Expert Reviews

Everything you need to know: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Is this the minivan that will bring back the coolness to the segment? Well, I don’t know if it will quite bring the masses back to the fold of spacious and low-riding seven-seater goodness, but damned if it’s not a spectacular leap forward for Chrysler’s minivan.

Such a leap it is that Chrysler decided it needed a new name. Or, well, at least an old name that it hasn’t used in a few years. But forget about the old Pacifica that graced our shores for a few short years (everyone else has).

Looks and Luxury

The new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica might just be the Second Coming of the Minivan, redesigned from the ground up as the ultimate people mover and a swanky family vehicle that aims to push the Chrysler brand ever so slightly upmarket from Dodge.

Dividing Lines

Meanwhile at Dodge, the Grand Caravan soldiers on unchanged, continuing to serve value-conscious families and the practically minded. Essentially, the Grand Caravan will serve those shopping in the $20-40K price range, with the Pacifica Starting in Canada from $43,995 for the Touring-L trim.

Standard features

This list is so long we wouldn’t have room to talk about anything else, but the good ones are: 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lamps, roof rails, leather seating with heated driver and front passenger seats, 12-way power driver’s seat, rear power sliding doors and power liftgate, power windows and locks, tri-zone automatic temperature control, Active Noise Cancellation, leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise controls, cupholders, trays and cubbies galore, Sunscreen glass with second- and third-row window shades, capless fuel filler…

And more features…

You didn’t think that was all, did you? Not even close. On the electronics front, we have the Uconnect 5.0 with five-inch touchscreen and six speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio with one-year subscription, Bluetooth phone and audio, USB charging port and two 12-volt auxiliary power outlets, overhead ambient and courtesy lighting, spy mirror, universal garage door opener, Keyless Enter ’n Go with proximity entry and push-button start, remote start, back-up camera, tire pressure monitoring aaaaand…

The best feature of all: Stow ‘n Go

You didn’t think I forgot about Stow ‘n Go, did you? The Pacifica, being positioned as a premium vehicle in Canada (it has a couple lower trims in the States), comes with the Full Monty Stow ‘n Go: third-row 60/40 split fold-in-floor bench seat, second-row Super fold-in-floor seats with in-floor storage and even Stow ’n Go Assist driver’s seat, in which the driver’s seat slides and tilts forward to make way for the second row seats to tumble into their storage wells. The third row easily drops into the deep cargo well with a simple tug on the strap, and it takes little more effort to raise each side back up.

Stow ‘n Go is everything it’s cracked up to be, but another feature of the second-row seats will also surely delight parents of kids in child seats. Second row seats tilt up and forward even with anchored child seats in place (not when installed reverse-facing, however) to allow easy access to the third row without having to remove or shuffle latched-in seats. Nissan was first to market with this innovation, but with greater space in the Pacifica, it works even better here.

How about just Stowing?

The true beauty of the minivan is the generous cargo space with the seats in place or stowed. Even with all three rows up, the Pacifica offers no less than 915 litres in a deep well, with enough space for even awkward running strollers and stacks of hockey bags. If you only need two rows for passengers, 2,478 litres are available for cargo, with a maximum of 3,979 litres for moving day, and the exact length and width required to haul sheets of plywood or drywall for your home renos. You will need to remove the optional middle seat from the second row for that, though.

Upgrades galore

Step up to the Touring-L Plus (okay, ridiculous trim names, I know), with an MSRP of $46,995, and the list of features gets even longer, particular in the active safety department. Blind-spot monitoring helps keep you safe during lane changes and Park-Sense rear park assist with active braking and rear cross-path detection help you get in and out of parking spots safely and without damage.

The front passenger seat becomes power 12-way adjustable with Stow ’n Go Assist like the driver’s seat, the steering wheel and second-row seats get heating elements and a “Deluxe Insulation Group” with acoustic windshield and Active Noise Control keep things even quieter to appreciate the 506-watt stereo with 13 speakers controlled via the full deal Uconnect 8.4 multimedia centre with 8.4-inch touchscreen. The gauge cluster gets upgraded too, with a customizable 7-inch full-colour in-cluster display, and second and third rows get their own USB charging ports.

Want to go all the way with the Pacifica?

The Limited is the pinnacle of minivan motoring, with ventilated, premium perforated Nappa leather seats, a power-folding third-row seat, two-tone steering wheel and premium dash materials, navigation for UConnect, HID headlights with LED fog lamps and DRLs, 18-inch alloys with a driver’s memory system for exterior mirrors, seat and radio presets and a triple pane sunroof.

