We grew up in the back of a white Chrysler Town & Country (its name was "Vanna White," if you're wondering) but we're looking forward to the next 2018 Chrysler Pacifica. We can't launch Twinkies from the back rear windows in the new vans, but we're not complaining. The new vans have stow-away seats, touchscreens, and rolling wi-fi.
With the Pacifica, Chrysler transformed some homely family boxes into sleek family shuttles and post-family do-it-alls. The 2018 Pacifica is an incredibly appealing vehicle for drivers who don’t care about SUV imagery or sedan silhouettes—even for those of us without kids. We liked it so much we named it our Best Car to Buy 2017.
We rate it at 8.2 out of 10. You’d have to be Bentley or Porsche to do much better. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Pacifica comes in L, LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited models. All share a suave new shape that does nothing to disguise its minivan bona fides. It simply guts the idea that minivans need to look boring. From the glassy cabin and the slim nose to the back-and-up kick of the rear pillars, the Pacifica’s thoughtfully drawn shape finds beauty where other minivans find a lot of fail. The cabin’s vintage recent Chrysler, with bubbly organic shapes, matte finishes, tucked-away Easter eggs, and playful bits rendered with real care.
Most Pacificas sport a 287-horsepower V-6 and a 9-speed automatic. (We cover the Pacifica Hybrid separately.) It’s plenty to motivate the minivan to pleasantly quick speeds, and it’s EPA-rated at 22 mpg combined. Smart acceleration pairs well with the Pacifica’s pert handling and supple ride. It’s blessed with a tight body structure, smooth and well-damped ride motions, and attentive steering. It’s amiable on long trips and short ones alike.
With its fold-away second- and third-row seats, the Chrysler Pacifica trumps all other minivan comers. Storage crops up at the feet of second-row passengers, in deep wells between front passengers, behind third-row passengers. Plywood will slide into the Pacifica’s cargo hold, when the rear two rows of seats are down. It’s Tupperware of a higher order.
It’s also one of the safest vehicles on the road, and now comes standard with a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking remain an option on some versions. Base models have power features, Bluetooth, USB ports, and touchscreen audio; full-boat models have panoramic glass roofs, navigation, in-car wireless Internet and even an in-vehicle Ridgid vacuum with a hose that can reach all corners of the van's interior—even the van parked in the next garage space over.
The Chrysler Pacifica breaks the minivan from its old boxy mold, inside and out. It’s finished well, and has a look that’s sure to endure, while it completely embraces its role as a family mover.
We give it an 8 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The front end starts the progression, with its slim, sleek nose. Bright metal trims around the side glass. Instead of hiding its tall glass and thick proportions, the Pacifica makes the most of them. The rear pillars kick back with a relaxed style. The sliding doors cover their tracks under the rear windows.
The door line sits low for most drivers, a boon for outward vision. The front pillars tuck inward slightly at the base of the windshield. It’s a clever visual trick that makes the Pacifica seem smaller and narrower from the inside, though it’s every bit as big as its chief rivals, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.
Inside, the Pacifica’s dash wraps beautifully around the front passengers. The rectangular and relentlessly boxy shapes are history. The sculpted and stitched dash is a far cry from the upright shape of Chrysler’s old minivans. 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 thin rim of metallic trim on the steering wheel seems way too swanky for a vehicle doomed to crust up with Happy Meal leftovers.The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is mounted flush with the dash.
The Chrysler Pacifica arrived new for the 2017 model year. The 2018 version does nothing to change its pleasant handling and eager powertrain.
Its smart, agreeable levels of performance net it a score of 7 here, with points added for acceleration and ride quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Pacifica draws power from the latest version of Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V-6. Lighter and more efficient than previous versions, it doles out 287 horsepower to the front wheels through a 9-speed automatic. It accelerates smoothly and strongly, with a crisp but not overwhelming V-6 punch.
Twist the rotary transmission dial and the Pacifica responds more predictably than other FCA vehicles with the same gearbox. The jerky, stumbly nature of the 9-speed in various Jeeps feels mostly muted here. It’s as smooth as the Honda Pilot’s 9-speed, but there’s no direct control of gears. The knob does have an “L” position that lifts revs and engine braking, for low-speed cornering or towing.
The combination nets 22 mpg combined, though there’s even better fuel economy afoot in the Pacifica Hybrid. Its plug-in drivetrain offers 30 miles of electric-only driving range and overall fuel economy of 84 MPGe.
Excellent ride and handling
When we first drove it, we thought the Pacifica's ride and handling set a new, higher bar for all minivans. Handling is still swell among minivans, though some of us are fonder now of the new Honda Odyssey.
The Pacifica pairs front struts with rear trailing arms and electric power steering to provide capable handling well beyond what most minivan drivers expect. Its sturdy body teams up with reasonably firm springs and damping to give it a composed feel on nearly every surface we’ve encountered during our ongoing, long-term Pacifica review. It tracks well thanks to a bit of weight programmed into the steering, and mutes bad roads without bounding and skipping over them, as Chrysler minivans have in the past.
The Pacifica acquits itself well on our favorite winding roads, too. The controlled ride lifts the usual minivan limits, and the low gear range keeps the powertrain interested in tackling a series of esses while the steering winds and unwinds naturally. Handling hasn’t usually been on the must-have list for minivan shoppers, but it’s available to them, finally.
Brake pedal feel on the Pacificas we’ve driven could use another round of improvement. The pedal seems too stiff, and needs the same progressive feel dialed into other driving systems.
Minivans may be a dying breed, but Chrysler spent a lot of money developing the Pacifica with the ultimate minivan talent. While the Odyssey and Sienna still have upright second-row seats, the Pacifica has fold-away chairs in rows two and three.
