Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid — An outstanding vacation vehicle

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you had to pick the most comfortable and economical summer road trip vehicle for four adults we think you would come to the conclusion that it's impossible to beat the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid minivan. The award-winning Pacifica has scads of cargo space, and gas mileage that no other minivan or mid-sized-to-large crossover could touch for a 3,400-mile 16-day sightseeing trip. We called it our National Parks vacation because we visited eight national parks and three national monuments in South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

The Pacifica offered up 32.5 miles per gallon — here-to-fore unheard of in a full-sized minivan — a huge cargo area measuring 87.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seats, impressive interior solitude even hurtling down South Dakota and Wyoming interstates at the posted 80 mph speed limit, and comfortable seating front and rear with scads of legroom for our second-row passengers.

Our mileage outperformed the EPA-posted hybrid mileage of 32 mpg that was derived strictly in hybrid form without the benefit of plugging in the Pacifica.

Inside the Pacifica, you will 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 Chrysler Town and Country eliminating the standard transmission shifter with a dial-controlled device. Initial impression might be that this is more a luxury crossover than the typical family hauler.

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. Chrysler's unique Stow 'n Go seats are missing from the hybrid, however, to make room for the battery pack.

Impressive 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. We had absolutely no packing problems with three large roll-a-boards, two carry-on roll-a-boards and other assorted travel paraphernalia.

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.

While the navigation system did a credible job most of the time, perhaps Chrysler needs to evaluate its software. While in the Black Hills we elected to visit Mount Rushmore. We took a road from our hotel clearly marked "Mount Rushmore 20 miles." But the navigation system insisted several times along the road to "make a U turn" and take the road it recommended. Ironically, even after we had entered the Mount Rushmore parking lot, the system still wanted us to make a U turn and proceed to its preferred route.

The Pacifica Hybrid performed well with plenty of power although we prefer the 10-speed automatic over the continuously variable transmission found in the hybrid. With a total output of 260 horsepower from the 3.6-liter V-6 and two electric motors powered by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, the Pacifica has been measured at 7.8 seconds from 0-to-60, just a half second short of the standard minivan. Handling, too, was confidence inspiring and with the blind spot monitors in each mirror and good sightlines, there was never a problem keeping abreast of the traffic.

The Pacific Hybrid is the perfect vacation vehicle with a starting price for the Touring trim at $44,090 including a rather hefty $1,095 destination charge. Our top trim Limited carried a base price of $46,090 including destination, and with a few options the bottom line was $48,580.

If you are in the market for an upscale minivan, you can make the case for the Hybrid over the standard gas engine model. With its 32 mpg rating it is 10 mpg better than combined city/highway rating of the gas-only Touring edition, but comes in costing just $1,200 more.

If you plan on keeping your minivan for several years and averaging 10,000 miles a year you should come out ahead. And if you keep it plugged in at home and are able to get 25-30 electric-only miles every day, the Pacifica Hybrid will be even more of a bargain.

Base price: $41,090; as driven, $48,580
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, two electric motors
Horsepower: combined 260
Torque: 235 pound-feet
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 121.6 inches
Length: 203.8 inches
Curb weight: 5,125 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 32.2 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 140.5 cubic feet
Towing capacity: (NA)
Fuel capacity: 16.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 32 combined city, highway
0-60: 7.8 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona

The Good
• Excellent fuel economy
• Up to 33 miles on electric power
• Loaded with technology, safety

The Bad
• Relatively high price for a minivan

The Ugly
• Second-row seats can't be folded into floor