G. Chambers Williams

Chrysler redesigns, cuts its minivan line down to single model, renames it the Pacifica for 2017

Chrysler has introduced the next generation of its storied minivan line for 2017, completely redesigned and renamed the Pacifica. It formerly was known as the Town & Country.
Chrysler has introduced the next generation of its storied minivan line for 2017, completely redesigned and renamed the Pacifica. It formerly was known as the Town & Country.

After nearly 40 years of dominating the modern minivan genre it created, Chrysler has bowed to the times and trimmed its lineup, which once included Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler-branded models, down to a single entry for 2017.

The company now known as Fiat Chrysler Automotive – or FCA -- has also changed the name of the remaining model, calling it the Chrysler Pacifica, which replaces both the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan. (The Plymouth Voyager version has been gone since Chrysler axed the entire Plymouth line in 2001.)

There’s good news and bad news, though. The good news is that the new Pacifica is the nicest minivan Chrysler has ever produced. And, for the first time, Chrysler will offer a hybrid version of its minivan.

The bad news, at least for consumers who are on a budget (which is a most of us these days), is that the entry-level price for a new Chrysler-built minivan has gone from $22,595 for the base 2016 Grand Caravan to $28,595 (plus $995 freight) for the base 2017 Pacifica LX.

Pacifica is available in five trim levels. Besides the LX, they are the Touring ($30,495); Touring L ($34,495); Touring L Plus ($37,895); and our tester for this report, the top-of-the-line Limited ($42,495).

The Pacifica name was revived from a midsize crossover/wagon model that Chrysler sold from 2004-2008 while the company was operating as Daimler Chrysler, before it was purchased by Italy’s Fiat.

Under Fiat’s stewardship, the company has been trimming its vehicle lines and honing in on its strengths, of which its minivan line has long been one. But minivans in general have mostly fallen out of favor with U.S. consumers, who mostly have abandoned them for crossover utility vehicles.

The old Chrysler Corp. created the modern minivan market with the early 1980s introduction of the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan (later evolving to the Grand Caravan), to which it later added the Chrysler Town & Country as a more-upscale version.

This new Pacifica represents the evolution of the Chrysler minivan to its most modern and technologically advanced version ever. Our Limited test vehicle was loaded with luxury features as well, including a very appealing Black/Deep Mocha Nappa leather interior, power sliding side doors and power-operated rear hatch, and navigation/audio/entertainment systems.

In their heyday, minivans were the family vehicles of choice, with well over 1 million of them sold annually. Some automakers got heavily involved and produced some great products – including Nissan, Toyota and Honda. But others – particularly General Motors and Ford – never had a model that came close to clicking with consumers the way Chrysler’s vans did.

A "mom-mobile" stigma somehow got attached to the minivan along the way, and it created a real problem. But FCA believes there are still enough minivan fans out there to support this newest version, which, not surprisingly, looks more like a crossover than a traditional minivan.

Many of the new crossovers are in reality just minivans without the sliding passenger doors, and that’s still the best way to tell them apart. If it has sliding doors, it’s marketed as a minivan. The new Pacifica has them, just like the Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona, which are the only traditional minivans left on the market.

This newest Chrysler minivan comes with a variety of "minivan firsts," in this case 40 of them. The vehicle has been re-engineered from the ground up, the automaker says.

Among the Pacifica’s more than 100 standard and available safety and security features are the 360-degree Surround View camera, ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Hold, and Forward Collision Warning-Plus

Under the hood of the gasoline model, which went on sale in April, is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine producing 287 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and it has front-wheel drive. EPA ratings are 18 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined.

The hybrid, which will arrive later in the model year, features a 3.6-liter, 148-horsepower Pentastar V-6 engine coupled with an electric motor. Prices and EPA ratings have not yet been announced for the hybrid.

As for the gasoline-only model, this normally aspirated V-6 engine provides plenty of power, even with the vehicle loaded with people and/or cargo, and even on some steep mountain grades like those we encountered during our test week in the Pacifica Limited.

