With the Pacifica, Chrysler has broken out of the boxy shape its minivans adopted back in the 2008 model year.
We like the exterior and interior—and all over again. We give it an 8 out 10 on our styling scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The front end has a slim, sleek nose like the one on the 200 sedan. The side glass is trimmed in bright metal—it doesn’t try to hide its size with visual tricks. The rear pillars kick back with a relaxed style. The sliding doors cover their tracks under the rear windows.
It's a boon for outward vision, too. The door line sits low for most drivers. The front pillars tuck inward slightly at the base of the windshield. Visual tricks like those give the impression the Pacifica is smaller and narrower than it is—which is roughly the same as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, its chief rivals.
Inside, the Pacifica’s dash wraps beautifully around the front passengers. The sculpted and stitched dash is a far cry from the upright shape of Chrysler’s old minivans. The rectangular and relentlessly boxy shapes are history. The new one is awash in upscale looks and color schemes like "Soho," themed with the color palette of a cigar bar.
The details speak to hours of design attention. The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is mounted flush with the dash. The thin rim of metallic trim on the steering wheel seems way too swanky for a vehicle doomed to crust up with Happy Meal leftovers.
The Pacifica has ditched the box—and it's no longer a bore, inside or out.
With a new platform and a new drivetrain, the Chrysler Pacifica puts some of the automaker's performance shortcomings in the rearview mirror. The new minivan is a smart performer, with more grip and acceleration than it really needs to outpace its rivals.
It's passed the Honda Odyssey in most performance dimensions, though there's a new Odyssey coming late this year.
We like its engine and ride, which is why it earns a 7 out of 10 on our new performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A flick of its keyless ignition, and the Pacifica spools up a new version of its 3.6-liter V-6. The updated version of Chrysler's core engine is lighter and 5 percent more efficient even before coupled to its transmission, Chrysler says. On the road, it accelerates strongly and smoothly, with a crisp V-6 punch to accompany its 287 horsepower.
Spin the Pacifica's rotary dial transmission into drive, and it responds more predictably than other Chryslers with the same transmission. The 9-speed automatic hasn't been a point of glory in vehicles from the Jeep Cherokee to the 200 sedan, but in the Pacifica, the new-generation transmission has almost none of the jerky shift action we’ve found in those other installations. There's no direct control of gears, either, but putting the rotary control into "L" raises the revs and engine braking, for towing or low-speed cornering.
Fuel economy is much improved in the Pacifica. At 22 mpg combined it's near, but not at the top of the class. That distinction likely will come late this year, when the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid goes on sale. The new plug-in hybrid model arrives with a 16-kwh lithium-ion battery pack mated to two electric motors and an electrically variable transmission. The EPA rated the van for 33 miles on electricity alone; more than 80 MPGe in combined travel. (MPGe is the metric used by the EPA to rate the distance traveled on the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.)
Chrysler says it will be able to drive about 30 miles on electric power alone, and EPA ratings should come in at 80 mpge in city driving.
Excellent ride and handling
Powertrain performance isn't the only impressive aspect of the Pacifica. With a new front-strut and rear trailing-arm suspension, the van responds impressively when pushed to limits it'll almost never encounter when there's a baby on board. A new, sturdy body structure that's much stiffer than the outgoing vans gets much of the credit.
The Pacifica's ride and handling set a new, higher bar for all minivans. Weighty steering helps it track straight on highways with a precise feel, and the suspension mutes most road surfaces with a composure the old Town & Country lacked.
Shift it into its low gear range and aim for more challenging roads, and the Pacifica responds ably. Its balanced ride feels more in control than, say, the new Honda Pilot. It controls wheel bounding very well, and the steering winds and unwinds naturally into corners.
Hustling the Pacifica through one of our favorite California canyons made it clear: there are decades of progress baked into this minivan’s hardware, even if performance isn’t what most buyers put at the top of their must-have list.
