Intent on cementing its place as the segment creator and leader, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is basically throwing out the rulebook, or at least throwing out a storied nameplate. But in the process, they’ve injected new life into a class of practical-but-unsexy cars.
Chrysler did make a point to unbox its minivan. The Pacifica is far curvier and sleeker than the Town & Country, with nice detailing in the lights and ambitiously large 20-inch wheels on the highly equipped model shown at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
It’s all about the comfort and convenience features in a minivan, and the Pacifica won’t disappoint gadget lovers. A hands-free power liftgate is yesterday’s news now that Chrysler offers hands-free power sliding doors. Like the Honda Odyssey, you can get a vacuum cleaner in the Pacifica. But unlike the Odyssey and every other minivan, you get second-row seats that fold into the floor. The Pacifica will seat up to eight people.
While a huge upgrade over the outgoing Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, the Pacifica’s interior will look familiar if you’ve been in a Chrysler 200 or any recent Fiat Chrysler products. It’s slightly overdone for my tastes, but the quality is there and well-heeled parents will appreciate the level of luxury combined with quantity of cubbies and cup holders.
And being a vehicle built with families in mind, there’s a whole bunch of safety gear and parking cameras now available on the Pacifica, at least bringing it in-line with rival minivans and three-row crossovers. But another lifesaving feature might be the touch screens mounted in the back of the front seats for kids to control movies and apps.
The biggest showroom attraction may be the Pacifica Hybrid. While the normal Pacifica gets a 3.6-liter V6 with a nine-speed automatic transmission, the hybrid adds an electric motor and battery pack to give up to 30 miles of electric-only range and the equivalent of 80 mpg. For buyers who want to lessen their carbon footprint, or use the carpool lane, Chrysler may have just the ticket.
If anything, the Pacifica is pitched to customers who are willing to pay more for lots of comfort and convenience. It’ll therefore be interesting to see what the prices are when the Pacifica goes on sale this spring. The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid will come to market later, in the second half of 2016.
Some people may remember another car called the Chrysler Pacifica, the 2004-2008 crossover that didn’t click with customers. But this new Pacifica isn’t trying to be a crossover, as some minivans have pretended to be in the past. And Chrysler thinks it’s thrown enough new features to make you wonder why families flock to SUVs.