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July 4, 2017 > Chrysler Pacifica: Minivan reimaged for today

Chrysler Pacifica: Minivan reimaged for today

By Steve Schaefer

Chrysler invented the minivan way back in 1984. Today, they face stiff competition from other manufacturers, particularly HondaÕs Odyssey and ToyotaÕs Sienna. That means Chrysler needs something special to compete, particularly because minivans still get a bad rap as Òsoccer momÓ cars.

With the Pacifica, Chrysler has transferred the name of a specialty product sold from 2004 to 2008 to what formerly was called the Town and Country. This is a transformed vehicle, re-engineered on a new platform and boasting 115 innovations. ItÕs already won a bunch of awards.

The styling is carlike, spread on a larger canvas. Lines that look good on the Chrysler 200 sedan expand into something very unlike the competitionÕs offerings.

The Pacifica is truly a NAFTA poster child, as an American brand assembled in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with a Mexican engine and a transmission from the U.S. ThatÕs todayÕs industry reality.

My tester arrived wearing a Dark Cordovan Pearl Coat, complemented by a Black and Deep Mocha interior. These conveyed more richness than you might expect from a minivan, but this was the Limited model. As such, it behaved more like a luxury sedan than a people hauling appliance.

My Pacifica boasted many upgrades, including a huge panoramic sunroof, heated front and second row seats, and third-row seats that fold electrically. The front-row chairs have eight dimensions of power adjustment too, and are firm and supportive in a way you didnÕt see in American vehicles before.

The interior, like the body, is the antithesis of the Lexus design philosophy of loading as many edges and lines into the mix as possible. Instead, itÕs an organic flow. Inside the car, that means a sweet, smooth, comforting presence. You still get the handy flip-down internal wide-angle mirror thatÕs been in Chrysler minivans for decades and is ideal for monitoring from the driverÕs seat whoÕs picking on whom back there.

Noteworthy features include the Stow Ôn Vac integrated vacuum, which hides in the left rear panel and is a great idea if youÕre carrying little people to whom youÕre handing crackers to pacify them on long trips. It would work great for hauling loads of bark from the garden center at Target, too. With up to 140.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity, itÕs big enough back there to carry 4 x 8 sheets of plywood, so feel free to start those home improvement projects.

My car entertained lavishly with a Harmon Kardon audio system featuring a mind-boggling 20 speakers and a 760-watt amplifier. ThereÕs a small theater in back for the crumb creators, with seatback video screens and a high definition media interface with Blu-Ray, a DVD player and a USB port for your own personal device. Listen with three-channel headphones and change programs with a remote. This is part of the Uconnect Theater and Sound Group ($2,795).

The Pacifica gets its motivation from the corporate 3.6-liter V6, with a robust 287 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque through a nine-speed automatic. It runs on regular fuel. Despite its 4,330-pound bulk and high 0.30 coefficient of drag from pushing a box through the air, the minivan earns a respectable 18 City, 28 Highway, and 22 Combined in the EPA fuel economy tests. I averaged 18.7 mpg. Green scores are 6 for Smog and 5 for Greenhouse Gas.

Excitingly, the Pacifica also comes as a plug-in hybridÑthe only one of its kind in the industry. You can get up to 33 miles of pure electric range before the engine kicks in. I recently sampled this model briefly, and it is nothing short of awesome. IÕll test it and report on it this summer.
Models start with the LX and move up to the Touring, Touring +, L, and L + before topping out with the Limited. The latter actually feels unlimited with its lengthy list of comfort, convenience, and safety features. Besides the usual safety regimen of cameras and alerts, the Advanced Safety Tec Group ($1,995) adds in ParkSense Front and Rear Assist with Stop, the amazing 360-degree surround view camera, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, fully-featured Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, Lane Departure Plus, and rain-sensitive wipers and automatic high beam headlamps.

If you want a Pacifica like my test car, youÕll need to finance or write a check for $48,280. However, if youÕre willing to go without some of the vast array of premium features, the base LX starts at $29,990, including the destination charge. That puts it in the heart of most family budgets in 2017.

Chrysler has delivered a worthy and competitive descendant of the original minivan. With the exclusive plug-in hybrid model as well as a range of gas-only models, this is an automotive event worth celebrating.

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