Chrysler has come a long way with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica as they practically invented the minivan segment with the first Town & Country models back in the 1990s. This is a hard fact. At the time, no other manufacturer offered a vehicle which blended space, versatility, affordability and reliability so well. The concept from the very first day was clear: create a full size van with car-like features. For a time, the segment was steadily growing in popularity. The new millennia came however, and with it, so did the crossover SUV. A youthful car which emphasized style rather than functionality. Although the minivan was still the way to go if you wanted more space, most people were perfectly fine with trading some practicality if that meant they would be driving a much better looking car.
The minivan has been struggling ever since, so Chrysler decided it was up to them to bring it back once again. So, they ditched the Town & Country name in favor of Pacifica, styled the minivan to look like the car of the future, gave it the interior to match and hoped for the best. As it turns out, they did an amazing job, because sales have been going back up steadily.
EXTERIOR DESIGN & HISTORY
The name change may seem strange, but it makes sense if you stop and think about it. Not only does Town & Country sound old-fashioned, but it’s associated with a family-friendly minivan of the 90s. Leaving the old name would have been a complete disaster. No one wants to buy a car whose name is solely responsible for the creation of the old-school minivan. Pacifica sounds modern and premium, both things the new Pacifica represents.
If you could for a moment drop all pre-conceived notions of what the minivan represents, and just look at the new Pacifica, you’ll realize that it’s actually more than just a modern-day school-run vehicle. It’s light years ahead of anything its competitors make. This is, dare we say it, a handsome car. You may disagree, but there’s no denying that it redefines what a minivan should look like. There’s no need to make them bland and boring. Chrysler took the massive empty canvas that is a minivan and painted the beauty that is the Pacifica. Forget minivans, this thing is good-looking, full stop.
The front resembles the Chrysler 200, with gorgeous chrome accents, projector-style headlights and a big crease running from the fog lights to the wheel fenders. The side is completely dominated by a large line running through the door handles all the way to the back where it swoops down. The rear is plain and simple, with just a single chromed element to keep it in line with the rest of the design. FCA has done an excellent job with the Pacifica, hats off to them for making us dig a minivan so much.
The inside, again, shares similarities with its 200 and 300 siblings. Naturally, everything feels like it’s been scaled up by at least 20 percent. First off, you can’t help but notice the quality of everything you touch. All of the materials are high-end, from the smooth and soft leather to the expensive plastics. No expense has been spared in the cabin.
The interior layout is simple and spacious. The second row offers Stow ‘n Go fold-flat captain’s chairs, with a bench occupying the third row. Folding both rear rows flat will enable you to carry 8×4 sheets of plywood with ease. There’s a ton of headroom and legroom in all three rows, with more than enough cargo space at the back. The 8.4 inch touchscreen with Uconnect is intuitive and fast, a real pleasure to use in this day and age.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE
The 2017 Pacifica is available with two different drivetrains. The first one is a standard gasoline unit which most people will buy, while the second one is an advanced plug-in hybrid version. The Hybrid is great if you’re willing to spend more money on the initial investment. Money which you’ll get back in a short while thanks to the savings the hybrid offers.
The standard car comes with a 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 with 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. With a two-step variable valve lift feature, new cooled exhaust-gas recirculation system and an auto stop/start system, it offers better economy in addition to the increased power. The new nine-speed TorqueFlite transmission replaces the old, outdated six-speed auto. It’s faster, more precise, but most importantly, even smoother. Power is sent to the front wheels alone, but an all-wheel drive system is due to make its debut soon.
Surprisingly, the dynamic capabilities are nothing like minivans of old. It doesn’t roll excessively nor does it dive under braking. It drives like any other car. You can definitely feel the weight, height and size difference, but it’s composed and manageable. It’s amazing how far technology has come. A minivan that drives no different than a midsize SUV. Who would have thought?
The Pacifica has earned multiple five-star ratings in a variety of tests, including the NHTSA’s one. With active and passive safety features, it’s the most technologically advanced minivan on sale today. A 360-degree camera system along with ParkSense Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist make parking a breeze. Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Hold is available too. There’s Forward Collision Warning-Plus, helping the driver avoid accidents by warning him of impending impacts. If it doesn’t get a reaction, it will automatically apply the brakes. LaneSense Land Departure Warning-Plus enables the driver to monitor the traffic lane at all time, even keeping the Pacifica between the lines with small steering input. In the event that a crash does occur, the passive systems take over to protect the occupants. The high-strength steel construction absorbs the impact, with an array of airbags deploying to protect the passengers in the car.
The Pacifica is the modern-day SUV counterpart. No one thought it would be able to compete with the smaller crossovers, but here we are. The weirdest part about this comparison is that we’re genuinely suggesting the Pacifica over any other SUV if you want practicality, comfort and style. The minivan is officially back!