September 22, 2017

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Is No Conestoga

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Is No Conestoga

Unless you have a herd of offspring and understand their merits, you probably think of mini-vans as low-tech snooze chambers with the pizazz of a boxcar.  That’s horribly unfair to even the most basic of today’s mini-vans, but especially the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.  It’s as stylish as Cole Haan outlet store and more advanced than that fancy German sport sedan you’re ogling.  Where this bus goes, it may not even need fuel.

Gas-free Driving

Fully charged, the Pacifica Hybrid travels 33 miles on electricity before the 287 horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine fires up to continue the fun for a total of 566 miles.  Re-charge in two hours on 240v and expect 84-MPGe in city driving.  Even running on gas, the hybrid van achieves a frugal 32-MPG.  A 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and regenerative braking make this possible.  Change the charging schedule and pre-condition the vehicle’s interior from your smartphone.

A typical electric car, there’s nothing but silent smooth torque off the line.  Even with a weighty foot, I drove over 30 miles before the gas engine perked up.  Thump the throttle hard at any speed and you’ll awaken the engine early and often, but follow the “driving coach” in the instrument panel, gently apply brakes to replenish the batteries, and you’ll get what’s promised. 

Beautiful Sculpting

Chrysler already has a beautifully-sculpted people mover, with grille shutters and under-body panels to aid aero, so designers refrained from superfluous tweaks for hybrid duty.  Look close, though, and you’ll see subtle differences.  The grille insert encompasses a wavy pattern instead of  mesh, there’s a front fender door for the plug, specific 17-inch wheels look sleeker, and centers of the Chrysler winged logo are teal instead of dark blue.  Arching bodylines, canted rear windowline, and deftly applied chrome project an upscale presence.  Get it in Silver Teal Pearl Coat paint to flaunt your green cred.

Inside, it’s swaths of artistry and technology.  Pacifica’s dash projects elegance with a crisp center touchscreen, swoops of contrasting colors on the dash and doors, piano black trim around climate controls, chrome gear selector knob, and two-tone leather-wrapped steering wheel.  Beige leather seats with teal piping feel Jaguar expensive.  When heated and cooled, they’re especially comfy.  A twin-panel panoramic sunroof shines in.

Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system is about the world’s easiest to use.  Summon navigation, climate control, and audio via touchscreen, voice, or redundant buttons beneath.  You can direct-tune Satellite radio, or twirl through the stations with a proper tuning knob.  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility arrive for 2018.  Active noise cancellation hushes the cabin.  Enhance safety with available 360-degree camera, ParkSense parallel/perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance, and lane keep assist systems.

Luxurious Drive

Your peeps and homies will posh out in the back rows too, enjoying a sweet continental cruiser or luxurious club limo.  Add convenience with foot-swipe power sliding doors and rear hatch that make entry easy, twin seat-mounted video screens for all-day entertainment, dedicated climate controls, and vacuum to suck up your munchkin’s goldfish and Cheerios.  Third-row seats fold flat into the floor, but the middle row Stow n’ Go seats gave their ghost for underfloor battery storage.  If you must haul plywood, twin captain’s chairs are removable.

Beyond all of the gadgets, the Pacifica Hybrid is enjoyable to drive.  Electric power provides smooth power, but the wide stance and firm suspension provide European handling that’s more like a large Fiat than a smaller Ram van.  I drove it last fall in L.A. where it carved up Highway 1 and Mulholland Drive with near-equal composure.  Cross-country expeditions would find you in complete comfort.

From debonair sheet metal to advanced powertrain and interior tech, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is no Conestoga.  And, it’s very competitively priced.  With $7,500 in federal tax credits, you can get the Pacifica Hybrid for similar money as comparably equipped non-hybrid competitors.  Prices (before credits) start at $41,995, but came to $47,885 as tested. 

Storm Forward!

View Casey's video of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid; follow him on YouTube and Twitter:  @AutoCasey.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

  • Seven-passenger, FWD Mini-van
  • Powertrain: 287hp 3.6-liter V6, 16-kWh li-ion batteries
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind Twist Blade
  • Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: regen disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Hybrid, Style
  • All-elect. range:  33 miles
  • Total range: 566 miles
  • Fuel economy: 84 mpg-e city
  • Assembly: Windsor, ON
  • Base price (before credit): $41,995/47,885
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