The Chrysler Pacifica is at once both a new model, a thorough update to a model that existed until only recently, and a complete reinvention of its nameplate. Today's Pacifica treads familiar ground as a seven- or eight-passenger minivan, but with new features and flair that inject some life into this well-worn segment. A dual-screen rear entertainment system, automated parking system, semi-autonomous driving features, and a plug-in hybrid model are some of the new Pacifica's more clever features.
About the name: If it sounds familiar, it's because Chrysler had a crossover wagon/SUV named Pacifica during the mid-2000s, but there's no relation. Instead, the Pacifica is in effect the replacement for Chrysler's discontinued Town & Country minivan, a van that long appealed to families and empty nesters seeking a practical vehicle with a dash of luxury inside and out.
Current Chrysler Pacifica
The new Chrysler Pacifica debuted for the 2017 model year. This seven- or eight-passenger minivan is offered in five trim levels: LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus and Limited. The LX comes nicely featured with 17-inch alloy wheels, flat-folding second-row Stow 'n Go seats, a 60/40-split third-row seat, power driver seat, tri-zone climate control, a rearview camera and Bluetooth. The Touring adds power-sliding rear doors, automatic headlights, keyless entry and ignition, and satellite radio.
Touring-L models boost the amenities with a power liftgate, remote engine start, leather upholstery and driver assistance features. Touring-L Plus adds fancier touches with upgraded headlights, eight-way power driver seat, ambient interior lighting, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, and a second-row entertainment system with dual 10-inch touchscreens.
The top-trim Limited comes with 18-inch wheels, a hands-free liftgate, sliding doors, two sunroofs, navigation, upgraded leather and ventilated front seats, among other features. Key options include 20-inch wheels, a removable center second-row seat (boosting passenger capacity to eight), a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and a tow package.
The sole engine is a 3.6-liter V6 (287 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque) paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The Pacifica Hybrid uses the same engine paired with an electric motor and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It's sold in Premium and Platinum trims.
In our review of the new Pacifica, we praised its smooth and quiet ride, cabin that nicely repels wind and road noise, and strong acceleration from the V6. The cabin has an open, airy feel, and the design is one of the more aesthetically pleasing you'll find in this class. Overall, the Pacifica looks and feels impressively upscale inside. The latest tech hardware, including Chrysler's excellent 8.4-inch touchscreen, makes the Pacifica a modern connected car as well. The main drawback to the Pacifica is its nine-speed transmission, which can be slow to shift at times.
Used Chrysler Pacifica Models
The original Chrysler Pacifica, from where the new minivan adopts its name, was a large crossover wagon sold for the 2004 to 2008 model years. It had four front-hinged doors, an elevated seating position, five- or six-passenger seating, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. The Pacifica was relatively upscale compared to other crossovers of the time and offered a wide array of creature comforts wrapped in elegantly chiseled sheet metal.
But it wasn't all that roomy considering its size, and early Pacificas suffered from reliability woes and mediocre engines in a segment where potent and refined powertrains were the norm.
On its debut in 2004, it came only in base and Limited trim levels. The original base model was relatively well-equipped, but it was offered with fewer features and a lower price when the Touring trim level slotted in above it in 2005. At first, Pacificas were powered by a 3.8-liter V6 with 210 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Reviewers faulted the gruff engine, which was barely up to the task of battling the Pacifica's formidable mass, especially on fully loaded all-wheel-drive models. Given that early 2004 Pacificas also had well-known repair issues, we'd play it safe and restrict our search to 2005 and newer models.
A 3.5-liter V6 with 250 hp and 250 lb-ft became standard on all but the base front-wheel-drive model in 2005, and the 3.8-liter V6 was eliminated for 2006, leaving the 3.5-liter unit as the sole available engine. For 2007, the 3.8-liter mill returned in the base front-wheel-drive model, this time rated at 200 hp, and a 4.0-liter V6 replaced the 3.5-liter V6 in all other models. The 4.0-liter engine cranked out a respectable 255 hp and 265 lb-ft, and it was teamed with a new six-speed automatic transmission. (The base engine continued with the old four-speed unit.) All Pacificas were rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Base 2004 Pacificas featured two-row, five-passenger seating and were fairly comfortable, thanks to niceties such as dual-zone climate control, a power driver seat and a load-leveling suspension. Starting in 2005, Touring models received additional standard features, a much longer list of options, and six-passenger seating via the addition of a two-passenger third-row seat and the replacement of the regular second-row bench with two bucket seats and a center console. The 2005 base model, meanwhile, lost some standard accoutrements and was priced lower going forward. The best-dressed and most luxurious Chrysler Pacifica was the Limited, which featured cleaner styling, bigger wheels and a long list of luxury features, including an upmarket audio system and a power liftgate.
At the time, our editors found the crossover wagon's strengths to be its exceptional comfort for four, sedanlike driving characteristics, top-notch safety scores and upscale interior. The 3.8-liter engine is to be avoided, but the 3.5-liter and 4.0-liter V6s are decent performers. Downsides include a lack of legroom in the third row and a lack of overall utility when compared to the top available minivans.