- New look is splashy, intriguing
- Best-in-class seating system gets even better
- Plug-in Hybrid model promises great efficiency
- Seriously upgraded feature set
- No longer cheap
- Sliding doors still mean "minivan"
- Plug-in loses fold-away second-row seat
- All-wheel drive still missing from the menu
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plays to all the traditional minivan strengths, while it strikes out in exciting new directions in styling and in plug-in hybrid technology.
The minivan was invented in the 1980s. Since then, the reputation's been the same.
We call them "big-box bores." They’re functional to a fault, but sporty? No, not really. Sexy? Not so much.
Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983, and this year, it's going to try to change decades of history with their latest offering, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
It earns an 8.3 out of 10 on our overall scale thanks to its great features and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Pacifica replaces the Town & Country, and over time, it'll replace the Dodge Grand Caravan, too. (The Dodge remains in production for a while as the new Pacifica enters production.)
The Pacifica lineup will include LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited models—all built in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from downtown Detroit. A plug-in hybrid model arrived later.
Chrysler Pacifica styling
The Pacifica revives a nameplate that used to be affixed to a vehicle derived from Chrysler's minivans, but sold as a sort of crossover-SUV wagon.
Make no mistake: This Pacifica is entirely new, and has nothing in common with any previous Chrysler.
The new platform underneath is given away by a sleek, fresh interpretation of the minivan's classic one-box shape. There's more than a glimmer of passion in the Pacifica, and it starts at a slim nose that's themed like the one on Chrysler's 200 sedan.
Down its sides, the Pacifica outlines a big glassy cabin in bright chrome, and angles back its rear pillar at a relaxed angle like the one on the Kia Soul. The minivan-specific sliding side doors are hidden as much as possible. Their tracks are actually hidden under the side glass for the rear quarter windows.
Wheel sizes range up to 20 inches, where they really serve to emphasize the sporty stance. Hybrid models will get a different grille pattern and unique wheel designs.
Inside, the Pacifica looks to be everything you might expect in a minivan, yet it’s a bit more curvaceous and sculpted, with linear elements that Chrysler says “keep the eye moving throughout the cabin.”
The dash is stitched and sculpted in a way that bears no resemblance the upright look from the outgoing vans, with their relentlessly rectangular shapes. The Pacifica even has its own color schemes that dress up the interior in blends like "Soho," a theme with the palette of a cigar bar.
Everyone gets in on a brighter interior, thanks to a panoramic dual-panel moonroof over the front two rows and a fixed-panel one over the third row.
Chrysler Pacifica performance
Chrysler's new Pacifica is its first minivan that's truly entertaining to drive. It's surpassed the Honda Odyssey as the minivan we'd drive, if we could only drive minivans from now on.
All versions, for now, are powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 that turns out 287 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. The heavily revamped V-6 is lighter and more efficient, and it's now teamed to a 9-speed automatic transmission, with stop-start that saves fuel in city driving.
Acceleration is smart and the shifts are pretty crisp—the Pacifica has much less of the 9-speed clunks we've experienced in other Chrysler vehicles.
Strong straight-line performance is joined by very good ride and handling. The Pacifica has a new front-strut and rear trailing-arm suspension, and electric power steering. It's all tuned for crisp responses, better even than today's paragon Honda vans. A brand-new, sturdy body structure that's much stiffer than the outgoing vans gets much of the credit.
Chrysler Pacifica comfort and utility
Chrysler's long had a lock on the best seating system in minivans, and now, the fold-flat setup for second- and third-row seats is easier to use than ever.
The Pacifica's grown up and out; it's now the largest minivan in most dimensions, but it's what Chrysler does with the space that puts it atop the Odyssey and Sienna.
There's plenty of front-row space and storage, of course. In the second row, Chrysler offers a pair of buckets (and a removable third seat) that fold under a flat load floor. The innovation this year is a pair of power-assist buttons in the sliding-door frames that move the front seats out of the way. Power them out of the way, flip up a panel, tug a loop of fabric, and the second-row chairs spring-latch into place. The second-row seats also now tilt forward for third-row access, even when a child safety seat is installed.
