Win-win minivan: Hybrid technology makes Chrysler Pacifica even better

Don’t jump to conclusions when I say my tester this week is both a minivan and a hybrid.

That may turn some folks off immediately as these are two segments that don’t generally invoke excitement. I get that. But, don’t judge a book by its cover. Specifically, this book has a familiar name, with a new look. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a minivan with a hybrid technology. Big whoop, you say? Please don’t stop reading, so I can explain why this isn’t just exciting, as the Pacifica Hybrid is Chrysler’s best vehicle in years.

First off, Chrysler has fallen woefully behind in hybrid technology and really hasn’t had much to offer in this category. The fact that they put this fuel-saving technology in their brand-new minivan means a lot. Families today need to worry about their budgets. The Pacifica is the most fuel-efficient minivan on the market.

I reviewed the regular Pacifica earlier this year and liked it. I found it to be much improved over Chrysler’s last van, the elegant Town & Country. But often the Town & Country didn’t seem to match up with the Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna. That’s not the case at all with the Pacifica, including the hybrid version.

The Pacifica Hybrid has a 3.6-liter V6 engine which is standard for Chrysler; however, there are also two electric motors that work off a rechargeable battery pack that combined, generates 260 horsepower. This is slightly underpowered within the minivan segment, but it doesn’t feel pokey. Off the line, it’s adequate, and at highway speeds it doesn’t feel like a hybrid at all. There’s a continuously variable transmission which does an adequate job.

Recharging the batteries on a 120-volt outlet takes almost 14 hours but when using a Level 2, 240-volt outlet, the battery pack can be recharged in less than two hours. So, if you opt for this hybrid, make sure to invest in a Level 2 charging station.

Inside, the Pacifica is as good as any other minivan on the road and is full of family-friendly amenities. The hybrid technology doesn’t interfere with any headroom or legroom in the spacious cabin. A dual-screen rear entertainment system makes for peaceful road trips.

Chrysler’s infotainment system continues to be one of my favorites. It has no wow factor, but it’s also incredibly user-friendly and the 8.4-inch touchscreen is responsive.

Surprisingly, the hybrid version of this minivan has the same cargo capacity as the gasoline-only version. Usually battery placement interferes with cargo area, but that is not true with the Pacifica, which has 32.3 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Fold the second- and third-row seats down and there’s 140.5 cubic feet of cargo area. The seven-passenger Pacifica is easy to get in and out of, including the third row.

Without a doubt, the best aspect of the Pacifica is the hybrid technology and fuel economy. Without any battery assist, the Pacifica is still the most fuel-efficient minivan on the road with a rating of 32 mpg in combined driving. Plugging in and charging up wrings out an extra 33 miles of gasoline-free driving, which means it has an 84-mpg equivalent.

Chrysler keeps the trims simple with only two offerings. The Premium trim has a starting price of $41,995 while the Platinum trim has a starting MSRP of $44,995. My tester was the Platinum trim which has leather seats, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and the rear-seat entertainment system. Other options included a 13-speaker Alpine sound system, park assist, collision prevention system, blind spot monitors and one of the most stunning three-panel sunroofs I’ve seen. The entire roof was essentially glass and really illuminated the interior. My tester had a final MSRP of $47,885.

It’s rare when I’ll sing the praises of a minivan or a hybrid. But I recognize something special when I see it, and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is indeed an amazing vehicle for families.

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