Also bringing the all-important connectivity and infotainment features that today’s family-vehicle buyers demand, our test vehicle included the all-new Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system ($1,995), which included dual 10.1-inch monitors on the rear of each of the front seats.

Our Limited tester, with the Bright White Clear Coat exterior, came standard with a Uconnect 8.4-inch in-dash touch-screen display navigation/audio system with 13 Alpine speakers and a 506-watt amplifier.

Other comfort and convenience features standard on our Limited included the Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum, a three-pane panoramic sunroof, hands-free sliding doors and rear liftgate, and redesigned Stow ‘n Go seating with Stow ‘n Go Assist and Easy Tilt access to the third row.

Although seven-passenger seating is standard on the Limited, we had the optional eight-passenger setup (no extra charge), which included a middle-row bench seat instead of two bucket seats.

Among other features were heated second-row seats, 20-inch wheels (part of the eight-passenger seating package), ventilated front seats, a rotary e-shifter, capless fuel filler, LED fog lights and headlights, and the KeySense programmable key fob.

Standard LX features, besides the Stow ‘n Go seats and Stow ‘n Go Assist for the driver’s side, include a power driver’s seat, Active Noise Cancellation, six-speaker sound system, first-row one-touch up/down windows, second-row power windows, Bluetooth connectivity, rear backup camera, passive entry, halogen headlamps, and 17-inch aluminum wheels.

The Touring model adds satellite radio, power sliding doors, passive entry on all doors, and automatic headlights.

Moving up to the Touring L brings leather seats, heated first-row seats, remote start, three-zone automatic temperature control, projector-beam headlights, fog lights, chrome trim accents, and a power liftgate. Also included is the SafetyTec Group, which includes ParkSense rear park assist with stop, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Path detection.

The Pacifica Touring L Plus adds the rear entertainment system, along with a seven-inch Driver Information Display, heated steering wheel, power passenger seat, Stow ‘n Go Assist for the passenger side, heated second-row seats, 13-speaker Alpine sound system, and the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen.

Limited models also include memory settings for the Nappa leather seats, audio and mirrors; power third-row seat; the ventilated front seats; 3-D navigation; and the integrated vacuum.

Outside, the Limited has HID headlights, LED fog lights, and power folding mirrors.

The panoramic sunroof provides dual opening panes over the front- and second-row seats, and a fixed glass pane over the third row.

Our tester also came with the Advance Safety Tec Package ($1,995), which added the 360-degree around-view monitor that showed up next to the rearview-monitor image on the 8.4-inch dash screen, rain-sensing wipers, the adaptive cruise control, the ParkSense parallel/perpendicular park assist with stop feature, Advanced Brake Assist, Automatic High-Beam Control, the Full-Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus, and Lane Departure Warning Plus.

With $3,990 in options, the total sticker price for our test vehicle was $47,480, including freight.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at chambers@star-telegram.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The package: Front-wheel-drive, five-door, seven- or eight-passenger, V-6 powered minivan.

Highlights: Redesigned and renamed for 2017, this is the newest generation of Chrysler’s minivan line, and the only remaining model, as the Dodge Grand Caravan version has been discontinued. The Pacifica (a name that was used several years ago for another Chrysler family wagon), is the new designation for what had been the Chrysler Town & Country. It comes with a variety of comfort and high-tech features that make it a virtual family room on wheels. It is roomy and comfortable, has plenty of power, and has an interior suited for everyday around-town chores or long family road trips.

Negatives: Can get pricey when all the extras are included.

Overall length: 203.8 inches.

Curb weight (base): 4,330 pounds.

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6.

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.

Power/torque: 287 HP./262 foot-pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Cargo volume: 32.3 cubic feet (behind third row); 87.5 cubic feet (behind second row); 140.5 cubic feet (behind first row).

Towing capacity: 3,600 pounds.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain with rollover sensors, all three rows.

EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/28 highway /22 combined.

Fuel capacity/type: 19 gallons/unleaded regular.

Main competitors: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona.

Base price range: $28,595-$42,495, plus $995 freight.

Price as tested: $47,480, including freight and options (Limited).

On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail. Actual selling price may vary.