For rainbow families, there are plenty of choices to transport parents, children, their pets, and a day’s worth of grocery shopping. Of course, it would depend on how many people are being carted around and how much room is needed to lead their lives.
Like most families, we would think that a SUV would be our best bet. They are indeed right-sized and can seat up to eight people; however, most SUVs do not accommodate people that well…even when there are three rows of occupants and a lot of luggage. You could go to a very large SUV, which has its own drawbacks; for example, very low fuel economy and large size that lends to some creative parking situations.
As far as minivans are concerned, there is an image issue to address. Minivans are seen as bulky, dull, and uninspiring. They can also accommodate all sorts of rainbow families, even ones that are all adults.
We already explored some of the most important advances in the class: the Honda Odyssey with its HondaVac and the Kia Sedona with its high style and better accommodations for everyone. But we have been waiting for a minivan that can move the bar for the entire class completely. One that has style, accommodations, amenities, and is easy to drive without any of the guilt of other models before it.
At Lavender, we cover all vehicles that we think our community drives. Therefore, it is our pleasure to introduce to you the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
Yes, Chrysler. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles(FCA), to be precise. The original producer of the minivan. They invented the species: a smaller, more concentrated machine that is easy to drive like a car and has effectively put the end to the big full-sized station wagons. It can seat three rows of adults comfortably. It can also carry a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood flat on the floor. It can carry more sheets of plywood without having them cut at the home improvement center.
This has been the formula since the fall of 1983. The minivans of Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth were on the forefront of family transportation. While Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and Kia introduced better minivans, FCA went back to the drawing board. The 2017 Pacifica was what they came up with.
Which brings up a slew of questions. We will start with two. One: has FCA effectively reinvented the minivan? And, two: will our rainbow families buy it?
It starts with a completely different look for the Pacifica. The name is different, although it was worn by a crossover vehicle that was developed during the Daimler days. There are people who think it should still be called the Town & Country, but when one goes through a huge change, why not change the name?
Exterior-wise, it is completely all changed. Every inch of this Chrysler is designed fusing brand tenets with a not-so-boxy shape. The front end may look like an oversized 200, but it helps to keep continuity across the brand. A few firsts pop up on the Pacifica: a new front quarter glass, a reverse slant far rear side glass, and horizontal taillights. This is not an evolution of the soon-to-be gone Dodge Grand Caravan or Town & Country. This is an all-new design approach that was deemed necessary to compete against everyone else.
The Pacifica we tested was the Touring-L, right in the middle of the lineup. Wearing 17-inch wheels, the Pacifica may look a bit basic on the outside, but don’t let its basic-ness fool you. An observant eye will tell you how much richness the Pacifica has overall: the accent lines and curves, the front end inspired by the 200, and every accent and detail surrounding its unique glass profile. FCA made sure to create a distinctive vehicle in the class they first created. This is truly a testament to the commitment to continue playing in the minivan segment three-plus decades on.
As dramatic as the outside, the cabin takes a huge leap forward in design and comfort. Our tester came with an eight-seat configuration, for which the second and third rows are folded into the floor through the Stow’n Go system. Behind the driver and front passenger, all seats folded in and offer a completely flat floor space to handle up to 140.5 cubic feet of stuff. As with the original minivan, the Pacifica can carry one of those 4′ x 8′ pieces of plywood without any obstruction on the floor.
All three rows offer adult-size accommodations. Access to the third row is very easy with a quick release of each second row seat and two power sliding doors for ease of entry and exit. Front row occupants are treated to comfortable and supportive bucket seats. Choosing the Touring-L trim gives all three rows nice leather upholstery with contrasting stitching. Stowage is abundant with small little cubbyholes down the lower center tack and on the floor in-between the front seats, along with sliding storage places and so forth. The Pacifica is designed to take everything with you on any trips, including your work commute. And, there is a place for anything.
The Pacifica now has perhaps the best instrument panel in the minivan segment. It is as stylish as the Kia Sedona’s, but it is anchored with excellent and concentrated controls. The transmission gets Chrysler’s new knob control, while the electronic parking brake is a push button, all on the center stack. Capping the center stack is the new 8.4-inch UConnect Touch screen, offering access to UConnect Apps and audio playback options including music files, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth connectivity. Instrumentation include a customizable information screen in-between the speedometer and tachometer.
Above what was equipped in our tester, you can order other convenience options for the Pacifica depending on which trim level you choose. The Pacifica became the first minivan where you can operate the side sliding doors with your foot. This is great when you have bags of groceries in your hands. You can also get an on-board vacuum, as well; however, Chrysler puts their vacuum closer to the driver’s side sliding door, instead of back by the tailgate.
And, then there’s UConnect Theatre, the next level is rear seat entertainment. They can connect game consoles, playback DVDs and BluRay discs and choose any of the onboard loaded games through two 10.1-inch high definition screens.
One thing that has not changed is the engine. FCA’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 feels absolutely perfect underneath the Pacifica’s hood. With 287 horsepower on tap, it runs smooth and very quick. Most minivans simply just drive along, but the Pacifica really wants to go. New to the Pacifica is the ZF-designed, FCA-produced nine-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are smooth across the power band. Power is sent down only to the front wheels. As for fuel economy, our Pacifica tester averaged 23.6 MPG.
Minivans were designed to provide a smooth, family-compliant ride. The Pacifica delivers with absorbent suspension all around to ensure that it rides without any negative feedback from the vehicle. Although handling is quite decent, do be careful through the cloverleaf exits and stay slow, because there will be lean and roll beyond the limits.
Cornering is excellent, even with an electric power rack-and-pinion steering set. The turning radius is very sharp for a 203.8-inch minivan making quick work of tight maneuvers. Steering action is good on-center with great response from its thick-rimmed wheel. Brakes are excellent with solid pedal feel and strong stops in both normal and panic situations.
Blind spot monitoring, a reversing camera, and rear sensors and cross-traffic alert is what came with our Touring-L tester. Also available on the Pacifica is Lane Departure Warning, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning, among other active safety technologies.
The Pacifica lineup starts with the LX model for a base price of $28,595. This Touring-L tester came with a sticker price of $37,350. If you want everything in a Pacifica, a fully loaded Limited with all of the features listed in this review will set you back $48,455.
The idea of continuing the legacy of the minivan was FCA’s motivation to make this new one. Mission accomplished? The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a well-executed vehicle that fits right for rainbow families…and all other families, too. The Stow’n Go seating makes it versatile to accomplish the do-it-yourself jobs needed for the projects around the home and garden this winter. After the project is done, then you can take everyone out for a night on the town.
Right now, this is the best minivan in the market. The Pacifica leads the way with its innovations, technology and style. There is still magic in the minivan thanks to Chrysler, again!