Utility Vehicle of the Year
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica has been declared the winner of the inaugural North American Utility Vehicle of the Year award. In past years, vehicles such as Pacifica were contenders in the Truck of the Year category, and this is the first time a minivan has earned this prestigious award. It seems fitting that a Chrysler minivan would be the first NAUVOY recipient, since the company invented the minivan. Pacifica outscored the other two finalists: the Jaguar F-Pace and Mazda CX-9.
More than 30 years ago, Chrysler introduced a small van that could haul families, and after selling an impressive 14 million of them the company introduced the all-new minivan called Pacifica at the 2016 North American Auto Show in Detroit. With fresh styling and plenty of new, innovative features, Pacifica is arguably the best minivan the company has offered since the first Dodge Caravan went on sale in 1983.
The new Pacifica is full of innovation, including hands-free activation of the sliding passenger doors and the rear hatch, making Pacifica one of the best family haulers on the road. Second-row passengers have comfortable bucket seats, with an optional jump seat in the second row fora total of eight seats in the vehicle.
The Pacifica’s Uconnect Theater 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.
This modern-day minivan can also 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.
Power comes from a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine producing 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque — slightly more on both counts than the Town & Country it replaced. The engine gets teamed with a smooth-shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. The Pacifica’s EPA fuel economy rating is 28 mpg on the highway, 18 in the city.
First Hybrid Minivan
For better efficiency, Chrysler also offers a hybrid Pacifica. America’s first-ever hybrid minivan, the Pacifica Hybrid features a plug-in system that employs a unique powertrain combining the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gas engine of the standard Pacifica as well as two electric motors. The hybrid’s V6 uses an Atkinson-cycle combustion system for improved efficiency, the compression ratio has been increased and friction decreased.
The Pacifica Hybrid will operate solely on electric power for about 33 miles, with a top speed of 75 mph. Electric power comes from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack stored under the floor. Once the battery reaches a certain threshold, the gas engine turns on as needed, combining power with the electric motors when required. Total system output is 260 horsepower — slightly lower than the 287 horses of the gas-powered Pacifica.
According to the U.S. EPA, Pacifica Hybrid’s fuel economy in electric mode is rated at 84 MPGe. The official EPA figure for driving in hybrid mode is 32 mpg combined; during our press drive in southern California earlier this year, the readout displayed numbers range from 28 mpg to 34 mpg. The total range for Pacifica Hybrid is 566 miles.
About the Award
The winner in the new category of North American Utility Vehicle of the Year will be awarded each January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Although most accolades of this type are presented by an individual publication or study, the NAUVOY award is unique because it’s based on ballots cast by an independent jury of automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada. To be eligible, a vehicle must be all new or substantially redesigned. According to the group, winners excel in design, innovation, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.