Hard to believe it’s been 35 years since Chrysler developed a new market segment called the minivan. The first Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager changed the market in 1984 and, today, with Chrysler’s sixth generation minivan, now called the Chrysler Pacifica, the company is poised to remake the segment once again.
The Chrysler Pacifica first came to market in 2017 and remains the sole minivan offered with a plug-in hybrid power unit. I relished opportunity to test the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited version during July’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway west of Denver.
The newest Chrysler Pacifica is a sleek-looking double-box on wheels. From its squinty-eyed front end to chrome-rimmed side power doors to its powered hatch at the rear, the Pacifica is a truly modern take on the always capable minivan of the past. From all seven seats that have acute visibility, anyone can ask the proverbial question: “Are we there yet?”
Dressed in a deep blue hue called Maximum Steel metallic with an alloy-and-black leather interior, the newest Pacifica is as elegant inside as its exterior promises. With its power sliding doors on both sides of this minivan, ingress and egress are easily achievable, thanks as well to lower sills that make the Pacifica more accessible.
Forward motion is provided through a transverse-mounted 3.6-Liter Atkinson Cycle V6 engine with an estimated 260 horsepower. Coupled with a 96-cell Li-ion battery pack and dual motors, the entire system generates up to 32 miles on a single charge and plenty more miles using regular fuel. During our 290 miles together over about five days’ usage, this front-wheel-drive Pacifica delivered excellent power and economy.
Transmission is provided by an electrically variable unit with dual-motor EV drive capability. Fully independent MacPherson struts and twist-blade suspensions, front and rear are compliant yet not mushy, while electric rack and pinion steering generates a nice 39.7-foot turning circle and a good 3.13 turns lock to lock on the front-wheel-drive minivan. Chrysler fits all-wheel antilock disc regenerative brakes that bring the 4987-pound Pacifica to a halt and also recharge the battery pack. Tires are Yokohama’s 235/65R units with 10-spoke 17-inch polished rims.
eMileage is rated at 82MPGe, while running on gasoline the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited has been rated at 30mpg from the 16.5 gallon tank, which this driver never came close to running down to E. In fact, our mileage was more than 33mpg over those five days, quite nice considering the size and weight of this minivan, not to mention the enthusiasm of its driver.
On entry the Pacifica is serene, with its near-white leather and black facing making driver and passengers welcome. The front seats are heated and cooled – the steering wheel is heated – and, for the driver everything necessary is easy to find and to use. This includes the gearshift, which is on the upward facing central stack area and looks like an upside down custard cup. A pair of USB outlets together with an auxiliary plug are located in the central stack while a brace of 12-volt plugs lie at the stack’s base.
The steering wheel has info and phone operation (simple to pair) on the left side while cruise control and “safety” items are on the right. This driver managed to turn off most of the “features” in the optional Advanced Safety Tec Group ($995 up-charge) including forward collision warning, lane departure warning, parallel and perpendicular park assist. We did use the blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control feature which also includes engine deactivating at stop; restarting is barely noticeable.
This is not an inexpensive vehicle but its features make it worthy of the cost for someone who needs a seven-passenger conveyance and doesn’t want or need an SUV or CUV. The total price of this Pacifica is $50,255 (from a $47,290 base) and includes a tri-plane panoramic sunroof ($1,795) that both tilts and slides. The package mentioned earlier has Chrysler’s Uconnect theater with wireless streaming to keep those in the rear occupied, a Blu-ray/DVD player, seatback video screens, dual HDMI ports, USB video port, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, 3-channel video remote control and 3-channel wireless headphones in the first-row seatbacks.
Another optional bit of equipment is the 20-speaker Harman Kardon sound group with its 760-watt amplifier, which is absolutely delectable, delivering clear sound well up the volume spectrum. There’s also an emergency kit group by Mopar that includes a first aid kit, reflecting triangle, tool kit and travel and safety kit. That’s situated under the power hatch, which contains 12-volt plug. The hatch is lowered through a button on the side of the opening and also holds Chrysler’s plug-in cables to add electric mobility to the gasoline engine’s power. Unfortunately, neither the place where we stayed nor the racetrack had suitable outlets for recharging.
Because the hybrid batteries live under the floor, Chrysler’s cool stow-and-go feature isn’t available on this Pacifica. The one advantage is seats are thicker and better padded, making them more comfy than the Chrysler minivans that have the stowing feature.
Chrysler’s infotainment system is terrific, with the 8.4-inch touchscreen paired with a 7-in screen for gauges and information display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included on the Pacifica. All controls for infotainment were so simple to use that they made this vehicle a total standout. Chrysler fits a 4G LTE Wifi hotspot as standard equipment, as well as Sirius/XM’s full range of audio and traffic guidances. Of course there’s power everything for the driver and passenger.
When shopping for a minivan, please consider the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited. Not only is it an excellent tourer and around-town partner, but there is a $7,500 federal rebate that is still available to make the entry fee more palatable. Although this driver hasn’t tested every minivan on the market, with Pacifica’s ease of use, ecological features and economy of use, it’s a standout.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit