Space And Grace, Expectations Exceeded

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica replaces both the Town & Country and, ultimately, the Dodge Grand Caravan, so hurry to your nearest dealer if you still want the Dodge. You may have heard Pacifica name before, back in 2004 Chrysler launched it as an alternative to a minivan, however, it wasn’t a minivan nor an SUV nor was it a station wagon. Chrysler called it a ‘sport tourer. Having initially invented the minivan back in the 1980’s, the rest of the world, Honda, Toyota etc. all caught up.

So Chrysler went back to the drawing board, ditched the names, associated it with this brand-new single model, instead of 2 distinct brands and spent more than $2 billion developing it. The 2017 Pacifica is a pretty good looking interpretation and we especially like rear door runner as part of the rear window, avoiding the large crease in the body panel as in the Honda Odyssey. There’s a new winglike corporate fascia, flowing curves and an integrated rear wing, giving it an slightly sporty feel. Let’s not forget it’s still a minivan, designed to carry as many kids, adults and their corresponding stuff around.

How Does It Go?

Considering that it is 250 lb lighter than the T&C and sports the 287-hp, 262-lb-ft 3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6, it goes very well, a familiar engine that has been tweaked for greater power and fuel economy. Mated to the very good 9-speed transmission the Pacifica is actually fun to drove..imagine that. Stab your right foot on the throttle from standing and the front wheels spin for a second before it launches forward in a very un minivan sort of way. Occasionally, unless you bury your right foot, the transmission will stay in a higher gear, which can catch you out at times. Turn in is crisp and even under hard cornering it felt safe and planted and with zero noise from the tires, despite them being 235/65 17 s. Chrysler stiffened the suspension and it works.
One thing that does stand out was the quietness of the interior. Except when in the upper reaches of the rev range, where the engine can sound a tad gruff, this is one of the most serene drives I have had. Chrysler has achieved this with active noise-cancellation technology that’s standard on all trim levels.

Inside

One thing that hits you about the interior is how much space there is inside, especially with all the seats folded down. We attempted to fold the seats down without moving the front seats forward enough first, but after doing so its relatively simple to stow the 2nd and 3rd row seats to produce a cavernous 140.5 ft³ of space. That’s 20 ft³ more than the 2015 GMC Yukon XL Denali we tested last year. In fact, to prove a point we drove to a local feed store and were able to fit 25 bales of shavings in the Pacific and still have room for the driver and 1 passenger. That’s 3 more bales than the Denali XL would swallow. So whether you have many kids, a horse that requires a lot of bedding or 4 large dogs, the Pacifica is for you.

Our test car was a Touring, one up from the base model so we missed out on the built-in vacuum cleaner, which is standard on Limited models. Chrysler says its new vacuum is “the most powerful in its class,” which is great, except we had to make do with a Shop Vac to get rid of the excess shavings that escaped from the bags. We also didn’t get navigation, but we did get as standard, power rear doors and tons of storage space everywhere. Our car came with Blind Spot and cross path detection (although with all the windows it is pretty easy to see out), Parksense and a power liftgate for $995.

Seat are very comfortable and it’s easy to find a comfortable position as a driver. I am still not that impressed with the rotary-shifter knob, it feels weird and on several occasions I selected park after backing out of a parking space. In mixed freeway/in-town driving I averaged just over 22 mpg, which is pretty good considering the car’s bulk.

Verdict

I’ve always cursed minivans just like everyone else has at some time, but this car grew on me for the week I had it. Not only was it super easy to drive but it was also fun in a way no minivan has ever been. Add to that the price and its an absolute bargain when compared with most SUV’s, that typically offer less space. There’s also a hybrid coming which should make it even faster.
You have to take a step back and consider it for what it is and judge it on how well it performs the functions for which it was designed. This is the best multi-purpose people mover in the world, the Swiss Army knife of vehicles……………that way I don’t have to say minivan.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring
BASE PRICE $30,495
PRICE AS TESTED $33,475
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 8-pass, 4-door van
ENGINE 3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6
POWER 287-hp @ 6,400 rpm
TORQUE 262-lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
0-60 MPH 7.5 sec
CURB WEIGHT 4,330 lb (mfr)
CARGO VOLUME 32.3 ft³, 140.5 ft³ with seat area
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 18/28/22 mpg

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