The only sore point on the Pacificas provided for press drives so far has been in brake feel. The pedal on our test vehicle felt stiff with shallow travel. We'd like more gradual and controllable response, so that the brakes mirror the control feel baked into the Pacifica's other systems.
Chrysler's new Pacifica is its first minivan that's truly entertaining to drive.
Chrysler's minivans have led their class with fold-away seating in two rows. The Pacifica retains that flexible layout and makes it standard across the lineup, while adding a couple of touches that make it easier to convert the van from cargo duty to passenger duty.
According to the spec sheet, the Pacifica is now the longest of all the minivans. It's 203.6 inches long, rides on a 121.6-inch wheelbase, and is 79.6 inches wide. Curb weight starts at 4,330 pounds, in base models without the hybrid system.
Interior space of 197.3 cubic inches gets doled out mostly to humans. The Pacifica sports 165 cubic feet of passenger space, with 140.5 cubic feet of it behind the first row, 87.5 behind the second row, and 32.3 behind the third row.
The Pacifica's seating system makes the most of that space. Rival minivans only can fold away their third-row seats and fold down or move forward their second-row chairs. The Pacifica can tuck the second-row seats under the floor completely. It's capable of carrying up to eight people or dozens of sheets of 4-by-8 building material—a flexibility that it owes to Chrysler's substantial business in the cargo-van industry.
It's one of the most flexible and spacious cars on the road today and it aces our comfort test. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Those stow-away second-row seats make the Pacifica the most useful minivan available. This year, the system has been made more useful with a couple of tweaks to the way the seats fold into the floor.
In front, the driver and passenger are outfitted with plenty of space in all directions, and a pair of seats that give a commanding view of the road, and are surrounded by deep storage bins at the dash, in the doors, and in the console between the seats. There's no space lost to a shift lever, because the Pacifica has a rotary shift dial.
The gas-powered version of the Pacifica comes with what's called Stow ‘n’ Go Assist. It's a power feature on the driver-side or on both sliding side doors. It's simply a button that powers the front seats out of the way, so the second-row seats can be folded away more quickly.
That process is simple. A carpeted panel flips up and out of the way to expose deep bins that can be used for storage when the seats are in use. (On hybrid minivans, the batteries take up this space, and the seats do not stow.) A flip of a lever, and the second-row seats fold fully into the floor, requiring just a firm press to latch them into place.
The second-row seats are comfortable and spacious for adults, better than in the last-generation Town & Country. That's the result of more padding, which addresses one of the few complaints with the setup. They also have a tilt feature that permits easier access to the third-row seat when a child safety seat is LATCHed into place in the second row.
That third-row seat is the best for adult accommodations of any minivan, though not many adults we know want to be in the way-back row. Not only is it easy to climb into, it has enough head room for tall passengers, and the seat cushion has real comfort.
The third-row seat can power-recline on some models, and can power-fold into the floor on some.
On many versions, the third-row seat is surrounded by cupholders, small-item storage, and all kinds of USB charging ports and HDMI inputs for the available rear-seat entertainment system.
Fold all the seats behind the front row into the floor, and the Pacifica can haul lots of 4-by-8 sheets of construction material. It's possible, even if the plushly finished rear seats on some versions would give most drivers pause.
Even third-row seats can carry adults inside the Pacifica, and a fold-flat seating system leads the class.
Chrysler's outgoing minivans outlived their safety reputations, with crash-test scores that sank as tests grew progressively tougher.
The new Pacifica's early scores by the IIHS show that it's ahead of the curve so far, with a new architecture developed specifically for minivans and crossover SUVs.
The Pacifica earns a 9 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The minivan was recently named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, with all "Good" scores in its crash tests and a "Superior" rating for its front crash prevention systems, when equipped.
The NHTSA has confirmed that safety strength by giving the Pacifica five stars overall, with just a single four-star rating for rollover resistance.
It's also outfitted with standard and available safety features that outpace its rivals. A rearview camera and Bluetooth are common across the lineup, and the Pacifica is the first Chrysler van to offer advanced features such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and surround-view cameras.
