Chrysler Pacifica Review & Features

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2017 Chrysler Pacifica, Pacifica Hybrid Highlight High-Tech, Family-Friendly Features

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.

Abandoned is the familiar Chrysler Town & Country minivan nameplate that has been used for 26 years. The companion Dodge Grand Caravan is expected to be discontinued sometime this year.

If the Pacifica name sounds familiar, it's because Chrysler used it before on a midsize crossover sold during the 2004-'08 model years.

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 reboot also better positions Chrysler's minivan offering against competitors including the Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna.

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.

Chrysler Pacifica Review

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.

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