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.
Chrysler Pacifica safety and features
The IIHS called the 2017 Pacifica a Top Safety Pick+ and federal testers agreed, awarding the minivan with a five-star overall rating.
The latest safety options are on the Pacifica's order sheet now. A standard rearview camera and Bluetooth can be joined by parking sensors and surround-view cameras. At the top of the range, Chrysler fits the Pacifica with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitors.
Those who have late-model luxury vehicles in the household will be happy to note that the Pacifica now includes things like parallel and perpendicular park assist, and a lane-departure warning system that nudges the steering to help keep you in the lane of travel when attention wanes.
The Pacifica has the luxury details down pat, in fact. It's much quieter, much richer-looking—but it also has everything from custom kid-friendly mobile apps to high-powered infotainment systems.
Feature highlights in the 2017 Pacifica 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 system, including navigation, voice command, and on-board data.
Chrysler is introducing an integrated vacuum in the Pacifica in the form of the Stow ‘n Vac system. It's powered by Ridgid, and the vacuum's hose can reach all corners of the van's interior—even the van parked in the next garage space over.
Priced from just under $30,000 to more than $42,000, the Chrysler Pacifica went on sale this summer, with a plug-in hybrid model set to arrive late in the year.
Fuel economy is up to 22 mpg combined, but the numbers improve significantly later this year with the Pacifica Hybrid. When fitted with a 16-kwh battery pack and two electric motors, the Pacifica will be able to drive 30 miles on electric power alone, and will turn in an EPA-rated 80 mpge.
The Pacifica is rated by the EPA at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
The Pacifica has ditched the box—and it's no longer a bore, inside or out.
With the Pacifica, Chrysler has broken out of the boxy shape its minivans adopted back in the 2008 model year.
We like the exterior and interior—and all over again. We give it an 8 out 10 on our styling scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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.
It's a boon for outward vision, too. The door line 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.
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.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler's new Pacifica is its first minivan that's truly entertaining to drive.
With a new platform and a new drivetrain, the Chrysler Pacifica puts some of the automaker's performance shortcomings in the rearview mirror. The new minivan is a smart performer, with more grip and acceleration than it really needs to outpace its rivals.
It's passed the Honda Odyssey in most performance dimensions, though there's a new Odyssey coming late this year.
We like its engine and ride, which is why it earns a 7 out of 10 on our new performance scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A flick of its keyless ignition, and the Pacifica spools up a new version of its 3.6-liter V-6. The updated version of Chrysler's core engine is lighter and 5 percent more efficient even before coupled to its transmission, Chrysler says. On the road, it accelerates strongly and smoothly, with a crisp V-6 punch to accompany its 287 horsepower.
Spin the Pacifica's rotary dial transmission into drive, and it responds more predictably than other Chryslers with the same transmission. The 9-speed automatic hasn't been a point of glory in vehicles from the Jeep Cherokee to the 200 sedan, but in the Pacifica, the new-generation transmission has almost none of the jerky shift action we’ve found in those other installations. There's no direct control of gears, either, but putting the rotary control into "L" raises the revs and engine braking, for towing or low-speed cornering.
Fuel economy is much improved in the Pacifica. At 22 mpg combined it's near, but not at the top of the class. That distinction likely will come late this year, when the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid goes on sale. The new plug-in hybrid model arrives with a 16-kwh lithium-ion battery pack mated to two electric motors and an electrically variable transmission. The EPA rated the van for 33 miles on electricity alone; more than 80 MPGe in combined travel. (MPGe is the metric used by the EPA to rate the distance traveled on the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.)
Chrysler says it will be able to drive about 30 miles on electric power alone, and EPA ratings should come in at 80 mpge in city driving.
Excellent ride and handling
Powertrain performance isn't the only impressive aspect of the Pacifica. With a new front-strut and rear trailing-arm suspension, the van responds impressively when pushed to limits it'll almost never encounter when there's a baby on board. A new, sturdy body structure that's much stiffer than the outgoing vans gets much of the credit.
