The Pacifica nameplate is revived as a high-end minivan.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Base price (Limited trim): $52,995
Options: $195 Billet Metallic paint; $3,495 Uconnect Theatre & Sound Group; $795 tire & wheel group; $700 trailer tow group; $1,995 Advanced SafetyTec group; $295 replace vacuum with inflatable spare tire; $175 KeySense programmable key fob; -$200 handsfree doors/liftgate credit
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $62,340
I just thought I’d get the pricing out of the way first. Because that needs to be seen to be believed. Yes, the new Pacifica from Chrysler is pretty awesome, and yes it brings a lot to the table. But dang, is it expensive – and you’re asked to compromise, even at this price.
While the Pacifica is, undoubtedly, a minivan in every sense, its modern, sleek and sculpted exterior breathes a bit of life into the genre, and allowed me to dare to dream for the future of the minivan. Chrysler loves to use the word “athletic” when it describes the Pacifica, and it is NOT that. But it looks classy and frankly, in my opinion, it is the best-looking minivan on the market. The huge windows, the classy chrome accents and the LED driving lights all look great. Up front there are bright HID headlights, and the LED tail light signature is fantastic!
Chrysler gives the top-trim Pacifica some sweet 20-inch rims shod with hefty 245/50-sized rubber. The whole package really looks good!
Once I got into the Pacifica, I appreciated the simple, but beautifully styled dash. Chrysler’s materials are outstanding, using beautiful soft-touch plastics with plenty of stitching on the dash. The perforated Nappa leather seats with contrasting piping are heated and ventilated and are as comfortable as they are pretty to look at.
I enjoyed the sweet 7-inch customizable centre driver information screen between the clear and simple gauges, and while it’s starting to show its age a bit, the square 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen is still a great system. It handles your phone, a somewhat frustrating navigation system and a 20(!)-speaker 760-watt harman/kardon sound system which sounds fantastic. Fantastic or not, I wasn’t impressed with the rattles that started up every time there was some significant bass in the music. As you’d expect from a top-trim vehicle this size, you get a tri-zone automatic climate control system, including a rear zone.
Our family loved the high-end touches like the huge tri-pane panoramic roof and I liked the luxurious two-tone steering wheel with a handsome chrome accent ring (which unfortunately stays freezing cold on those winter mornings, even though the rest of the wheel is nicely heated).
You’ll enjoy a full suite of driver assistance technology – 360-degree surround-view camera with parking sensors all the way around the vehicle, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, brake assist, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, forward collision warning and active braking, adaptive cruise control with stop and go and parallel and perpendicular park assist.
Second and Third-Row Seats
The minivan life is a sweet life indeed. I forgot how convenient power sliding doors on either side are – the Pacifica’s can be activated with the key fob, buttons above the driver’s head or next to the sliding door or by using the door handles (inside or outside).
The second row seats are very comfortable – here you’ll find heated captains chairs that can recline, but don’t slide fore and aft. That’s the price you pay for the convenience of Stow ‘n Go, which I will get to later. We really like the flip-up armrests on either side of the seat and (for better or worse – my kids fought over their temperature setting non-stop) there’s a separate climate control panel overhead.
Now, here’s a winning feature. There is a dual 10-inch touchscreen entertainment system which allows you to play video from multiple sources (built-in BluRay player, USB and HDMI input ports) and, to my kids’ delight, has built-in apps and games which they can play against each other – the screens talk to each other, and games like Xs and Os and road-trip bingo now take place on touchscreens. Perhaps the most innovative app is the “Are We There Yet?” one – it calculates the time and distance to whichever destination you are headed toward on your navigation system, and allows the rear passengers to answer that question for themselves. Our kids loved this! It makes for a happy family, unless of course you have more than 2 kids – like we do. In that case, look forward to having the third one who is sitting in the third row constantly complaining that it’s their turn to get onto the touchscreens. There are headphone plugs, as well as a pair of wireless headphones that come with the system. Both sides also come with a remote control, which is more fun for the kids, and less so for the adults up front trying to maintain control.
The second row seats tilt and slide forward very easily, which makes for quick access to the rear seating. Of course you can always just walk through the middle aisle between the second row seats to get back there too.
Once you get to the third row you’ll find three seats, with plenty of room for adult passengers. There is enough leg room for me at 5’10”, and more than enough head room – it feels even airier thanks to the rear sunroof panel. The rear-most passengers even get power-reclining seats, which is pretty much unheard of. There are manual sunshades in the second- and third-row side windows.
The Pacifica has two sets of LATCH anchors and for electronic device convenience, USB charging ports in both second and third rows.
