I’ll start with an admission: after a week of school/sports carpools, Costco runs, and general family living, the Pacifica Hybrid opened my eyes to what a family truly needs in transportation. And for almost all of them, this Chrysler is the best answer I’ve tested yet.
I detailed the what and how behind the new Pacifica Hybrid at the press launch for it last November. But here’s the short version: This van uses a plug-in battery/hybrid system that will run for roughly 30-35 miles on pure electricity, then switches into a gas-electric hybrid system.
The Premium version retails for $43,090 (destination charge included) and $46,090 for the top-line Platinum model. That’s a massive amount of scratch for a baby/dog/in-laws hauler, but thanks to existing, for now, Federal (and in some cases, State) tax credits, the price gets much easier to swallow. Here in Colorado, those incentives drop the Premium model to around $30K.
In addition to the 600-lb. 16-kWt battery underneath the 2nd row, the Pacifica packs a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with 260-hp, a plenty-powerful engine that stacks up competitively against the V6’s found in Honda Odysseys and Toyota Sienna minivans. But when the battery runs dry, the Pacifica Hybrid does not accelerate as fast as its non-hybrid competition. That’s due to the hefy dead weight of the battery and electric motor. Conversely, when there is enough juice in the battery to aid acceleration, I didn’t notice a drop off in performance, even living here at altitude here in Denver. In fact, the electric motor almost acts as a turbo booster in thin air driving.
Handling is smooth and compliant — the Pacifica is easy to drive around town and stellar on long interstate cruises. On twisting mountain roads, though I was aware that the chassis was dealing with the inertia from the extra weight of the battery.
When talking about an EV/hybrid, however, performance is all about range and MPGs. Over the course of a week with the Pacifica I fell into a daily routine. I’d plug the van into the Level 1 (110-volt) power outlet in my garage and charge the battery overnight for 12-13 hours. That usually juiced the battery to 85-100 percent capacity and gave me 35 miles of electric range based on my driving style. I didn’t think it enough to get my family through the day. But on three out of the six days I had the van, it was more than I needed.
In the end, I put 193 miles on the Pacifica. According to the van’s trip computer, 155 miles of it was driven in pure electric mode. The remaining 38 miles used the V6 gas engine. Extrapolating that out using the Chrysler’s EPA MPG rating of 32 mpg combined, this means that I’d need to fill up the 16.5-gallon gas tank around four times a year. Of course road trips toss that equation out the window, but my point is that this van gave me a new perspective on my family’s daily driving needs.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
The front row seats are spacious, the USB ports ubiquitous, and the cup-holders are everywhere. The second row captain’s chairs are equally as nice since they’re not part of Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go system where they’d fold flat underneath the floor. That’s a signature feature of non-hybrid Chrysler/Dodge minivans, but one that some reviewers and owners claim results in less-than-comfortable seats.
My kids couldn’t wait to get into this van thanks to the slick (optional) touchscreen entertainment systems elegantly built into the backs of the front row seats. Whereas previous generations of rear entertainment systems put the control up on the dash-mounted infotainment system, i.e. in the parents’ hands, this Chrysler puts it back with the kids who can either play a game on their individual screen, stream a movie off Netflix through their iPad or my smartphone. They don’t have to be stuck watching whatever the other kid is watching.
The minivan’s 360-degree camera was a godsend in tight parking lots, same with the self-parking system that works for both parallel spots and backing into perpendicular spaces. Hands-free liftgate and sliding side doors take some time to get right, but once I did, I couldn’t stop using them.
The third-row seats fold flat easily enough. And I appreciate that Chrysler made sure they create a truly flat surface unlike the bulbous hinges present in the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
One tiny, tiny quibble: The remote key fob is fat and heavy. It’s no problem to drop into a purse, but as a dad, it was a cumbersome fit in my pants pocket. I found myself keeping the fob in my backpack or gym bag all the time rather than on my body, which meant there were times that I’d forgotten where I put it.
The Level 1 charger comes standard and packs neatly into a cubby in the rear interior wall of the van. Assuming you park the van in a garage, the cord is plenty long to reach the charging port no matter where the power outlet is in a standard two-car garage. However, it wasn’t long enough for me to park the van in my driveway to charge it, and the use of an extension cord is expressly not advised in the instructions.
TFLCAR’s TAKE: The plug-in hybrid system puts the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid into a class of its own. And in terms of real-world comfort and features coupled with the tax breaks, this is the vehicle I recommend to everyone interested in a minivan for suburban/urban family duty. They’d be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least check it out.
To see what and how the Pacifica Hybrid drives, check out TFL’s Andre Smirnov and his video review of the minivan.