DETROIT — The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, the automaker's latest take on the minivan, arrives at Chrysler dealerships in the spring, followed by the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in version, in the second half of 2016. The pair debuts at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show.
The name change and addition of a plug-in hybrid is expected to give the vehicle a lift with car shoppers who may have had a bit of a negative attitude about the stalwart yet staid Chrysler minivan.
"It is absolutely risky to change a name, but that is how confident we are that this really is a game-changer," said Tim Kuniskis, who heads the North American passenger-car brands at Fiat-Chrysler.
He added: "We have gone so far with this vehicle that it deserved a new name."
The long list of changes includes everything from the addition of an optional integrated vacuum (an idea borrowed from the high-end Honda Odyssey) to a new Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system, designed to keep kids happy.
The new Pacifica looks like a minivan, but with sleeker, more sophisticated lines. It is clearly designed to appeal to families who may also be considering a crossover or an SUV.
"We want to completely change how people think," said Ralph Gilles, head of global Fiat-Chrysler design. "That was the assignment."
The 2017 Pacifica rides on a new platform that is wider, lower and lighter than the 2016 Town & Country. Interior space is increased and passengers now ride a little lower. The gas version of the Pacifica seats seven or eight passengers, while the hybrid model seats seven.
Structural rigidity was improved to cut noise and vibration, while an independent rear suspension provides a "fun-to-drive factor," the automaker said.
Buyers will have a choice of two powertrains.
The 2017 Pacifica is equipped with a standard 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The engine is linked to a nine-speed automatic transmission and sends power to the front wheels.
The EPA has not rated the 2017 Pacifica. Fuel-saving stop-start technology will be a standard feature later in the model year.
The 248-hp Pacifica Hybrid is equipped with a 3.6-liter V6 gas engine, two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery. This version also features a patented "electrically variable transmission."
Chrysler said the plug-in hybrid version will deliver an estimated range of 30 miles on electric power alone. In city driving, it is expected to achieve an efficiency rating of 80 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe). The EPA has not yet rated the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid.
A full charge using an optional 220-volt charger takes two hours. On a typical household outlet, Chrysler estimates a charge time of less than 14 hours.
And, yes, Chrysler is calling it "hybrid," and not a "plug-in hybrid" or PHEV.
"Customers really don't understand what a PHEV is," said Bruce Velisek, director of Chrysler brand product marketing. "But they understand what a hybrid is."
Buyers should be aware that hybrid models do not have Stow 'n Go seating and storage in the second row because the space is used for the hybrid's battery pack. Instead, that model is equipped with removable captain's chairs.
Other features that boost the Pacifica's cool factor are segment-first hands-free sliding doors and liftgate, which are operated by making a kicking motion under the doors or bumper. There's also a surround-view camera feature that provides the driver with 360-degree views, including a bird's-eye perspective of the Pacifica.
Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning-plus and lane-departure warning are optional safety features.
Edmunds says: Chrysler changed the definition of family vehicle in 1983 when it rolled out the first minivan. It's hoping that the new Pacifica can capture some of that magic with a few new firsts of its own.