There are plenty of open, rubberized bins and wells between the front seats to put your stuff, as well as USB and 12V power plugs. A slide-out bin and another storage drawer can be found on the centre stack. And let’s not forget the aptly-named Super Console – illuminated cupholders and a scrolling lid that slides back to open a large rubberized storage bin. This console also benefits second-row passengers. A huge pull-out comes out in two stages – the first exposes some cupholders, and if you pull it out further, there’s a large bin.
The second row of seating gets in-floor storage wells which is very handy when you’re headed onto the open road – these are great places to put things for road trips.
Pop open the power liftgate, and as with any mini-van, you’ll find a large and deep trunk well behind the third row, which allows you 915 L of cargo space. When you need more than that, the power-folding third row seats are easily folded down flat into that well (you can fold either side of the 60/40 split, or both together) and you get 2,478 L of space behind the second row. Of course, FCA’s long-time selling feature, its Stow ‘n Go second row seats plop down into those floor storage wells, and completely disappear from sight without having to remove them. It’s still an impressive feature after all these years, and leaves you with an astounding 3,979 L of space behind the front seats. Don’t show your friends this feature, because you’ll be asked to help everybody move their stuff. The trunk has a 12V plug, and can be had with a RIDGID vacuum – sadly, my review vehicle’s vacuum had been replaced by an inflatable spare tire option.
Under the Hood
Chrysler’s 287 HP 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 sits side-saddle up front, and it’s paired to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The fuel ratings aren’t bad at all for a monstrous vehicle like this – 12.9 L/100 km (18 US mpg) in the city and 8.4 L/100 km (28 US mpg) on the highway. Even better, we ended up averaging an excellent 11.5 L/100 km (20 US mpg) after a week of relatively heavy use.
The Touring suspension, which is specific to the top-trim Limited Pacificas (and ironically NOT available in the TOURING trim ones) is outstanding. The ride is superb, and very comfortable, yet the Pacifica handles well for a large three-row vehicle. It always felt confident on the road, and inspired confidence in me as well. This isn’t your dad’s minivan.
The Pacifica has lots of power, particularly off the line – which actually became a problem for us. We spent most of the week traversing residential Edmonton wintry streets – sadly, our streets never get plowed. That means they were packed with snow and ice, and all that power fed through the front wheels exclusively rarely made things fun. It ended up setting off the traction control almost immediately more often than not.
I’ll be honest, I had low expectations for the transmission, thanks to past experiences with FCA’s 9-speeds. But it seems they have sorted a lot of things out, as this one, which is shifted using a rotary dial, was pretty darn good. It was usually in the right gear, and shifted smoothly for the most part.
The Pacifica got plenty of attention in terms of noise insulation, and it is shockingly quiet from the outside when it is running. As a matter of fact, you can barely hear the engine. More importantly, the active noise cancellation and said insulation makes for a very quiet drive too – in town and at highway speeds. The low profile tires occasionally got a bit noisy over road imperfections.
Visibility is OK out of the front and sides, but the rear-most headrests really impede on the driver’s ability to see out of the back window.
We loved the hands-free power sliding doors and lift gate – one kick underneath (when you’ve got the key fob on you) and they open automatically – perfect for when your hands are full.
Equipped as my review Pacifica was, it is capable of towing up to 3,600 lb (1,633 kg) and even has electronic trailer sway control.
I found the location of the push-start button to be very awkward. I never could seem to see it, so I had to feel around behind the steering wheel to find it.
The new Pacifica felt very modern and innovative, and it seems to bring some new life to the minivan class. One of my big qualms is the fact that it’s only available in front-wheel drive at this time. That’s a lot of coin for a front-wheel drive minivan. But if that’s not an issue to the shopper (hey, front-wheel drive only Honda Odysseys continue to sell very well), the Pacifica is a pretty great vehicle.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. She used to love our Honda Odyssey and whenever she temporarily gets back into a nice minivan, she reminisces about the good parts. The space, the comfortable ride, the sliding doors, the fact that you can banish your kids to the far reaches of the kingdom (the third row).
I thought this top-of-the-line Pacifica was everything most people need in a minivan. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive and at that price, I would always recommend people cross-shop it with the competition, like the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna, the Kia Sedona and of course, the eternally price-conscious Dodge Grand Caravan.
Of note, a plug-in hybrid Pacifica will soon be available – with a 48 km all-electric range and 2.9 L/100 km (97 mpg) economy rating. That’s some good stuff right there – the compromise is the loss of the second-row Stow ‘n Go seats (hey, the battery has to go somewhere!) and the $56,495 starting price.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) Canada.
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