Duffer: Divided by opinions, united by wheels

May 29, 2020

“Is this the SRT? The 475-horsepower V-8?” Mr. Smith asks. My neighbor from across the street peers through the passenger window. “Six seater,” he says, almost to himself. 

He is mentally calculating things. In his driveway is a white Jeep Grand Cherokee. Beside it is a white Chrysler Pacifica minivan. 

Last week, I was driving a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. I honked at Mrs. Smith, who came out to peer into the passenger window like her husband is now. She wanted the Pacifica Hybrid, but their toddler twins came out before the Pacifica Hybrid did. 

Now, Mr. Smith wants this Dodge Durango SRT.

Mrs. Smith wants that Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

This is what I want for America. 

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

These two three-row family vehicles showcase opposite ends of a showroom and a spectrum. They use completely different means to satisfy the same mission of transporting their family. The 2020 Pacifica Hybrid has a 6.6 kwh battery that can be charged overnight; the Durango has a 475-horsepower V-8 that can make you howl. One has a 32-mile electric range; the other hits 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. One has a built-in theater system; the other can tow up to 8,700 pounds. 

One points to the future; the other honors the present. Together, they represent America today. 

With the stay-at-home order busting at the seams as it enters its third month in Chicagoland, where I live, it’s clear we too are divided. Politically. Culturally. Quarantineally. We don’t much care to hear what the other has to say. Yet, like these vehicles, they both exist and they both have the right to exist. Like it or not. 

Considering why they exist might help you understand them, even if you don’t like them. 

You don’t have to like the gut-dropping, fuel-sucking 6.4-liter V-8 Durango SRT. But if you gave it a chance, if you heard it, you would appreciate how seamlessly the massive engine moves the bulky SUV. You might even giggle at how it drops your stomach and throws you back in your seat, but also cruises calmly at highway speeds. The engineering is beyond impressive. 

Same goes for the Pacifica Hybrid. You might not like the idea of connecting to a grid or the boxy bodacious bod of a minivan. But power-slide those doors and you might appreciate the silent operation and the cavernous interior. And its off the line responsiveness might also cause a giggle. Or at least a smile as wide as the one you might have passing all those gas stations without stopping to fill up.  

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

If Jeremy and Kristen Smith can live like this, why can’t we? 

In their driveway coexists a Chrysler Pacifica and a Jeep Grand Cherokee. They are two more shades to the middle than the Durango SRT and Pacifica Hybrid I tested in back-to-back weeks. But that is what this couple in their mid-30s want. How can America come together from a place of such divisive opposites to one of marital compromise?

Before twins, Mr. Smith had a Hyundai Elantra; before becoming Mrs. Smith, she had a Jeep Cherokee.

“I’ve always wanted a 4x4 ‘J-G-C,’” Mr. Smith says. “I’ve always been attracted to the look.”

He nods at Mrs. Smith. “She always saw herself as a soccer mom.”

Image matters. How we see ourselves and how we want others to see us are not always aligned. Often we have to peel back the first layer to uncover the complexity of being. 

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

2020 Dodge Durango SRT

“I love it,” Mrs. Smith says of the minivan. “My favorite thing to do is to pull up to someone my age and wave.”

Mr. Smith appreciates, if not loves, the minivan. It is the vehicle of choice when the Smiths travel or go shopping. After getting stuck in a recent Ohio snowstorm, the Smiths agreed the SUV would be the winter sled of choice. The Durango SRT would allow a compromise of three rows and all-wheel-drive capability. And something else.

“Most of the time I drive myself, so give me more power in that SRT and let that baby purr,” he said. 

Mrs. Smith doesn’t mind, especially since her vehicle of choice wouldn’t purr or make any sound at all. Yet, she still appreciates the Durango SRT. 

“I’d drive it when the kids are older,” she said.

It’s not so hard to get along. It could even make life better.


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