Chrysler’s best minivan ever wants to steal the Honda Odyssey’s lunch money.
– Cleveland, Ohio
Despite crossovers popping up like weeds in suburban driveways, the tried-and-true minivan doggedly persists as the best way to transport you and your brood. That is, as long as you can stomach the stigma of being a minivan owner. (Get over it; they’re worth it.)
Chrysler invented the modern minivan, and while its offerings (both the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan) have always been solid values, they have become the blue light specials of the minivan market in recent years – cheap to buy and always on sale.
So here comes the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica to replace the now-dead Dodge Grand Caravan and formerly named Town & Country. It’s designed to compete with more expensive minivans from Honda, Toyota, and Kia, but thankfully carries forward all of the family-friendly features this brand is famous for (as well as introducing a few new ones). Chrysler’s minivan finally offers the style and features to go toe-to-toe with the best, as well as justify its bump in price.
- Wow, what a looker. Minivans aren’t known for making hearts skip a beat, but Chrysler designers have masterfully sculpted a family hauler that looks well proportioned on its wheels and even a bit compact compared to its competition. The end result is legitimately attractive, more so than any other minivan (the Kia Sedona comes close, though). The design cues from the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan scale up nicely, and I don’t even mind the shiny chrome trim pieces. Lesser trim levels look more bland than this top-of-the-line Pacifica Limited that starts over $43,000, but you can get most of this look for less on the $35,000 Pacifica Touring L.
- I’m happy the legendary Stow ‘n Go seats have carried over from prior generations, and now they’re standard on every trim level. There are also USB ports at nearly every seat and the Limited model offers three-pronged outlets hither and thither to keep things charged. You also get the best version of Chrysler’s excellent UConnect infotainment system with navigation, as well as a rear seat entertainment system called UConnect Theater ($1,995) that plays movies and games on its fold down-screens. Some little things surprise and delight, like a tray built into the driver’s door sill to stow a wet umbrella. Lastly, the Stow n’ Vac onboard vacuum is every bit as good as Honda’s, but only comes on this top-level trim.
- This 3.6-liter V6 engine carried over from Chrysler’s last-gen minivans is the least-new thing about the Pacifica. It’s very powerful on paper, with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, but it doesn’t feel that strong because the nine-speed automatic transmission is constantly carving up its output to be as efficient as possible. It’s also coarse and a bit loud when asked to work hard, which makes it feel less refined than V6s in other minivans.
- Even though on paper Chrysler claims the Pacifica can achieve a Honda Odyssey-tying 28 miles per gallon, I came nowhere near that figure even after driving 260 miles on the highway to Pittsburgh and back. The Odyssey’s cylinder deactivation system makes hitting the high-20-mpg range a breeze, but I couldn’t get the Pacifica and its monster motor anywhere near 28 mpg.
- Minivans aren’t supposed to be entertaining to drive, but again, the Odyssey is the segment’s standard-bearer when it comes to handling and the Pacifica doesn’t match it. The Honda feels more like a car to drive than a large, lumbering van, while the Pacifica’s handling around corners reveals more top heaviness and roll than the Odyssey, and the steering wheel also snaps back to center with too much artificial force.
Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com