2017 Chrysler Pacifica TouringPosted on June 21st, 2016
Go-to family car reinvented
By Nina Russin
It’s no surprise the automaker that invented the minivan has introduced the most compelling new product in the segment. With the Dodge Grand Caravan discontinued, the all-new Pacifica becomes Chrysler’s only minivan offering. But it is more diverse, with a gasoline-powered version on sale now followed by a gasoline electric hybrid that rolls out later this summer.
Exterior styling is more like a crossover, appealing to buyers turned off by the one-box minivan stigma. This idea isn’t unique to Chrysler: Kia took a similar approach with the current Sedona.
Chrysler’s ace-in-the-hole is family-friendly features including chicklets on sliding side doors making them easier for kids to open, and built-in vacuum cleaner. Proprietary Stow ‘n Go seating folds second-row seats into the floor to create a capacious cargo area. Second-row seats can also tilt forward without removing child safety seats for better third-row access.
The Touring grade tested appeals to value-focused buyers with a base price of $30,495 excluding the $995 destination charge. An optional power liftgate brings the final MSRP to $31,985.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
June is typically Phoenix, Arizona’s hottest month and also the beginning of the summer road trip season. With temperatures well into the triple digits, it’s especially important for parents to be able to transport their families safely and comfortably. The Pacifica’s easy access and egress and kid-friendly interior does this with aplomb.
Cooling a large box that has been sitting in 100-degree plus heat isn’t the easiest task in the world but the Pacifica air conditioning system handles the job well, getting the interior down to a comfortable temperature within the first five minutes. Cloth seats on the test car are preferable to leather in extreme heat: the leather can get hot enough to burn exposed skin.
Power for the gasoline Pacifica comes Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Instead of a shift lever, the Pacifica has a rotary gear select knob located on the instrument panel to the left of the center stack screen. The knob is significantly larger than audio control knobs, but it still made me a little nervous when I reached to change channels when driving.
The engine is the same block used in the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, recently updated with a higher compression ratio, upgraded variable valve timing system, new intake manifold and internal friction reduction measures to make the block more fuel efficient. Average fuel economy for the Pacifica is 22 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA. Despite its higher compression ratio, the engine still runs on 87-octane unleaded gasoline.
Large overdrive gears on the nine-speed automatic transmission also enhance gas mileage. The transmission tends to hunt when the driver gets aggressive on hills and during hard acceleration, but seems to work fine under normal driving conditions.
An electric power steering system offers ample low-speed assist, with a 39.7-foot turning circle, enabling drivers to perform the occasional U-turn with relative ease. On-center response is soft, but the driver by no means feels disconnected from the wheels.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and coil springs in the rear. Standard 17-inch alloy wheels give the Pacifica a fat footprint for better performance at speed. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the minivan in firm, linear fashion.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. Drivers should have no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. A standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the vehicle when the driver shifts into reverse, making it easier to monitor cross traffic in parking lots.
Engineers did a good job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so families can enjoy the audio system or rear seat entertainment options.
Chrysler’s minivan interiors are hands-down the best in the industry. Features such as a long storage shelf extending from the base of the center console to the center stack that holds everything from backpacks to cell phones and tablets make the new Pacifica an easy vehicle to live with. A locking glove box enables owners to secure valuables inside the car.
Sliding side doors are an underrated feature of all minivans. In crowded parking lots they make it much easier to install child seats, and to get the kids in and out of the car. In addition to the traditional power liftgate on the test car, the new Pacifica will also be available with a hands-free liftgate that the driver can open by making a kicking motion under the rear bumper.
Driver’s seat adjustments on the Touring model include height/ fore and aft and lower lumbar, accommodating parents of all sizes. I was able to adjust the seat upward for a clear forward view and had enough lower lumbar support to feel comfortable for drives of several hours.
Audio and dual climate controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. A rear air conditioning unit standard on all grades keeps kids in the third row comfortable at the height of the summer heat.
The Stow ‘n Go seating system is easier to use than the first generation. The ability to fold the seats into the floor makes it possible to load very large cargo inside the minivan. Camping equipment and multiple bicycles should not be a problem.
The Chrysler Pacifica comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, knee bolster driver and front passenger airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, and a rear backup camera.
Chrysler builds the Pacifica at its Windsor, Ontario Canada assembly plant.
Like: A versatile, affordable minivan with seating for up to eight passengers and appealing styling.
Dislike: Nine speed automatic transmission tends to hunt during aggressive driving.
Model: Pacifica Touring
Base price: $30,495
As tested: $31,985
Horsepower: 287 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/28 mpg city/highway2017, Best Value, Minivan 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Chrysler, Pacifica, performance, pricing, standard safety