Drivers who have late-model luxury vehicles in the household will be happy to note that the Pacifica now includes things such as parallel and perpendicular park assist, and a lane-departure warning system that nudges the vehicle back into its lane when it detects it's crossed the lines.
Outward vision is excellent in the Pacifica. The rear-quarter view is especially good for such a long vehicle. The Pacifica's sliding side doors sit on low hinges, with a section of glass above the hinge that eliminates most blind spots. (Blind-spot monitors are available and still recommended, nonetheless.)
What's in so far is very good for the Pacifica.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
Priced from just less than $30,000 to more than $42,000, the Chrysler Pacifica went on sale this summer, with the plug-in hybrid model arriving later in the year.
The lineup will include LX, Touring, Touring Plus, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited models—all built in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from downtown Detroit.
Standard features on the Pacifica LX include power windows, locks, and mirrors; 17-inch tires; active noise cancellation; air conditioning; touchscreen audio with AM/FM and Bluetooth audio streaming; a power driver seat; and steering-wheel audio controls.
Touring grades can features standard automatic headlights, power sliding side doors, ambient lighting, leather seats, heated power adjustable front seats, heated second-row seats, and power assist to move the driver's seat out of the way when storing the second-row seats.
It's those good base and optional features, plus great customization options and the fact that it's a family hauling weapon that help it ace our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Touring Plus models add to that a power tailgate and three-zone climate control, plus a few other minor features like fog lights and unique interior trim.
Standard features on the Pacifica Limited include a power liftgate with hands-free control; hands-free sliding side doors; ventilated front seats; a panoramic sunroof; 18-inch tires; HD radio, navigation, and real-time-traffic; a 115-volt power outlet; a Blu-ray entertainment system with twin 10-inch screens and third-row USB and charging ports; a power third-row seat; and an in-car vacuum.
Major options include Harman Kardon audio; navigation; parking sensors and blind-spot monitors; adaptive cruise control; surround-view cameras; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; and a tow package good for up to 3,600 pounds of pull.
The available hands-free liftgate and sliding doors are new to the Pacifica and to Chrysler minivans. With the key fob nearby, passengers can open and close each by waving a foot under the door.
The Pacifia's other new features are similarly thoughtful. The center console is deep enough to store tablet computers, and gallon jugs of milk have their own storage bins in the cargo area. Every seat has at least one cupholder. In eight-passenger versions, the eighth seat (middle, second row) is removable and doubles as an armrest when not used as a chair.
A three-pane panoramic roof opens up the entire vehicle to natural light—perfect for sightseeing tours. The in-car vacuum has a hose long enough to clean the Pacifica, and the car next to it in the garage.
Finally, the Pacifica's accessories list runs the gamut: everything from a pet kennel to a first-aid kit to a DVD player to wireless smartphone charging is available.
From custom kid-friendly mobile apps to fold-away seats, the Pacifica doesn't miss a beat.
The new Chrysler Pacifica gets very good gas mileage. It's not the class leader, but a promising new version will easily outpace today's rival vans.
The EPA rates the Pacifica at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined. That's neck-and-neck with the Honda Odyssey, which rates 22 mpg combined, and better than the Toyota Sienna (21 mpg) and the outgoing Chrysler Town & Country (20 mpg). The Nissan Quest manages marginally better ratings at 20/27/23 mpg.
It's that rating that earns it a 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Pacifica has improved efficiency over the outgoing Town & Country. The substantial progress comes via a lighter-weight body, active aerodynamic grille shutters, and the new 9-speed automatic. Later in the model year, the Pacifica also adds stop-start, which should net some mileage gains.
The big news is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. With a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Pacifica Hybrid is capable of going about 33 miles only on electric power before it switches to hybrid mode. The hybrid system uses two electric motors, both of which drive the van’s wheels, with a new “electrically variable transmission.” All told, the setup is rated at 83 mpge by the EPA. We cover it separately.
Fuel economy is much improved, and stop-start is on the way—as is a plug-in hybrid model.