Car Reviews First Drives

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid First Drive Review: Smart New Family Hauler

Chrysler pulls off fun, functional, affordable plug-in hybrid, setting itself apart among family vehicles

Chrysler pulls off fun, functional, affordable plug-in hybrid, setting itself apart among family vehicles

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan makes a lot of sense—head-slapping, why-didn’t-the-industry-do-this-sooner sense.

Plug-in hybrids that can run on electricity alone tend to be small vehicles. Electrified pickings get pretty slim if you are in the market for a three-row family vehicle. Toyota offers the Highlander as a hybrid but not a plug-in. The Volvo XC90 T8 is a plug-in hybrid, but it starts at $68,795 USD compared with a starting price of $43,090 USD for the Pacifica, and the Chrysler has more than double the electric range.

A $35,590 USD plug-in minivan (including the $7,500 USD federal tax credit) occupies rare white space in the industry and could be a game changer for families who want to cut down their visits to the gas station but also have the range to take long trips.

The Pacifica Hybrid’s 16-kW-hr batteries provide 30 all-electric miles (48.3 km), which will cover the daily driving needs of many families. The 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine extends that range an additional 500 miles (804.7 km) for an estimated 80 mpg-e (2.9 L/100km) in city driving. The hybrid system is designed to automatically and seamlessly engage the gas engine when needed; no action is required by the driver. If it weren’t for graphics showing where power is coming from, the changing power source would be imperceptible.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid front three quarter

The V-6 runs on an Atkinson cycle and was modified with new pistons, valves, and camshafts for greater efficiency because additional power from the two electric motors (90 kW-hr from the primary motor and 65 kW-hr from the secondary, which are connected by a planetary gear set) contribute to the 260-horsepower combined system.

Officials are not providing torque figures from the FCA-developed dual-motor electrically variable transmission that drives the wheels via a one-way clutch. The regular Pacifica has a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The hybrid has a DC-to-DC converter instead of an alternator, so one of the motors can be used to start the vehicle.

The batteries can be charged in 14 hours with a regular outlet and two hours with a Level 2 charger.

The vehicle also monitors the fuel so that if you go too long between fill-ups and the gas becomes stale, the engine will turn on automatically to use it up.

During a drive in a $47,885 USD white Platinum-trim Pacifica Hybrid around Santa Monica, Malibu, Beverly Hills and up some canyon roads, a number of things became clear.

The Pacifica drives in electric mode as much as possible and can also travel at high speeds on battery power. It grabs additional power from the V-6 when needed to pass or climb a hill or when the battery is depleted and awaits regenerative braking to replenish the juice supply.

Drop the minivan stereotypes because the Pacifica is fun to drive. The new platform for the 2017 model comes with the first independent rear suspension in a Chrysler minivan, and the new vehicle is wider with a more planted stance than the previous generation. Add a 350-pound battery pack under the floor, and the drive experience only improves. Chrysler dropped 240 pounds (108.9 kg) from the previous-generation Town & Country, which helped offset the additional 650 pounds (294.8 kg) the hybrid packed on.

There is little compromise if you choose the plug-in. It does not encroach into the passenger compartment, because the batteries are under the second-row seats in the space normally reserved to store the Stow ’N Go seats. The third-row seats still disappear into the floor, but the second row has captain’s chairs that fold flat instead. Because they don’t have to fit into wells in the floor, the new seats have more foam and padding, making them more comfortable.

What you do give up: The vehicle is not designed for towing, and you don’t get the vacuum.

To distinguish the hybrid, the hexagon grille is replaced with one with flowing lines, and there are unique 18-inch wheels and a signature color, teal, inspired by ice caves in Juno, Alaska. It is in the stitching, bezels, wheels, badging, and logo on the front fender charge port door, and it is the color you want to see on the gauges because it denotes you are driving under electric power. Blue means the gas engine has been engaged. There is an efficiency coach on the screen that warns that the driver is accelerating quickly and about to go into gas mode or braking too hard and using friction braking instead of regenerative. The color of the background on the driver’s screen denotes whether the Pacifica is operating as an electric or a hybrid.

Tap the touchscreen to see you driving history, set the charging schedule, or access a map of charging stations.

Like the conventional Pacifica, the Hybrid has a nice choice of materials with consistency throughout the interior. It has one of the more attractive steering wheels, dark on the outside with unique alloys and teal stitching. Dealers will start taking orders for the Pacifica Hybrid in December. It comes in two trim levels, with the Premium starting at $43,090 USD and an optional overhead DVD for $895 USD. Platinum starts at $46,090 USD, and the only option is the $1,795 USD panoramic sunroof. The Pacifica Hybrid qualifies for the $7,500 USD tax credit and some state and local incentives—a surprisingly good deal even with virtually nothing to cross shop against.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
BASE PRICE $43,090-$46,090
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 7-8-pass, 4-door van
ENGINE 3.6L/248-hp/230-lb-ft Atkinson-cycle DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus two front electric motors, 260 hp comb
TRANSMISSIONS electrically variable auto
CURB WEIGHT 4,987 (mfr)
WHEELBASE 121.6 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 203.6 x 79.6 x 69.9 in
0-60 MPH 6.5-8.0 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 80 mpg-e city (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. December, 2017