacifica to carry eight passengers. There is no under-floor storage for the seat, however. The folded seatback also becomes an armrest, cupholder and storage bin. It weighs 37 pounds and has LATCH safety seat provision, for a total of five child-seat hookups.
The third row is a typical 60/40-split bench. It has a recline function, which makes it more comfortable for adults than the old Town & Country seat. The power-folding function, exclusive to my Limited model, folded the headrests and the seatbacks into the rear storage area with the push of a button. The rear outboard headrests could be lowered using a button on the front center stack
Cargo space behind the third row is 32.3 cubic feet; with the third row folded, cargo increases to 87.5 cubic feet; and there is a massive 140.5 cubic feet with all seats folded flat. Pacifica’s floor is large enough to hold a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood. Cargo and passenger space is a whopping best-in-class 200 cubic feet, with the most-spacious third row in the segment.
The standard Uconnect with navigation had an impressive 8.4-inch touch screen with crisp, clear graphics, quick responses and user-friendly nature. The system provided audible turn-by-turn directions, one-step voice destination entry, and 3-D graphics with views of landmarks, cities, and terrain.
HD Radio controls and information shared the screen, and included over 130 channels of music from different genres, live performances, sports coverage including play-by-play, and much more – all with reduced static, hiss and pops.
Voice Command and Hands-Free Calling allows driver and front passenger to make calls and play music via Bluetooth-compatible phone. SiriusXM Traffic provides alerts on road conditions, 24/7, with color-coded roads on the screen, even suggesting alternate routes when needed. SiriusXM Travel Link provides weather alerts and forecasts; fuel prices, brands and locations; nearby movie listings with ratings and synopses; and more.
An Advanced SafetyTec Group ($1,995) included ParkSense Front and Rear Park Assist with Stop, 360-degree Surround View Camera system, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist with Stop (especially helpful in parking a large vehicle), Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Full-Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus with emergency braking, Lane Departure Warning Plus with intervention, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, automatic high-beam control, and Advanced Brake Assist.
Standard safety features included knee air bags, side-curtain air bags, front seat-mounted side air bags, Blind Spot and Cross-Traffic Detection, ParkView Backup Camera, Hill Start Assist, and a tire inflator kit.
My Pacifica also had a standard Stow’N Vac integrated vacuum, with a 10-foot hose to reach all the areas your messy family could possibly soil. A Hands-Free Power Liftgate and Sliding Doors were also standard, just the thing for a busy parent with hands full.
With $4,985 in options and $995 destination charges added to the base price of $42,495, total delivered price for my beautiful, versatile, comfortable, well-equipped Pacifica was $49,475. A lot of car for not a lot of money.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.