2017 Chrysler Pacifica: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAll-New
If you’re shopping for a family car in the U.S., the current market is dominated by crossovers and SUVs. After great sales in the 1990s and 2000s, it seemed like America was done with the minivan, but perhaps the quintessential family hauler still has some mileage left in it. More than 30 years ago Chrysler invented the idea of a small van that could haul families, and after selling an impressive 14 million of them the company is introducing an all-new minivan called Pacifica. With fresh styling and plenty of new, innovative features, Pacifica is arguably the best minivan the company has offered since that first Dodge Caravan went on sale in 1983.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlans for Caravan
Pacifica will replace Chrysler’s Town & Country; however, the Dodge Grand Caravan will continue to be sold for at least another year. Where Pacifica’s MSRP starts around $28,000, the Grand Caravan will remain the value offering with prices starting around $22,000. Some may remember that Chrysler offered a Pacifica in the past. The name was used on a 4-door crossover sold from 2004–2008 that had limited success. We understand that Chrysler wanted to move away from the Town & Country name to emphasize how different this new model is, but we still find ourselves wondering about the motivation behind recycling the Pacifica name.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
Pacifica will initially be available in five trims: LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus and Limited. Later this year Chrysler will bring the Pacifica Hybrid to market with Touring and Limited Platinum trims, but details are still scarce right now so we’ll be reporting on it in the near future. All Pacifica trims come standard with seating for seven, and optional seating for eight.

© FCA US, LLCPacifica LX
The LX is the basic Pacifica, available with a starting price of $28,595. Even this entry-level model comes well equipped. Features include 3-zone climate control, an 8-way power driver’s seat, an AM/FM stereo with 6 speakers, a 5-inch display screen, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, keyless entry and start, Active Noise Cancellation and Stow ‘n Go seats. The LX also gets multiple airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control and electronic brake assist.

© FCA US, LLCPacifica Touring
With a price starting at $30,495, the Touring adds satellite radio, automatic headlights and power sliding doors. Sliding doors can easily be opened with the push of a button on the exterior handle — especially convenient when carrying armloads of groceries.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePacifica Touring-L
Priced at $34,995, the Touring-L is expected to be the most popular version of the Pacifica. For the additional $4,000 the Touring-L is equipped with leather seats, heated front seats, 3-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear park assist. The Touring-L differentiates itself further from the lower trims with chrome accents, projector-beam headlamps, fog lamps and black roof rails.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePacifica Touring-L Plus
The Touring-L Plus has a price of $37,895 and adds an 8.4-inch touchscreen, heated second-row seats, a power passenger seat, a heated steering wheel and an upgraded audio system with a 506-watt amplifier and 13 speakers. Also included is Uconnect Theater, which adds a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, 3-channel wireless headphones, a Blu-ray/DVD player/USB port, a 3-channel video remote control, high-definition multimedia interface, 10-inch seatback video screens and a third-row USB charge port.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePacifica Limited
The top-of-the-line Limited is priced at $42,495 and loads up the Pacifica with features typically expected in a luxury car. Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, HID headlamps, LED fog lights and accent lighting, a power folding third-row seat, ventilated front seats, GPS navigation and the innovative Stow ‘n Vac. Also standard on the Limited but not available until later in the year are hands-free operation of the sliding doors and liftgate.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAdvanced Safety Tech
The Pacifica Touring-L Plus and Limited can be equipped with an Advanced SafetyTec Group package that includes brake assist, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning, automatic high beam headlamps, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Hold, a Surround View camera system and ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Until the Pacifica Hybrid arrives, the only powerplant available is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine producing 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque — slightly more on both counts than the outgoing Town & Country. The engine gets teamed with a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceImproved Fuel-Economy
The new Pacifica’s EPA fuel economy rating is 28 mpg on the highway, 18 in the city. During our drive, which included both city and high-speed highway driving, the best we saw was around 23 mpg — close to the EPA combined rating of 22.

