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- Sole plug-in hybrid minivan in U.S.
- 30 miles of real-world range
- Handsome, intriguing new look
- Comfortable seating
- Very competitive features
- No longer cheap
- Sliding doors still mean "minivan"
- Loses fold-away second-row seat
- All-wheel drive still missing from the menu
- Only seven seats, not eight
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the first plug-in hybrid minivan retains the capacity, clever features, and style of the regular version while adding about 30 miles of all-electric range and better fuel economy.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a one-of-a-kind vehicle: the sole plug-in hybrid minivan on sale in the U.S. It adds 30-plus miles of electric range and a higher-efficiency hybrid powertrain to the much-lauded Chrysler Pacifica launched in 2016.
The plug-in hybrid Pacifica comes in two trim levels, Premium and Platinum.
The new powertrain makes a very good vehicle—good enough to win this site's 2017 Best Car To Buy award—much greener. It also steals a march on every other car company in the process. No longer are plug-in hybrids either four-seat compact hatchbacks or high-dollar import SUVs; now they include the good ol' American minivan.
The Pacifica Hybrid earns an 8.7 out of 10 on our overall scale thanks to its great features and comfort. That's even higher than the 8.3 earned by the regular Pacifica lineup; its top rating of 10 on our fuel-efficiency scale more than compensated for what it lost by sacrificing the second row's ability to drop into the floor. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
For more information on the full lineup, see our 2017 Chrysler Pacifica review.
Despite the ability to recharge the battery on wall current for about 30 miles of all-electric driving, Chrysler just calls its plug-in minivan the Pacifica Hybrid. The company has said the plug can be confusing, and it deliberately designed the whole powertrain in a way that minimizes complexity and eliminates choices for the driver. Our one concern is that dealers may not bother to explain the plug part at all, relegating some Pacifica (plug-in) Hybrids to perennial duty as a regular hybrid without ever getting plugged in.
Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983, but this year, the Pacifica that replaces the Chrysler Town & Country is entirely redesigned and far, far better than its aging and stolid predecessor. It sports a sleek, fresh interpretation of the classic one-box minivan shape, and a more curvaceous and sculpted interior that remains supremely functional—and packed with clever touches. Inside, the dash is sculpted and stitched in a way that belies the people-mover elements of the vehicle.
The slim nose of the Pacifica is themed like the one on Chrysler's now-departed 200 sedan. The big, glassy cabin is outlined in bright chrome, and the rear pillar angles back at a slight angle just like the Kia Soul. The hardware for the sliding side doors is concealed as much as possible, with tracks hidden under the side glass for the rear quarter windows.
You'll be hard-pressed to tell a Pacifica Hybrid from the conventional version. The only differences are different wheel designs, a slightly reshaped front bumper and a different grille panel, and the charging port door on the left-front fender. Oh, and a handful of quiet "Hybrid" badges too.
The Pacifica Hybrid uses an adapted version of Fiat Chrysler's 3.6-liter V-6 engine, but dispenses with the standard version's 9-speed automatic transmission in favor of a new two-motor hybrid system that takes replaces it. A 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is housed inside the under-floor well just ahead of the second row of seats that holds the fold-in Stow'n'Go seat on conventional versions—the one feature sacrificed to engineer the plug-in hybrid.
Chrysler has been surprisingly coy about the power of the two electric motors. Generally, one powers the vehicle and the other acts as a generator to recapture wasted energy and use it to recharge the battery, but in the hybrid Pacifica, both can be clutched together to power the vehicle when needed. The overall powertrain is rated at 260 hp, against 287 hp for the gasoline-only version.
The Pacifica Hybrid proves to be a capable performer on electricity alone. Starting off with a charged battery, it defaults to all-electric operation—though it will kick on the engine when full throttle is needed, then keep it on long enough to warm up the emission-control system. It's hardly Tesla-fast, but it will stay in all-electric mode in local use and even on highways up to about 70 mph.
The EPA rates it at 33 miles of electric range; we saw 32 miles in mixed driving, including lots of uphill and downhill stretches. In the right conditions, we'd expect as much as 35 miles. Running electrically, it's rated at 84 MPGe, a respectable number for such a large and heavy vehicle. (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is a measure of how far a vehicle can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)
The onboard charger is rated at 6.6 kilowatts, so a full battery recharge takes 2 hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charging station, or about 14 hours on a standard 120-volt household circuit.
Once it depletes the battery and starts running as a regular hybrid, the EPA rates its combined fuel economy at 32 miles per gallon—exemplary for a large seven-seat vehicle, and far better than the conventional model's rating of 22 mpg combined.
Chrysler engineers felt a large number of Pacifica Hybrid buyers would likely be new to hybrids and plug-in vehicles of any kind, so they wanted to keep the driving experience as familiar as possible. While a "low" setting on the shift selector increases brake regeneration, it's nowhere near as strong as that in electric cars like the BMW i3, Chevy Bolt EV, or any Tesla.
That same "easy and understandable" approach extends to the instrumentation, which is standard Pacifica with a few additions: a powertrain display between the gauges, and an energy tab on the center touchscreen that shows energy flow.
On the road, the ride is smooth and the roadholding is good. Even the standard Pacifica is a large vehicle, and the added 650 pounds of the hybrid version—with the battery mounted below the second-row passengers' feet—keeps it firmly planted in turns. The standard Pacifica has beaten the Honda Odyssey as the minivan that's most rewarding to drive, and while the hybrid isn't quite as agile, it remains enjoyable.
Comfort and safety
The Pacifica's grown up and out; it's now the largest minivan in most dimensions. The Hybrid loses the Stow'n'Go fold-down second row, replacing it with a pair of captain's chairs. The third row still folds into the floor, however, and so luggage volume in the cargo bay with or without that third row up is unaffected by the powertrain.
The third-row seat is roomy and comfortable even for adults, and power-folds under the floor, leaving the Pacifica the only minivan that's able to carry up to eight passengers or dozens of sheets of 4-by-8 building material.
The IIHS called the 2017 Pacifica a Top Safety Pick+ and federal testers agreed, awarding the minivan with a five-star overall rating. A standard rearview camera and Bluetooth can be joined by parking sensors and a surround-view camera system. The top-level Platinum model includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Features and prices
The company expects most Pacifica Hybrids to be ordered in the top Platinum trim level, starting at about $46,000 including delivery, though the base Premium will also be available for about $3,000 less. That puts the pair of plug-in hybrids at the very top of the Pacifica lineup, which starts with a base gasoline model at around $30,000.
Both trim levels roughly correspond to their conventionally powered equivalents. Standard or optional features include a new Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system with 10-inch touchscreens, while upper trims will get a 7.0-inch driver information display and 8.4-inch touchscreen, including navigation, voice command, and on-board data. There's even an integrated vacuum, and our favorite feature is the "Trip Tracker" app for kids that lets them track the journey on second-row video screens, just like on an airplane.
All Pacifica Hybrids qualify for the full $7,500 federal income tax credit for purchase of a plug-in vehicle, and a $1,500 purchase rebate in California plus "green sticker" single-occupant access to that state's highway carpool lanes.
Chrysler offers a 15-year, 150,000-mile warranty on all emission-related equipment and a 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty on the battery (against failure, not against capacity degradation).
All Pacifica Hybrids are built in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from downtown Detroit. The plug-in hybrid model should be available at all Chrysler dealers by the summer 2017.