Chrysler has expanded its Pacifica minivan lineup for 2018 in a bid to increase this upscale family vehicle's appeal, especially toward the lower-priced end of the market, with the addition of a new entry-level L trim level that takes the starting price to just above $36,000.
That brings the Pacifica's tag to within spitting distance of the likes of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, but it's still a long shot above that for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' other minivan, the Dodge Grand Caravan.
Other Pacifica updates include a reshuffling of trims for the plug-in hybrid model so that they match those available in the gasoline-powered model, including a Touring Plus trim new to the gasoline van. That brings the total number of distinct trims to seven for gasoline models (L, LX, Touring, Touring Plus, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus and Limited) and three for the hybrid (Touring Plus, Touring-L and Limited).
Inside, all vans get the latest version of the Uconnect infotainment system, which now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a new seven-inch touchscreen in all models below the Touring L-Plus and an 8.4-inch screen for the top two trims. That bigger screen comes with HD radio capability and the Limited's navigation-equipped setup can be optioned with 4G wifi.
The Pacifica made a big splash at its introduction last year with a shapely body that marked a departure from the boxy styling of the now dated-looking Grand Caravan. This van is also FCA's first plug-in hybrid model and the first in the minivan segment, with a battery that promises 53 km of all-electric driving when fully charged.
Both vans use a 3.6L V6 engine that makes 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque in the gasoline model and combines with the hybrid model's electric motor for a total of 260 hp. Gas models get a nine-speed automatic transmission while hybrids use a continuously variable setup.
As nice as the Pacifica is, it was designed primarily for the more affluent U.S. market in mind; in Canada, the Grand Caravan is a stronger seller but has been left to languish wearing a decade-old design, and FCA has been coy about whether it plans to redesign it or simply discontinue it at some point.
In its new L trim, the Pacifica makes do with 17-inch steel wheels with covers, manual driver's seat adjustments, manual dual-zone air conditioning, halogen headlights and passive keyless entry that only works on the driver's door.
Moving up to the LX adds auto engine stop/start, tri-zone manual air conditioning, rear reading lights, cargo area lighting, second-row stow-and-go seats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and touring suspension.
Touring models get alloy wheels, automatic headlights, power driver's seat and all-door passive keyless entry.
Touring Plus trims brings heated side mirrors, LED taillights, automatic climate control, backup camera and second-row window shades.
The L in Touring-L means leather upholstery, accompanied by heated front seats, remote engine start and third-row window shades.
Touring-L Plus is where the Pacifica starts to live up to its upscale appearance, adding a 13-speaker stereo, auto-dimming rearview mirror, blind spot monitor with rear cross path detection, heated steering wheel and second-row seats, rear park assist with active braking, power front passenger seat, gauge cluster with customizable seven-inch display, second- and third-row USB charging ports and Uconnect 8.4.
Finally, the Limited model gets 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming driver's side mirror, driver's seat memory, Nappa leather seating with front-seat ventilation, integrated cargo-area vacuum cleaner, navigation and a panoramic sunroof.