© FCA US, LLCInner Space
As expected, it’s inside where the Pacifica really shines. We spent most of our time in the top-level Touring-L Plus and Limited versions, both of which are very well equipped. Front passenger seats are quite comfortable. Our drive took us through Southern California, so we didn’t have much need for the heated seats — but the ventilated seats work well.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNice Materials
The dash features attractive stitching and flowing lines with an accent color behind the instrument panel and center display. The flush-mounted touchscreen display evokes the feeling of a tablet. The display itself is very responsive — no delay after touch, unlike other touchscreen models. A lot of systems and features function through the display, which can be somewhat complicated at first but the learning curve is fast, thanks to intuitive pathways through tasks.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlenty of Storage
Storage space abounds in the new Pacifica, with plenty of options up front including multiple bins and cubbies — some hidden and covered, others easily accessible. We especially liked the sunken bin between the front seats, which is large enough for a purse, small bag of groceries or other items that typically would be too large for storage up front. It also includes a cute Easter egg — images of previous-generation Chrysler minivans line the rubber base.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceEntertaining
Its rear seat makes Pacifica one of the best family haulers on the road. Second-row passengers have comfortable bucket seats, with an optional additional seat in the second row making for a total of eight seats in the vehicle. The Uconnect Theater feature has large 10-inch high-res touchscreen displays on the backs of the front seats that can be folded away when not in use. Each screen also features USB, HDMI and accessory inputs. Passengers can enjoy movies via the Blu-ray/DVD player or can even stream video from a smartphone, tablet or other personal electronic device.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGames
Each screen can be operated independently, so passengers don’t necessarily have to watch the same feature. Chrysler has a number of built-in games and apps including checkers, road-trip bingo and tic-tac-toe — many of which can be set up to pit two rear-seat passengers against each other. Our entire family enjoyed the bingo game, which was great for passing the time. The “Are We There Yet?” app pulls information from the vehicle’s nav system, eliminating that constant badgering from particular rear-seat passengers. Perhaps.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlenty of Room
The third row is surprisingly roomy, thanks to the unique design of the second row; third-row passengers have more foot room, since their feet easily fit under the second row. Both the second and third rows offer considerably more headroom and legroom than the outgoing Town & Country. A USB port in the third row may be used for device charging.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceStow ‘n Go
With the exception of the optional middle seat in the second row, all rear seats can be easily folded into the floor via Chrysler’s famous Stow ‘n Go system. On the top-level Pacifica, the third row folds automatically with the push of a button. With the new Stow ‘n Go Assist, the front seats can be powered forward temporarily for easy stowage of the second row. A nice addition: floor mats are now attached to the floor, so they no longer need to be removed before folding seat rows. That said, the optional middle seat needs to be manually removed from the van to end up with a completely flat floor.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCleaning Up
Another innovative feature in the new Pacifica is the Stow ‘n Vac — a powerful vacuum cleaner located conveniently behind the second row, and easily accessible from the door opening. With a 14-foot hose and available 14-foot extender hose as well as multiple attachments, the vacuum can easily reach all corners of the van’s interior. The vacuum will run about 10 minutes on battery power before the engine needs to be started, and we found it to be as powerful as a typical in-home vacuum.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
There’s no denying that at almost 17 feet long the Pacifica is a big vehicle. The standard rearview camera helps, as does the optional surround-view camera, but we found that maneuverability was still tough. The turning radius always seemed larger than we expected or needed, so parking in perpendicular spots often required a second try. Since Pacifica is slightly longer and wider than its Town & Country predecessor — measuring about 7.5 feet wide from mirror to mirror— parking spots are simply going to feel tight.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSurprising Handling
On the road the Pacifica’s width made for a very stable ride. The front track is almost three inches wider than the previous minivan; putting the wheels at the corners is something you see on sport sedans, not usually a minivan. The added width and loss of about 300 pounds means the Pacifica actually handles winding roads quite well, with good grip and crisp steering. (Make sure everything is secure inside. On a bit of twisty road our snacks went sliding all over the interior.)

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGood Power
In most situations Pacifica’s power is plentiful. More than once we inadvertently spun the front tires accelerating from a stoplight. We were able to cruise with L.A traffic at 80 mph with little difficulty, and the Pacifica felt comfortable at the higher speeds. However, when applying full throttle from 40–50 mph the transmission is somewhat slow to downshift, so there is considerable delay before acceleration.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
Minivans have been stigmatized for years — many buyers would have enjoyed the virtues of a minivan but opted for a more stylish crossover. That said, there really isn’t another type of vehicle on the road that offers the versatility of a minivan, and the Pacifica has upped the game with plenty of innovative features, a spacious and comfortable interior and a stylish exterior that doesn’t scream soccer mom. The inventers of the minivan have now re-invented the genre, and if you have a family to haul the Pacifica is one of the best choices on the market.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9
Bottom Line: The Pacifica should help Chrysler continue its dominance in the minivan market.
Pros: Attractive styling; innovative seating; high-tech entertainment.
Cons: Large turning radius; slow to respond to full throttle; advanced safety features only available on top-level trims.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content Experience2017 Chrysler Pacifica

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