2017 Chrysler Pacifica Review

2017 Chrysler Pacifica - Chrysler refines family frolics with Pacifica


All new from the ground up, the 2017 Pacifica spotlights a segment that much too often 'Gets no Respect,' the auto sector's equivalent to comedian Rodney Dangerfield. As a fitting homage to the self-deprecating Dangerfield, the much maligned minivan may just get the last laugh.

Some snickered 33 years ago upon Chrysler's introduction of the front-wheel drive minivan while the subsequent generation derided efforts with the 'Soccer Mom' label. This kid tested, Mom approved sixth-generation effort sparkles, gleaning from past incarnations with an eye towards the future and a must see/test for Moms and Dads of all sporting disciplines.

Chrysler retires the long-running Town & Country ID and reintroduces Pacifica, a name not long ago gracing the brand's large, onetime upscale crossover.

Side D pillars visually offset from the hatch region, creating a crossover-like silhouette. The slim front end borrows visual cues found in Chrysler's mid-size 200.

An all-new, stiffer body frame upgrades performance and handling, two words not usually associated with the once clunky segment. Pacifica now mimics performance targets found in Asian competitors, once owning the performance edge; at least what's attainable from a 4,300-pound, 17-foot, three-row template.

High-strength steel materials account for 72 percent of Pacifica's revised body structure. These press-hardened materials rate 300 percent stronger than conventional 'mild' steel, helping maintain integrity during crash-situations while extend fuel economy. The 2017 Pacifica weighs 250 pounds lighter than the outgoing Town & Country.

A naturally-aspired, 24-valve, reworked Pentastar V-6 delivers a class-leading 287 horsepower while teaming with the segment's first-ever, nine-speed automatic transmission in all five trims (LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus and Limited).

Weight savings tweak up fuel economy a notch. Pacifica now claims 18 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway, a steady climb upward from 17/25 last reported from the outgoing T&C. The ample-sized gas tanks hold 19 gallons of regular, 87-octane unleaded fuel with a cap-less fuel lead.

Families yearning for spunkier MPGs need wait no longer; electrified Pacifica hybrids began production December 1, 2016 with dealer volume expected during the first quarter of next year, marking the industry's first plug-in minivan. This hybrid travels up to 33 miles solely on zero-emission electric power with approximately 530 miles of total drive range with a full gas tank.

Gas-exclusive V-6 Pacifica's borrow a fuel-extending page from the hybrid playbook with optional-in-all-trims start-stop engine technology, automatically shutting down the powertrain into a 'sleep-like mode' at extended stops, than restarting once the right foot lifts from the brake pedal.

Pacifica easily qualifies as the quietest minivan from Chrysler with improved noise/vibration/harness results. Also easing the drive; electric power steering, new front struts and rear trailing arm suspension.

During the past 30 years, Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth branded minivans have introduced 115 innovations into the family-friendly segment.

Chrysler listened to and acted upon customer feedback. To wit, popular second-row Stow-n-Go captain-like seats tilt and lean forward with or without child safety seats in tow. Third-row access with prior models got hampered by kid seats planted in row two. Segment exclusive second-row Stow-n-Go seats come standard across all five trims accommodating seven travelers. Optional is a bench-style second row upping maximum people capacity to eight.

Through thoughtful engineering, Stow-n-Go seats contort manually below the van's flat floor if desired, opening up countless hauling possibilities (swallowing an 8' x 4' sheet of plywood). When upright, below-floor bunkers contribute more storage opportunities. Improved rump cushiness helps during longer hauls, and seats now retract with less effort into the floor.

The three-passenger 60/40 third-row bench also manually folds flat into the floor, although the posh Limited trim includes power folding maneuvers.

High and low tech innovations continue pushing the envelope. Outboard sides of front Captain's chairs include grooved, tube-like areas along the floor capable of umbrella stowage. Call it Grab-n-Go. For those channeling TV's neat-freak Felix Unger, Pacifica offers a 50-watt vacuum system with a sizeable 11.4-inch hose, which Chrysler insists reaches every corner and nook. But neatness has its price. The vacuum's standard only in top-trim Limited as are available hands-free operating rear sliding side doors and rear hatchback (accomplished via a swing of the foot under the frame).

Even without hands-free sliding availability, these duo power-sliding doors open multiple ways, including a gentle push of a small button found on the grab handle, (replacing a quick jerking motion in previous generations). Plus the key fob, B-pillar inside buttons and buttons near the rear-view mirror.

Our top-shelf Limited tester started at a lofty $42,495. Then Chrysler sprinkled in option packages including the advanced safety group ($1,995), two second-row UConnect flip-up 10-inch theatre screens built into front seat backs ($1,995) and 20-inch all-aluminum tires ($995) for a bottom line of $48,475 with $995 destination charge. A base LX checks in at $28,595.

Other Limited exclusives include power-folding side-view mirrors, tri-pane sun roof, in-dash three-dimensional navigation and premium leather-trimmed ventilated front seats.

The second-row UConnect screen package combines a DVD player and USB ports for optimal viewing and downloading ability along with wireless headphones and video remote control. Folks may connect up personal devices and surf the internet. The safety package (optional only in Limited and Touring L-Plus) adds tech-savvy nuances as lane departure warning, radar cruise control, 360 surround-view camera, front/rear park assist and pre-collision warning system.

The attractive instrument panel borrows slight-of-hand 3D effects with outside depth-defining circular gauges surrounding a brightly-lit animated, sizeable seven-inch multi-screen info center. Fuel and temperature 'half-moons,' at the screen's outer edge curve up and frame inner portions of gauges.  

Pacifica features Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) nifty secondary steering wheel audio controls. Toggle tabs on the steering wheel's back side monitor sound and selection via naturally gripping finger tips.

The center dash includes a well-designed touch-screen. A five-inch size is standard within LX, Touring and Touring-L; Touring-L Plus and Limited upsize to 8.4 inches. Large-font icons and words work in conjunction to simplify the next step.

Below, jetting out at approximately 45-degrees, an artful ventilation shelf with central chrome dial. Twist to increase/decrease fan speed and pushdown to select directional modes.   Push arrows monitor temperature. Below this platform, an inlet for stowing portable electronics along with iPod and USB ports.

A standard dashboard-bound push-button start resides east of the manual tilt-and-telescope steering column. To its immediate right, a nine-speed automatic transmission shift, also a center shelf resident. Not a stalk-like mechanical version, but an electronic-driven chrome dial. Twist to select forward, reverse and neutral. Nearby, a push button activating/deactivating the parking brake.

The transmission's dashboard location opens up the cavernous region between front captain's chairs for oodles of storage versatility. Tall-seat design provides excellent road views, yet low enough to eliminate 'climb up' fatigue of some full-sized SUVs.

Pacifica anchors Chrysler's abbreviated 2017 lineup, joining the 300 full-size sedan and 200 mid-size four door.   All Pacifica's continue as front-drive. Only Toyota's Sienna minivan offers all-wheel drive.

As a bug-eyed, heavily perspiring Dangerfield might quip, "I asked for roomy transportation. They sold me a vacuum cleaner instead. I tell ya, I get no respect." But when the dust bunnies settle, both Rodney and Chrysler may end up cleaning up.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Price as tested: $48,475
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 287
Overall Length: 203.8 inches
Overall Height: 69.9 inches
Overall Width: 79.6 inches
Wheelbase: 121.6 inches
Fuel Economy: 18 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Powertrain Warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Assembly: Windsor, Canada

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.