When The Family Plugs In

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Like many manufacturers, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had a vision of the future. Electrification was seen as the way forward. FCA knew they had to apply this on one of their most important vehicles – one that has historic roots for the company.

Their newest minivan is the first recipient of this electrification strategy. All eyes have been focused on the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid to see where it would take the company into this electrified future.

I know what you're thinking. You are either cheering or booing. Just like this country, we are divided on many things, including the electrification of the automobile. Though, we have forgotten that this would have been the way things would have been since battery-powered electric cars were part of the advent of the automobile back in the 1880s. At the turn of the century, automobile customers could choose between an electric car, a car that runs on gasoline or a car that uses stream combustion.

Then came the electric starter. Cadillac's answer to making the internal combustion engine the way to go from the first decade of the 20th Century onward. After that, the battery-powered car was sent to the scrap yard for good.

A century later, the EV was reborn. Some companies combined both the electric motor and the gasoline engine. Others added a plug-in element to make the electric motor run first before the internal combustion motor did. The rest is headline-grabbing material.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Therefore, FCA chose to go the plug-in hybrid route for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. It combines the best of both worlds. Or, does it? I received a 2017 Pacifica Hybrid to find out.

People familiar with the Pacifica minivan would know how advanced FCA took the species. It is longer, more alluring and quite handy. Compared to its competitors, it absolutely stands out above the rest.

Every inch of this Chrysler is designed fusing brand tenets with a not-so-boxy shape. The front end may look like a relic from the discontinued 200 sedan, but it helps to keep some form of continuity across the brand. A few firsts pop up on the Pacifica: a new front quarter glass, a reverse slant far rear side glass, and horizontal taillights. This is not an evolution of the stalwart Dodge Grand Caravan. This is an all-new design approach that was deemed necessary to compete against everyone else.

The Pacifica Hybrid I drove was the Platinum, the top of the lineup. It wears shiny aerodynamic alloy wheels to go along with an upscale and sustainable look. An observant eye will tell you how much richness the Pacifica has overall: the accent lines and curves, the front end inspired by the now-forgotten 200, and every accent and detail surrounding its unique glass profile. FCA made sure to create a distinctive vehicle in the class they first created. This is truly a testament to the commitment to continue playing in the minivan segment three-plus decades on – especially using a new advance in propulsion.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

All three rows offer adult-size accommodations. Access to the third row is very easy with a quick release of each second-row seat and two power sliding doors for ease of entry and exit. Front row occupants are treated to comfortable and supportive bucket seats. Choosing the Platinum trim gives all three rows nice light gray leather upholstery with contrasting teal stitching and black panels. Storage is abundant with small little cubbyholes down the lower center tack and on the floor in-between the front seats, along with sliding storage places and so forth. The Pacifica is designed to take everything with you on any trips, including your work commute. And, there is a place for anything.

The Pacifica now has perhaps the best instrument panel in the minivan segment, anchored with excellent and concentrated controls. The transmission gets Chrysler's new knob control, while the electronic parking brake is a push button, all on the center stack. Capping the center stack is the new 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen, offering access to UConnect Apps and audio playback options including music files, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth connectivity. Instrumentation includes a customizable information screen in-between the speedometer and tachometer.

And, then there's UConnect Theatre, the next level is rear seat entertainment. They can connect game consoles, playback BluRay discs and choose any of the onboard loaded games through two 10.1-inch high definition screens on the back of the front seats.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The big twist is what lies underneath the hood of the Pacifica Hybrid. First, there's FCA's Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, which is attached to two electric motors, a Lithium-Ion battery pack, and the Eflite Variable Transmission. Total system power is rated at 260 horsepower, though it feels as it has a lot more performance to offer than that. Not only is this a powerful and efficient driveline – it's very quiet to run. So quiet, people can actually think – or play with the UConnect Theater.

For the Pacifica Hybrid's system, the electric motors take priority above the gasoline engine, as long as the battery is charged. A fully charged battery can drain within 33 miles. On a 240-volt Level 2 charger, a full charge would take about two hours. Chrysler also claims a maximum combined range of 566 miles. In truth, my Pacifica Hybrid tester averaged 29.2 MPG – the best I ever got in a minivan. That's good news for those looking for efficiency in a family conveyance.

The Pacifica Hybrid delivers a superior ride quality with absorbent suspension all around to ensure that it drives along without any negative feedback from the vehicle. Although handling is quite decent, some roll and lean is evident, but the low and central position fo the battery pack keeps the Pacifica Hybrid from wallowing about.

Cornering is excellent, even with an electric power rack-and-pinion steering set. The turning radius is very sharp for a 203.8-inch minivan making quick work of tight maneuvers. Steering action is good on-center with great response from its thick-rimmed wheel. Brakes are fine, but a bit soft at the pedal. For a Hybrid, the Pacifica stops very well with solid stops in both normal and panic situations.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The Pacifica Hybrid starts with a base price of $41,995. My top-line Platinum model came with a sticker price of $47,885. A regular Pacifica minivan starts at $28,995 and has a wider range of trim levels and options. However, a fully loaded Pacifica Limited will set you back over $48,500. It somehow makes the Hybrid Platinum a better value.

And, not just a better value! Consider the lower fuel costs, along with the "cost" of charging up the battery. In all, the Pacifica Hybrid makes a lot of sense for minivan customers. It even makes better sense for anyone looking a seven-passenger conveyance – and, yes, I'm looking at you, SUV!

There is another conclusion to be gleaned from the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid that goes beyond the value proposition. While you are reading how good the redesigned Honda Odyssey is, consider the Chrysler Pacifica for a moment. It is radical in design – check! It is innovative – check! It is – in my humble opinion – the best minivan in the marketplace. It is built at the original plant where the first minivans were made – Windsor, Ontario.

If you're purposely avoiding minivans and have a family of growing children or carry up to seven human beings or a mixture with pets and such…why are you avoiding the Chrysler Pacifica? Even still, you have to at least look and try out the Pacifica Hybrid. Consider the advantages: better fuel economy, space for seven adults, easy to drive…and you get rockstar parking anywhere an EV charger is present. Like HyVee…that is if you do a lot of grocery shopping or have other things to do there.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

All photos by Randy Stern

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