Keeping it clean

Another neato feature of available only on the Limited trim is the built-in Stow ’n vac integrated vacuum powered by Ridgid, with a bagless canister. It’s centrally mounted so that it’s easier to reach the most commonly soiled areas – the second row seats (and in my case, the driver’s seat – hey, I love snacking while I drive). At a later date, a hands-free power liftgate and dual sliding doors and 360-degree camera will also join the Limited trim’s arsenal of conveniences.

But that’s not all!

Believe it or not, there’s more. Chrysler also offer a few standalone packages and options, like eight-passenger seating, 8.4-inch Uconnect screen and triple sunroof on lower trims, audio upgrades, advanced driver safety features, and Uconnect Theatre, dual 10-inch headrest-mounted touchscreens for second-row passengers. Uconnect Theatre can play DVDs or game consoles plugged into the system, but it also has its own array of games and activities, one of our favourites being “Are We There Yet?”, which provides impatient kiddos with updates on your progress to the destination programmed into the nav system. Sadly, the headrest mounted screen is still too far away for those that need it most, little ones between 2-5, so a tablet hooked up to the available onboard wifi might be more suitable for those with younger kids.

That’s a lot of Stuff, But How does it Drive

Under the hood is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 paired with the nine-speed automatic. Its 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque yield healthy acceleration in all conditions, and the nine-speed transmission help manage fuel economy to the tune of 8.4 L/100 km highway and 12.9 in the city – that sleek exterior also help in this capacity, with a slippery 0.30 coefficient of drag. The Pentastar has long been a favourite of ours, and it continues to impress, although we still have concerns that the nine-speed transmission always seems too ‘busy’ shuffling gears jut a little too noticeably; more time is needed to really get a feel as to whether that will be an issue over the long haul.

Hybrid coming soon

The V6 is not the only powertrain option for the new Pacifica. To go along with its all-new platform and advanced technology, the Pacifica will have an available plug-in hybrid option, pairing the same 3.6L Pentastar V6 – detuned slightly to 248 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque – with a novel innovative “Single Input - Electrically Variable Transmission (SI-EVT)” that features two electric motors incorporated into the transmission, both of which are capable of driving the wheels. With a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery feeding the electric motors, the Pacifica hybrid should offer approximately 48 km of zero-emissions electric motoring on a full charge, and in average usage achieve an efficiency rating of 2.9 Le/100 km, Natural Resources Canada’s measure for mixed electric and gas vehicles.

Comfort first

It would all be for naught if the Pacifica handled and rode no better than its predecessor, and indeed the Pacifica raises the bar for ride comfort and composure. It’s not the vehicle you’d choose to tackle mountain passes, but you don’t necessarily have to slow down if you don’t want to. The steering is light, yet steady, so you feel in control as the vehicle responds promptly and accurately, eliminating the feeling of dragging around a bloated whale that some minivans impart. Of course, the ride is never harsh, and the Pacifica soaks up bumps, while the chairs themselves offer new level of support and comfort, with better cushioning and contours even on the second row Stow ‘n Go seats. Even the third row is spacious and manageable for adult passengers.

Super Safety

In addition to the typical multitude of airbags, ABS brakes and stability control, Chrysler offers the latest in safety features on the market. However, it all begins with the all-new body structure, which is lighter and stiffer thanks to the use of high-strength steel, with innovations like the seat storage wells constructed of steel and incorporated as part of the structural integrity of the vehicle, contributing to greater crashworthiness with vehicle performance benefits.

As far as driver aids go, the Pacifica now offers Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking, Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, while Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist and adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go are at the forefront of modern driving conveniences. While we did not have the opportunity to test the self parking tech, the adaptive cruise worked well in stop-and-go LA traffic.

Red Key Black Key

As with the Hellcat twins, Chrysler here offers a ‘teenager key’ (my term, not Chrysler’s). This programmable fob allows Pacifica parents to limit speed and volume, lock in certain features like Forward Collision Warning and Rear Park Assist, plus you can ban SiriusXM satellite radio channels.

Although loaded with technology and a huge leap forward in driving competence, with both an easy, supple ride and sure handling while feeling smaller than it is, the greatest coupe of the Pacifica is how it embraces the functional necessities of a minivan and finds a fresh design that accentuates its long, low and wide shape. With the neat trick of wrapping the rear window cutout into the side and fluid creases drawing the eye along the length, the Pacifica is downright attractive to these eyes, where I normally prefer blocky, chunky upright designs on my utilities.

Chrysler is only aiming for the top tier of minivan shoppers with the Pacifica, but they have all the elements that will appeal to parents shopping for their next practical family ride, but might also draw attention from those that may have strayed from the minivan fold or had never considered it before.