2017 Chrysler Pacifica

April 10, 2016

The death of the family minivan has been greatly exaggerated. For a family with two or more kids, maybe a family pet and a long list of activities from soccer to hockey, ballet and gymnastics, there really isn’t anything that can do what a minivan can do. Yes, buying a minivan might be a grudge purchase but once a family has a practical van, they are often hard to replace. One company that knows this better than any other is Chrysler. It invented the minivan segment back in the 1980s and has held a commanding sales advantage over all others ever since. In fact, after five generations of its minivan and over 1.9 million sold in Canada, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada (FCA) has a sixty six percent share of the market. The Dodge Grand Caravan is the favourite, with it getting the lion’s share of sales, the Chrysler version, previously called Town and Country only accounted for ten percent of sales.

This is where the Chrysler Pacifica comes in. The Pacifica replaces the Town and Country with an all-new offering and one FCA believes will get people excited about its new luxurious minivan. First the name. Pacifica was a crossover vehicle that FCA stopped selling several years ago and even though this isn’t a crossover vehicle, FCA believes that a rebrand and refreshed image (and a new name) is what its new van needs.

The Pacifica has a bold, new design that looks upscale, with many sweeping lines and curves to give off a premium feel. The previous Town and Country had a slab-sided look that makes this new van look like a space ship in comparison. The length of the van is similar to the old product but this van sits a bit lower and it is wider for greater interior space and on-road stability.

The inside of the Pacifica is a wonderful example of what FCA is doing right on many of its new products. Once the company of cheap plastic interiors, FCA is like a reformed smoker, they have become so good at interior design and materials that this van can be held up against any product, its that well done. The dash, doors and touch points have the requisite soft-touch materials. The dash is shaped more like a large sedan or crossover, hopefully making the drive forget they are driving a van! The dash has a stitched material and the centre console is covered in piano-black material that looks up scale. There are several contrasting colours to provide a luxurious interior. In the back, the Stow-N-Go seats are still here and they flip and fold into the floor is seconds. To make the job easier, the front two seats automatically slide forward with the push of a button. There is also an available Rigid vacuum close to the second and third row, where all the dirt is. The suction is quite strong and the hose can stretch up to 3.3 meters. The family loved the space, the upscale materials and colours and my wife though the centre storage console between the front seats was very well design and useful. This van also features the latest uConnect infotainment system that is a snap to learn. Screen sizes range from 5-inches to 8.4-inches

Putting the vehicle through its paces on California’s harsh concrete highways is what helped me notice the vast improvements made to the ride and handling. With a wheels-up, all-new platform the target was to improve ride, handling and quietness. The body of the van is much more rigid and lighter. FCA shed 113kg from the body thanks to aluminum doors, hood and tailgate plus magnetism in certain places. Bolted to the lighter and stiffer body is an all-new rear suspension that helps isolate road harshness but also improve cornering ability. Add to this improved sound insulation and active noise cancelling technology and all the targets were met. On top of this the existing 3.6L V6 has been improved to provide more power and torque but also greater efficiency. The engine is rated at 287hp, making it the most powerful van in its class and also the most efficient. The official rating is 12.9L/100km in the city and 8.4L on the highway. The improved fuel consumption can also be attributed to a new 9-speed automatic. This unit has been used in other FCA products and sometimes with limited success but I can report that this application was vastly improved, delivering crisp shift and a smoother experience than other efforts.

Now, all of this new Pacifica goodness comes with a price. The base version starts at $43,995 and can run up to almost $53,000, a lot of money for a minivan. FCA was quick to point out that this van is actually less expensive than the outgoing Town and Country by over $1200 with thousands of dollars of additional technology. Leather seats come standard and the van can be equipped with all the latest advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking and lane departure waning system.

The existing Dodge Grand Caravan will be built along side this Pacifica, in Windsor Ontario, for at least one more year. I suspect there might be a less expensive version of the Pacifica coming in the years to come, even an all wheel drive version but we will have to wait for confirmation.

Chrysler invented the minivan segment, they dominate in sales and this new Pacifica is the best one yet.

 

 

Power: 3.5L V6 with 287hp

Economy: 12.9L/8.4L/100km (city/highway) 

Sticker price: $43,995-$52,995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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