Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid — Is it possible to fall in love with a minivan?

By Jim Prueter

(July 3, 2019) Say what you will about the minivan and the stigma associated with owning and driving one, it’s undeniably the most versatile family-friendly vehicle you can buy. And, when it comes to flexibility, cargo and passenger capabilities, and ease of overall use, any three-row crossover — regardless of size — pales in comparison. And I haven’t even begun to laud plaudits regarding ease of mid- and third-row entry and exit.

With a generation of new car buyers who grew up in minivans largely stigmatizing them as transporters from hell, the folks at Chrysler, who pioneered the minivan, are making a strong argument to choose a Pacifica over a utility vehicle.

We drove the Chrysler Pacifica when it was first introduced three years ago, replacing the aging Town & Country. Since then, it has won numerous “best of” and “Car of the Year” awards, including the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. At that time we were duly impressed with our test Pacifica and thought it was time to revisit the Pacifica with a weeklong drive and review of the 2019 Hybrid Limited version driven here.

For 2019, the Pacifica is offered as front-wheel-drive only with seating options for seven or eight, depending on the interior configuration. It’s available in both regular gas and plug-in hybrid form and comes standard with a 287-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine that works with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The plug-in hybrid version tested here delivers an EPA-estimated electric range of up to 32 miles from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, with a total gas and electric range of 520 miles. Competitor minivans include the Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

Our tested Pacifica Hybrid Limited came equipped with the optional, new-for-2019, $795 optional S Appearance Package that includes 18-inch wheels with a black finish, gloss-black exterior accents, and an all-black interior with gray accents. The package looked especially attractive, accenting the Ocean Blue metallic exterior paint finish.

The Pacifica Hybrid is available in three trim levels: Touring Plus ($41,490), Touring L ($43,690), and Limited ($46,790). Regardless of trim level, all have a long list of desirable standard features. Touring L adds perforated leather-trimmed seating, a power rear liftgate and more. The Limited ups it to premium Nappa Leather trimmed seats, hands-free sliding doors, and more. All three trim levels are eligible for the federal tax incentive of $7,500 that neutralizes the $7,400 premium Chrysler charges for the Hybrid Pacifica over other non-hybrid Pacifica models.

However, you should know that there are a few negatives when choosing the hybrid over the non-hybrid Pacifica. For one, Pacifica’s awesome Stow-N-Go seats are not available on the Hybrid because the underfloor area is occupied by batteries. The Hybrid also tops out at seven seats for occupants while the non-Hybrid has the option to seat eight.

Of course, the main reason for choosing the Pacifica Hybrid Limited is for the fuel savings, achieved with the benefit of a plug-in feature. The EPA says you’ll cover a distance of 32 miles before you burn a drop of gasoline. That is, of course, if you remember to plug in and charge the batteries.

With its dual-motor EV drive system, the Pacifica Hybrid delivers 82 MPGe in the city, solely on zero-emissions electric power from a 16-kWh lithium battery, along with a 520 total gas-electric range.

Power is delivered via the 260-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 eHybrid engine. We averaged just over 26 mpg over nearly 1,000 miles that included many miles at over 70 mph on Arizona highways. More modest speeds in city driving boosted our mileage to over 27 mpg.

Our Limited’s cabin had a premium look and feel; it’s one of the nicest cabins in its class. Materials are high quality and soft touch surfaces abound.  There’s ample head, leg and shoulder room in the first two rows of seating, and as is in most every three-row vehicle, the third row is best left to be occupied by children.

Pacifica’s infotainment is handled by Chrysler’s industry-leading Uconnect infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, Uconnect Access that lets you remotely track, lock, or start your Pacifica via your Smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Autos Smartphone integration.

Our Limited included satellite radio, two 10-inch rear-seat touchscreens, a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, rear-seat DVD player, a built-in Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum (Chrysler claims the longest hose in the business), 4G WiFi hot spot, and an upgraded 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation.

But not all is perfect with the Pacifica. Granted, I live in Arizona where I do most of my vehicle testing and in the summer it’s akin to living on the surface of the sun. Still, it wasn’t overly hot during my weeklong with the Limited with daytime temps reaching 102° to 105°, but we were never able to take the air conditioning off the “Maximum Air” setting, as the Pacifica’s cabin never cooled enough to do so. I test a lot of vehicles and it is a rare exception that new vehicles are unable to handle temperatures in that range.

We were also disappointed with the power sliding side doors whose buttons for opening and closing within reach of second-row passengers only worked on an intermittent basis, but mostly not at all. They either had to be manually pulled closed by the occupants or via the redundant buttons located on the overhead console above the vehicle’s instrument panel.

We also didn’t like the location of the button to power close the rear liftgate on the inside D pillar of the vehicle. You had to lean into the back of the rear opening to push the button and then quickly get out of the way of the closing rear hatch. We like that most manufacturers locate this button on the bottom edge of the liftgate.

All-wheel drive option is
not available.

Finally, we were quite disappointed that the regenerative brakes that deliver
additional electric power back into the battery didn’t seem to work at all. Our previously tested Pacifica Hybrid did an excellent job in that regard and added a significant number of additional EV, gas-free miles to the overall driving range.

In addition to the fuel savings, there are plenty of reasons to consider the Pacifica Hybrid over a utility vehicle. Visually, the Pacifica looks less like a minivan and more like a utility vehicle. There’s significantly more useable cargo and seating room. Comparably priced, the Pacifica is much more affordable. And, finally, it’s actually more enjoyable to drive. Take a road trip and you’ll quickly discover the room and comfort you’ll get in the Pacifica.

Vital Stats
Base Price:  $47,040
Price as Tested: $50,625
Powertrain: 260-hp 3.6-Liter Atkinson Cycle V-6 eHybrid engine connected to an eFlight Si-EVT automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: Combined Electricity + Gasoline: 82.0 combined city/highway, and 30 MPG combined city/highway Gasoline only.
Seating: Up to 7 occupants

Where Built: Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Crash Test Ratings:  A Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Competes With:
Honda Odyssey
Kia Sedona
Toyota Sienna

Fab Features
Still the only Hybrid minivan on the market
Excellent fuel economy
Upscale cabin quality and features