It’s a killer app that puts the Pacifica at the top of the comfort and utility ratings, at a perfect 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
By the spec sheet, the Pacifica checks in with a 121.6-inch wheelbase, a 79.6-inch width, and a 203.6-inch overall length. It’s a big vehicle, but one that extracts every possible cubic inch from its pleasantly kicky style.
Interior space is rated at 197.3 cubic feet, with 165 cubic feet devoted to humans, some 140.5 of it behind the first row, 87.5 tucked behind row two, and 32.3 cubes allotted behind a raised third row. That means with all its seats down, the Pacifica still can slog home a dozen sheets of four-by-eight plywood, if you’d ever dare to scuff its marvy cabin up with the stuff. Maybe you’ll be content to carry eight people and their stuff.
That’s the beauty of minivans: In a pinch, you can do any of the above.
Front-seat passengers in the Pacifica get a panoramic view ahead, fairly supportive seats (on most models with power adjustment). The seats have a power-assist button that moves them out of the way when folding away the second row. The front row gets deep console bins that can hide a tablet computer, ample door storage, and more cubbies than most people would fill even if they emptied their pockets during every ride.
The second-row seats have enough padding and adjustment to suit our tastes. In eight-passenger versions, the eighth seat (middle, second row) is removable and doubles as an armrest when not used as a chair.
Rivals have long claimed the fold-away system of Chrysler’s vans left them with less comfortable second-row seats. It’s possible they fail to factor in Americans’ amped-up rear padding, or that they simply don’t want to foot the bill for tearing up their vans’ floorpans. Whatever the case, tucking the Pacifica’s second-row seats into the floor is almost a breeze. Flip up a carpeted panel, flip a lever that releases the seats, then press to latch them in place. (Hybrids fill these spaces with batteries, so they don’t have fold-away second-row seats.)
Adults fit just fine in the third-row seat, better than they do in the Honda Pilot, another three-row favorite. There’s ample head room, decent under-leg support, and on some versions, power recline and power fold-away for the seat itself.
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.
With the Pacifica, Chrysler has an exceptionally safe vehicle that’s made even better with a raft of standard and optional safety technology.
We give it a 8 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The NHTSA gives the Pacifica five stars overall for safety. Only in one subtest does it score below five stars—it earns four stars for rollover resistance, not at all unusual for a vehicle of its height and size.
The Pacifica earns a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. It received all "Good" scores in its crash tests, as well as a "Superior" rating for available crash-prevention systems.
All Pacificas come with a rearview camera and Bluetooth. This year, Chrysler’s added standard blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors. Many trim levels offer a Technology package that bundles forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system.
The Pacifica can be fitted with parallel and perpendicular park assist, and a lane-departure warning system that nudges the vehicle back into its lane when it crosses traffic lines.
The Pacifica has excellent outward vision, with especially clear rear-quarter views. That’s because its sliding side doors rest on low hinges, and have large glass areas.
There’s not much in the way of features gone missing from the Chrysler Pacifica. From a pricetag of just about $30,000, to a full-boat sticker over $42,000, the Pacifica has everything from high-end audio to fold-away seats, leather to panoramic roofs, and for 2018, it has a new base L model.
It ticks all our boxes, and gets a 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The lineup now includes a new Pacifica L base trim, along with LX, Touring Plus, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited trim levels. The new base model comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a rearview camera, air conditioning, 17-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, and rear parking sensors. It does not have fold-away second-row seats.
The Pacifica LX adds second-row fold-away seats, steering-wheel audio controls, three-zone air conditioning, and a power driver seat.
Touring Plus grades have standard automatic headlights, remote start, power sliding side doors, leather seats, ambient lighting, heated power front seats, and heated second-row seats. This year a panoramic sunroof becomes an option.
The Pacifica Limited gets hands-free sliding side doors; a power liftgate with hands-free control; a panoramic sunroof; 18-inch tires; ventilated front seats; HD radio, navigation, and real-time-traffic; a Blu-ray entertainment system with twin 10-inch screens and third-row USB and charging ports; a 115-volt power outlet; a power third-row seat; and an in-car vacuum with a hose long enough to use on the next car over in the garage.
Major options include navigation; 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio; a surround-view camera system; forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking; adaptive cruise control; and a tow package good for up to 3,600 pounds of pull.
Dealer accessories run up the tab with even more goodness, everything from a first-aid kit to a pet kennel to a DVD player to wireless smartphone charging.
The Chrysler Pacifica has great gas mileage, but its Hybrid model performs even better.
The 2018 Pacifica earns EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined. The combined number equals that in the new 2018 Honda Odyssey, with its 9- and 10-speed transmissions. It’s better than the Toyota Sienna’s best 21-mpg combined numbers, too.
It’s much improved over the old Chrysler vans it replaced in the 2017 model year. The Pacifica has stop/start and a 9-speed automatic to eke the most out of its fuel and its V-6 drivetrain.
For the most sophisticated powertrain found in any minivan, seek out the new Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid. It has a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and the ability to drive about 30 miles on electric power alone. It’s EPA-rated at 84 MPGe in city driving.
- 2018 Honda Odyssey
- 2018 Toyota Sienna
- 2018 Kia Sedona
- 2017 Nissan Quest
- 2018 Ford Flex
Minivans are family wagons first, cargo haulers second, but the best of them perform both duties at the flip of a seat. Both the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna have great crash-test scores and big-screen DVD entertainment systems, but neither has a fold-away second-row seat. The Odyssey, in particular, has engaging handling for a vehicle so big. Nissan has finally stopped selling the Quest, long after it fell out of also-ran status. For an alternative for alternative’s sake, the Kia Sedona was new for 2015. It has heavy handling, slide-up second-row seats, and good crash-test scores, but it's no longer the bargain it once was.