Chrysler Pacifica — A truly modern minivan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Chrysler made the right decision in abandoning the minivan names that have adorned their groundbreaking vehicles for more than 30 years. It was the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country (along with the long-departed Plymouth Voyager) that gave families a new way to travel in the mid-eighties, ushering in a segment that at its peak sold more than a million units a year.

Chrysler and Dodge together still sell more minivans than any other company, but the segment has been in decline for 15 years, now selling about 500,000 units annually; and the Fiat-Chrysler pair — once the gold standard of the segment — still have a lot to offer, but have been bypassed in quality and sophistication by the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

You may think it's folly to shelve a nameplate after so many years of sales success, but, frankly it was time to start over, and the Chrysler Pacifica, indeed, takes the Chrysler brand back to its glory years with handsome styling, a new light-and-strong body structure, a beautifully styled interior, and many cutting-edge features.

The Pacifica provides concrete proof that Chrysler is back with its new corporate wing-like fascia, flowing curves into sculpted sides, and the continuation of Chrysler's hidden door rails, which give it more the look of a sleek limousine than a minivan.

Inside you’ll find a graceful, sophisticated cockpit that includes high quality materials, a luxurious sculpted dash, and a control center tipped horizontally and canted toward the driver. The interior has been given a more open feel than the previous T&C by removing the center console creating an open floor between the driver and the passenger. A dial controlled shifter is now used in place of the standard gearshift. Initial impression might be that this is more a luxury crossover than the typical family hauling device.

Looking further find a myriad of storage bins, pockets, cupholders, cubbies — and a large center console bin that will easily swallow up a woman's purse. Then there's the carryover Stow 'n Go bins under the floor mats when the second-row captain's chairs are in use. If hiding the second-row seats into the floor is needed, it’s incredibly easy to flip the floor panel up, pull a lever, press the seat into the well with a click and drop the panel down. Move to the third row and discover the seats can be easily folded and tumbled into the floor.

On the Limited trim level, the seats are powered into the floor with a touch of a button. One more thing — there is a second-row center seat available creating eight-passenger capability. It's removable, but it can't be stored in the floor.

Impressive, too, are the power sliding doors and power liftgate that include hands-free operation. The doors and the liftgate open up to 32.2 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third-row seats, 87.5 cubic feet with the third-row stowed and 140.5 cubic feet with all seats folded. That's about standard for the segment.

FCA has made available its latest high-tech hardware for the Pacifica including the high-resolution 8.4 inch Uconnect touchscreen that features crisp and clear graphics — it still has the best satellite radio information readout in the industry. Optional is the Uconnect Theater rear entertainment system that features two 10-inch touchscreen mounted in the back of the front seats includes Blu-ray playback and is able to individually input various devices including gaming consoles.

Just as important as all of the above is the Pacifica's smooth and impressively quiet ride at all speeds and and a suspension that's very adept at negotiating winding roads. And we found the performance from the minivan's only engine offering — a 3.6-liter V-6 making 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque mated to a nine-speed automatic — very much up to the task. Pacifica can negotiate 0-to-60 in 7.3 seconds, and EPA-measured fuel economy is 18-mpg city, 28-highway and 22-combined on regular gas.

The Pacifica is offered five tr
im levels — LX, Touting, Touring-L, Touring -L Plus and Limited starting at $29,590 including destination charge. That cash outlay brings a fairly well equipped minivan including such features as heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, full power accessories, Stow 'n Go second-row seats, eight-way power driver's seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, rearview camera, Bluetooth, Uconnect Access and a six-speaker audio system.

The large amount of desirable features available on the Pacifica come standard as you move through the trim levels ending with the well-equipped Limited at $45,485. Our test vehicle with the rear entertainment package carried a bottom line of $48,280.

Base price: $29,590; as driven, $48,280
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 287 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 262 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: front drive
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 121.6 inches
Length: 203.6 inches
Curb wight: 4,330 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 32.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 140.5 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,600 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 18 city, 28 highway, 22 combined
0-60: 7.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna; Kia Sedona

The Good
• Class-leading styling
• Upscale interior
• Roomy, configurable interior
• Energetic V-6 engine

The Bad
• Stop-start late availability

The Ugly
• Can be hesitant to downshift