The Pacifica's ride and handling set a new, higher bar for all minivans. Weighty steering helps it track straight on highways with a precise feel, and the suspension mutes most road surfaces with a composure the old Town & Country lacked.
Shift it into its low gear range and aim for more challenging roads, and the Pacifica responds ably. Its balanced ride feels more in control than, say, the new Honda Pilot. It controls wheel bounding very well, and the steering winds and unwinds naturally into corners.
Hustling the Pacifica through one of our favorite California canyons made it clear: there are decades of progress baked into this minivan’s hardware, even if performance isn’t what most buyers put at the top of their must-have list.
The only sore point on the Pacificas provided for press drives so far has been in brake feel. The pedal on our test vehicle felt stiff with shallow travel. We'd like more gradual and controllable response, so that the brakes mirror the control feel baked into the Pacifica's other systems.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Comfort & Quality
Even third-row seats can carry adults inside the Pacifica, and a fold-flat seating system leads the class.
Chrysler's minivans have led their class with fold-away seating in two rows. The Pacifica retains that flexible layout and makes it standard across the lineup, while adding a couple of touches that make it easier to convert the van from cargo duty to passenger duty.
According to the spec sheet, the Pacifica is now the longest of all the minivans. It's 203.6 inches long, rides on a 121.6-inch wheelbase, and is 79.6 inches wide. Curb weight starts at 4,330 pounds, in base models without the hybrid system.
Interior space of 197.3 cubic feet gets doled out mostly to humans. The Pacifica sports 165 cubic feet of passenger space, with 140.5 cubic feet of it behind the first row, 87.5 behind the second row, and 32.3 behind the third row.
The Pacifica's seating system makes the most of that space. Rival minivans only can fold away their third-row seats and fold down or move forward their second-row chairs. The Pacifica can tuck the second-row seats under the floor completely. It's capable of carrying up to eight people or dozens of sheets of 4-by-8 building material—a flexibility that it owes to Chrysler's substantial business in the cargo-van industry.
It's one of the most flexible and spacious cars on the road today and it aces our comfort test. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Those stow-away second-row seats make the Pacifica the most useful minivan available. This year, the system has been made more useful with a couple of tweaks to the way the seats fold into the floor.
In front, the driver and passenger are outfitted with plenty of space in all directions, and a pair of seats that give a commanding view of the road, and are surrounded by deep storage bins at the dash, in the doors, and in the console between the seats. There's no space lost to a shift lever, because the Pacifica has a rotary shift dial.
The gas-powered version of the Pacifica comes with what's called Stow ‘n’ Go Assist. It's a power feature on the driver-side or on both sliding side doors. It's simply a button that powers the front seats out of the way, so the second-row seats can be folded away more quickly.
That process is simple. A carpeted panel flips up and out of the way to expose deep bins that can be used for storage when the seats are in use. (On hybrid minivans, the batteries take up this space, and the seats do not stow.) 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 are comfortable and spacious for adults, better than in the last-generation Town & Country. That's the result of more padding, which addresses 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.
That third-row seat is the best for adult accommodations of any minivan, though not many adults we know want to be in the way-back row. Not only is it easy to climb into, it has enough head room for tall passengers, and the seat cushion has real comfort.
The third-row seat can power-recline on some models, and can power-fold into the floor on some.
On many versions, the third-row seat is surrounded by cupholders, small-item storage, and 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 4-by-8 sheets of construction material. It's possible, even if the plushly finished rear seats on some versions would give most drivers pause.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
What's in so far is very good for the Pacifica.
Chrysler's outgoing minivans outlived their safety reputations, with crash-test scores that sank as tests grew progressively tougher.
The new Pacifica's early scores by the IIHS show that it's ahead of the curve so far, with a new architecture developed specifically for minivans and crossover SUVs.
The Pacifica earns a 9 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The minivan was recently named a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, with all "Good" scores in its crash tests and a "Superior" rating for its front crash prevention systems, when equipped.
