Family life means a big change for both partners embarking on the journey of becoming parents and raising another human being. Sometimes, that challenge presents itself in multiples or more challenges are added over the years, as their family unit grows from one child to two or more. When that happens, you not only have to adjust your schedules and lives accordingly, but your mode of transportation, as well.
For those 2-children family units, a station wagon or even a midsize sedan will do the trick. If there are cottages and weekend adventures involved, then a compact crossover could also fit the bill.
However, with three or more children, you’re suddenly entering into 3-row vehicle territory. For some, the idea of an SUV seems like a good one, but with high fuel numbers and not the best trunk space available, they aren’t always the right pick.
That’s where the minivan comes in. I know, I know; it’s often a dirtier word than “station wagon,” but the thing is, these vehicles are beyond practical, and really this latest model from Chrysler puts other minivans to shame. Heck, I kind of want one now.
Making minivans cool again
First revealed to the public at the beginning of the year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica was met with nods of approval and a rapt sense of anticipation at when we’d all finally get behind the wheel. We were genuinely excited about driving this minivan.
Well, for starters, look at it. According to FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, the Pacifica was designed to go against everything we as a buying public thought we knew about how a van is supposed to look. He didn’t want the Pacifica to follow the “trend.” And truthfully, to the best of its ability, it doesn’t at all.
Granted, it’s hard to get away from that large, bulbous rear shape along with the large paneled sides (thanks to the sliding doors), but somehow FCA has managed to design the all-new Pacifica to look sleek, streamlined even, and dare I say sexy?
Some have mentioned that it looks like a bloated Chrysler 200 from the front, and that’s not entirely untrue; however, it works. And I think the back end is properly elegant and modernized in all the right ways. This is a highly attractive van, perhaps surpassed by none on the market right now.
Inside, those good looks continue. And here I will say: The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is the sharpest-looking and most comfortable van I’ve driven over the years.
Sure, my particular tester was a Limited version, which means it was dressed to the nines in full leather with captain’s seats and all the bells and whistles including Uconnect’s full rear entertainment system, plus numerous safety features like lane keep assist, laser-guided cruise control, and park assist―all that for a starting MSRP of over $52,000. I adore Uconnect and I think it’s one of the best systems out there. Even my 4-year-old son fell in love with the ease of use on his 10” touchscreen.
That said, even if the Chrysler Pacifica was dressed in cloth, I can’t see it being any less comfortable or roomy, and that’s one of the huge bonuses in owning a minivan. OMG, the space! There’s just so much of it. No matter which row you sit in, you have ample space. I made a point of sitting all the way back for a period of time to see what the experience was like: With the massive panoramic moonroof that stretches right to the third row, it felt airy and open back there, despite being so far from the driver.
My only complaint would be there’s no personal entertainment available. Whereas my son was ecstatic about his own personal touchscreen in the second-row captain’s chair with wireless headset (with preloaded kids games already in the system, he was in seventh heaven immediately), anyone sitting in the third row is relegated to watching (in silence) whatever the second-row people have going on or listening to whatever the front passengers choose. Also, there’s only one USB port on the right side in the third row, despite there being room for three passengers.
With power-folding rear seats and the much loved Stow ’n Go system in the second row, storage and seating configurations seem almost endless in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited. Practical, it most definitely is.
Not just a passenger’s minivan
It’s great to be a passenger in a minivan (I know, I’ve been one many times). With all that legroom, the entertainment screens, the armrests, the USB ports, the cup holders, the sun cover screens on the windows… how could you not be comfortable?
Fear not, though: Being a driver in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is just as entertaining and comfortable. Thanks to its 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine, this is actually a great van to drive. It does not feel heavy despite its 6,005lb weight, even when cornering. Sure, there’s some body roll, but it is a minivan, after all.
I grew very fond of the V6’s throaty growl when I pressed the throttle firmly to exploit the 287 ponies and feel the push from the 262 lb-ft of torque on hand. And while I’ve been sorely disappointed with the 9-speed automatic transmission in Jeep products, somehow FCA has tweaked it in just the right way to make it tolerable and actually good in the Pacifica.
There were only a few instances in stop-and-go traffic where the transmission found itself a little confused and kind of jerky. Otherwise, it was smooth as butter and felt almost CVT-like on the highway.
Smooth is really the best word to describe this minivan. On an hour-long highway jaunt with my father, he remarked just how comfortable the Pacifica was, even over rougher pavement, eating up the cracks and potholes with ease.
Despite pushing the Pacifica on occasion, I still averaged 11.2L/100km over the week of both highway and city driving. For a big V6, I’d say that’s more than manageable to live with.
Too pricey for a Grand Caravan replacement?
My real, and only, concern with this new Pacifica is the buyers it will alienate. Dodge’s Grand Caravan meant you could purchase a practical, well-appointed van for somewhere in the mid-$20k range after incentive. Now, the Pacifica’s base model starts close to $44,000, and no incentive is available yet. That’s a huge price gap, and massively expensive in comparison.
Sure, the Pacifica is more technologically advanced and generously equipped, but do minivan owners need all of that? I’m not sure most do.