2017 Chrysler Pacifica first drive video

March 20, 2016

Minivans were invented in the 1980s, and since then, they’ve have had a certain…reputation.

Call them big-box bores. They’re functional to a fault, but sporty? Sexy? Not so much.

Leave it to Chrysler to try and change that reputation. They invented the minivan. They've sold hundreds of thousands of them in almost every year since.

Now, they’re reinventing the minivan with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

The Pacifica revives a name Chrysler used to apply to a crossover wagon it sold in the last decade, but make no mistake. This one’s entirely new, and it has nothing in common with the old Town & Country or the Dodge Grand Caravan. It rides on a completely new platform, and has a great new look that gives away its freshness.

The front end has a slim, sleek nose like the one on the 200 sedan. The side glass is trimmed in bright metal—it doesn’t try to hide its size with visual tricks. The rear pillars kick back with a relaxed style. The sliding doors cover their tracks under the rear windows.

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Inside, the Pacifica’s dash wraps beautifully around the front passengers. The sculpted and stitched dash is a far cry from the upright shape of Chrysler’s old minivans. The rectangular and relentlessly boxy shapes are history. The new one is awash in upscale looks and color schemes like "Soho," themed with the color palette of a cigar bar.

The details speak to hours of design attention. The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is mounted flush with the dash. The thin rim of metallic trim on the steering wheel seems way too swanky for a vehicle doomed to crust up with Happy Meal leftovers.

It's a boon for outward vision, too. The beltline sits low for most drivers. The front pillars tuck inward slightly at the base of the windshield. Visual tricks like those give the impression the Pacifica is smaller and narrower than it is--which is roughly the same as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, its chief rivals.

Configure it your way

Being pretty is nice, but a minivan isn’t worth much if it’s not useful. The Pacifica doubles down on its class-leading flexibility and takes a few steps forward from there.

By the numbers, the Pacifica ranks above those other big minivans with enough useful interior space to carry up to eight passengers, or dozens of sheets of plywood, or something in between.

By the numbers, the Pacifica has a 121.6-inch wheelbase, is 203.6 inches overall, and is 79.6 inches wide. Inside its 4,330-pound body, the Pacifica offers up 197.3 cubic inches of interior volume, parsed out to 165 cubic feet of passenger space--140.5 cubic feet behind the first row, 87.5 behind the second row, and 32.3 behind the third row.

It's no longer shy of space compared to those other vans, and what the Pacifica does with its room makes it far more useful than those vans.

It's a tradition: Chrysler's traditionally offered a cargo/commercial version of its vans, and pioneered stow-away second-row seats with the original Pacifica crossover, itself a spin-off of the company's minivans.

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Those two factors echo throughout the Pacifica's cabin. Chrysler’s preserved the fold-away second-row and third-row seats, a key advantage over other minivans. The improvements come in the seats themselves and the ease with which they tuck out of the way.

For the first time in a Chrysler minivan, the Pacifica has what's called Stow ‘n’ Go Assist, which moves the front seats forward, saving some time in the seat-folding process. Once the seats are moved forward, a carpeted panel flips out of the way to expose deep bins that can be used for storage when the seats are in use. A flip of a lever, and the second-row seats fold fully into the floor, requiring just a firm press to latch them into place.

The second-row seats have more padding, addressing one of the few complaints with the setup. They also have a tilt feature that permits easier access to the third-row seat when a child safety seat is LATCHed into place in the second row. 

The third-row seat? It’s the best we’ve sampled in minivans. Not only is it easy to climb into, it has enough head room for six-foot passengers, and the seat cushion has real comfort. Because there's no all-wheel-drive option on the Pacifica, the third-row seat can stow completely into the floor, too.

It’s even offered with a power-recline feature—and in some models, it’s surrounded by all kinds of USB charging ports and HDMI inputs for the available rear-seat entertainment system.

Fold all the seats behind the front row into the floor, and the Pacifica can haul lots of 4x8 sheets of construction material. It's possible, even if the plushly finished rear seats on some versions would give most drivers pause.

All-access infotainment

The 2017 Pacifica features available handsfree liftgate and sliding doors. With the key fob nearby, customers can open and close each of these features by performing a single kicking motion under the bumper or sliding door activation zones and the door or liftgate will open and close.

Elsewhere in the Pacifica, thoughtful touches abound. The center console can hide iPads, while gallon jugs of milk have their own storage bins in back. Every seat has at least one cupholder. In eight-passenger versions, the eighth seat (middle, second row) is removable and doubles as an armrest when not used as a chair.

A three-pane panoramic roof opens up the entire vehicle to natural light--perfect for sightseeing tours. The Pacifica also has an available Stow ‘n Vac system that’s powered by Ridgid and can reach all corners of the interior, even to the vehicle parked next to it in the garage.

Chrysler’s minivans have always brought cutting-edge features to the minivan game, but the Pacifica goes out of its way to entertain passengers. Active noise cancellation cuts interior volumes so the driver can hear clear to the third-row seat. A pair of flip-up 10-inch screens can stream content from Blu-Ray players.

A huge panoramic roof bathes the cabin in light. There’s even a stow-away vacuum with a hose long enough to clean out the car parked in the next space over.

Upper trims will get a seven-inch driver information display and 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen system, including navigation, voice command, and Uconnect Access information streams.

Finally, the Pacifica's accessories list runs the gamut--everything from a pet kennel to a first-aid kit to a DVD player to wireless smartphone charging.

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