2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Review

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid - Most frugal minivan ever, but you give up some storage capacity.

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From the makers of the original minivan comes an all-new type of minivan -- a hybrid. Makes a lot of sense, minivans are the ultimate grocery getters, soccer shuttles, a trip type where a hybrid powertrain excels. But like all minivans Chrysler has built, the Pacifica Hybrid offers more, in addition to dual-mode power, it offers more than 30 miles of all electric range.

Pacifica was introduced in 2017 as a replacement for the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. Like all minivans today it offers dual sliding doors, three rows of seats and a rear liftgate. Competitors include the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna.

The standard Pacifica comes with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 287 horsepower. However, with the Pacifica Hybrid, Chrysler engineers re-tuned the engine to be more efficient and replaced the 8-speed automatic with a continuously variable automatic that houses 2 electric motors. There's also a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that takes the up residence in the stow-n-go bins for the second-row seats. All told Chrysler estimates that the hybrid powertrain produces 260 horsepower. The battery pack can be charged in two hours on a Level 2 plug and about 13 hours on a standard household plug. It is worth noting, the battery does not need to be charged for normal hybrid operation, only if you want to drive in all electric mode.

Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995 and comes in three models: Touring Plus, Touring L and Limited. All come with 7 passenger seating and feature power sliding side doors, 3-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and starting, 8.4-inch touch screen display and 2nd-row power windows. Touring L adds leather seating surfaces, power liftgate and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Limited adds Nappa leather seats, Uconnect Theater with wireless streaming, hands-free power sliding doors and liftgate and 18-inch wheels.

Simply put, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid accelerates exactly as if it were a regular minivan with the one exception being completely linear power delivery. The sophisticated hybrid system seamlessly delivers power in the most efficient way -- and that's a good thing because Chrysler has not provided any option for drivers to control hybrid operation. When pushed, the van can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in around 8 seconds. That's class average, if a bit below. Still, power delivery is seamless and prompt.

When fully charged, the battery can provide about 33 miles of mostly-electric driving. Mostly electric because the gas engine automatically kicks in under hard acceleration regardless of battery charge. Once the battery reaches a preset charge level of discharge, full hybrid mode kicks in and the vehicle uses the gas engine to accelerate and the electric motors to assist and maintain speed. The transition between gas and electric operation is as transparent as any hybrid and the electric motors have the ability to accelerate the Pacifica smartly away from stoplights, making gas assist only necessary in nearly full-throttle acceleration.

The EPA gives Pacifica Hybrid an MPGe rating of 84 combined and a gas rating of 32 MPG combined. The gas combined compares to 22 MPG combined for the regular Pacifica and the Pacifica's main competitors. EPA ratings aside, the Pacifica Hybrid is an amazingly fuel-efficient vehicle. In routine suburban driving it's easy to maintain 30+ MPG overall and if you take the opportunity to plug in, you can nudge past 40 MPG overall. If your daily drive is less than 30 miles overall, you can literally fill up less than once a month by plugging in nightly. Keep in mind though, hybrid fuel economy is best in the spring and fall and dips with constant operation of the heater or air conditioning. The 16.5-gallon fuel tank provides more than 500 miles of range.

Towing is not recommended with the Pacifica Hybrid.

Providing a smooth and quiet ride, the Pacific Hybrid drives exactly as a minivan should. Though the ride is firmer than you might expect -- especially if you were a Town & Country owner -- it is never harsh or rough. The suspension provides good bump absorption over the rough stuff but is composed enough to prevent bouncing or bounding. Interior noise levels are low, possibly the lowest in the class.

Despite modest body lean and a portly curb weight of 5,000 pounds, Pacifica doesn't shy away from twisty roads. It's no sport sedan, but more than competent for most family duties and doesn't feel overly large or unathletic in traffic. The biggest weakness is numb and unevenly boosted steering that can grow notchy under acceleration. Despite being a hybrid, the Pacifica's brake pedal is very easy to modulate, don't pulse as it switches from regeneration to friction braking and provides for smooth, even stops.

Pacifica Hybrid sits at the top of the model lineup, so even the least-expensive model is swathed in upscale trim and soft-touch materials. Drivers face a twin-dial setup but neither are a speedometer or tachometer. On the right is a large fuel gauge and on the right is a hybrid power meter. In the middle is a digital speedometer that also contains a driver information center. It's a bit different and takes some adjustment when swapping between vehicles but becomes second nature after a few days behind the wheel. The center stack boasts a large touch-screen display that utilizes FCA's Uconnect infotainment system. Easily the best in the business, Uconnect is simple to operate, doesn't require a deep dive into the owner's manual and supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Climate controls are mostly separate, but some of the seat controls are tied to Uconnect. Window, lock and mirror controls are conveniently placed on the door armrest.

Pacifica front seats are nicely contoured and well padded. Head room is great but leg room is only adequate. Those taller than 6'2" might wish for a few more inches of rearward travel. Second-row captain's chairs are quite comfortable -- considerably more so than in non-hybrid versions of the Pacifica. That's because they don't fold into the floor, rather they are removable. They do slide fore and aft. Third-row seats provide acceptable comfort for two adults, three across will squeeze everyone.  Getting in and out of the front and second row is about as easy as it gets. Third-row passengers will have to twist and turn a bit, but it's still no chore.

Pacifica Hybrid loses the ingenious stow-n-go compartments that make it the class leader in storage space, but the van does offer removable second-row seats and more than 140 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Like in all other minivans, the third-row seats fold into a well at the back. Interior storage is great with lots of bins, cubbies and shelfs throughout. There are tons of cub holders and USB ports for all three rows of seats.

Bottom Line -- Pacifica Hybrid is an expensive minivan and unless you do a lot of urban driving and plug  in all the time, you aren't going to realize enough fuel savings to make up for the price difference over the conventional model. That said, it is still a Pacifica. Meaning it is roomy, comfortable, quiet and versatile. In fact, it's easily one of the best, if not the best, all-around minivans. Opting for the hybrid model means giving up the stow-n-go seats and that's a large loss. So, if you want the ultimate family hauler, perhaps a conventional model is the best choice. However, if you are looking for the best fuel economy and don't require the ultimate in cargo space, you can't go wrong with Pacifica Hybrid.



Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and hardcover automotive titles.

In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on ABC TV, Fox News, and Speed Channel as an automotive consultant. Previously, he was a regular on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show and now fills in for Paul Brian on the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.

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