The NHTSA has confirmed that safety strength by giving the Pacifica five stars overall, with just a single four-star rating for rollover resistance.
It's also outfitted with standard and available safety features that outpace its rivals. A rearview camera and Bluetooth are common across the lineup, and the Pacifica is the first Chrysler van to offer advanced features such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and surround-view cameras.
Drivers who have late-model luxury vehicles in the household will be happy to note that the Pacifica now includes things such as parallel and perpendicular park assist, and a lane-departure warning system that nudges the vehicle back into its lane when it detects it's crossed the lines.
Outward vision is excellent in the Pacifica. The rear-quarter view is especially good for such a long vehicle. The Pacifica's sliding side doors sit on low hinges, with a section of glass above the hinge that eliminates most blind spots. (Blind-spot monitors are available and still recommended, nonetheless.)
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
From custom kid-friendly mobile apps to fold-away seats, the Pacifica doesn't miss a beat.
Priced from just less than $30,000 to more than $42,000, the Chrysler Pacifica went on sale this summer, with the plug-in hybrid model arriving later in the year.
The lineup will include LX, Touring, Touring Plus, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited models—all built in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from downtown Detroit.
Standard features on the Pacifica LX include power windows, locks, and mirrors; 17-inch tires; active noise cancellation; air conditioning; touchscreen audio with AM/FM and Bluetooth audio streaming; a power driver seat; and steering-wheel audio controls.
Touring grades can features standard automatic headlights, power sliding side doors, ambient lighting, leather seats, heated power adjustable front seats, heated second-row seats, and power assist to move the driver's seat out of the way when storing the second-row seats.
It's those good base and optional features, plus great customization options and the fact that it's a family hauling weapon that help it ace our features scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Touring Plus models add to that a power tailgate and three-zone climate control, plus a few other minor features like fog lights and unique interior trim.
Standard features on the Pacifica Limited include a power liftgate with hands-free control; hands-free sliding side doors; ventilated front seats; a panoramic sunroof; 18-inch tires; HD radio, navigation, and real-time-traffic; a 115-volt power outlet; a Blu-ray entertainment system with twin 10-inch screens and third-row USB and charging ports; a power third-row seat; and an in-car vacuum.
Major options include Harman Kardon audio; navigation; parking sensors and blind-spot monitors; adaptive cruise control; surround-view cameras; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; and a tow package good for up to 3,600 pounds of pull.
The available hands-free liftgate and sliding doors are new to the Pacifica and to Chrysler minivans. With the key fob nearby, passengers can open and close each by waving a foot under the door.
The Pacifia's other new features are similarly thoughtful. The center console is deep enough to store tablet computers, and gallon jugs of milk have their own storage bins in the cargo area. 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 in-car vacuum has a hose long enough to clean the Pacifica, and the car next to it in the garage.
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 is available.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Fuel economy is much improved, and stop-start is on the way—as is a plug-in hybrid model.
The new Chrysler Pacifica gets very good gas mileage. It's not the class leader, but a promising new version will easily outpace today's rival vans.
The EPA rates the Pacifica at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined. That's neck-and-neck with the Honda Odyssey, which rates 22 mpg combined, and better than the Toyota Sienna (21 mpg) and the outgoing Chrysler Town & Country (20 mpg). The Nissan Quest manages marginally better ratings at 20/27/23 mpg.
It's that rating that earns it a 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Pacifica has improved efficiency over the outgoing Town & Country. The substantial progress comes via a lighter-weight body, active aerodynamic grille shutters, and the new 9-speed automatic. Later in the model year, the Pacifica also adds stop-start, which should net some mileage gains.
The big news is the addition of a plug-in hybrid model. With a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the Pacifica Hybrid is capable of going about 33 miles only on electric power before it switches to hybrid mode. The hybrid system uses two electric motors, both of which drive the van’s wheels, with a new “electrically variable transmission.” All told, the setup is rated at 83 mpge by the EPA. We cover it separately.