Who has the best seats in the house?
MotorTrend’s March Mayhem is here! As part of our quest to find the best family car, we invited eight vehicles to compete in a winner-take-all bracket. Representing minivans in the first round are the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited and 2019 Honda Odyssey Elite.
For better and for worse, minivans are the default answer to the question: I have kids; what car should I get? They were once all the rage, they became wildly uncool, and now they’re somewhere in between. If minivans are going to cut down the nets, they need to be represented by the best of the best.
Evidence of how closely matched the Pacifica and Odyssey are is spread across our notes. Disagreements over which interior was noisier on what surfaces and at what speeds, which engine felt more powerful, and which went around a corner more confidently illustrate how tight this matchup is.
There were clear agreements, though. We found the Pacifica rides better on all surfaces, its passengers feeling less jostled on rough pavement than those in the Odyssey. Likewise, we found the Odyssey’s transmission clearly superior while the Pacifica was a bit lazy to shift and occasionally clunky.
All of that can affect passenger comfort or confidence, but this comparison was won and lost on features. For that, we can start in the crucial second row.
Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go hideaway seats aren’t new, but they are improved. The front seats move away with the touch of a button, the floor pops up with a light tug, and the seats fold and stow with the yank of a strap and a little push to settle them into their hold. With the seats out of the way, you have the easiest possible access to the third row, loads of cargo room, and, as one child-rearing staff member has discovered, a convenient space to spread out the changing pad when diapers go afoul. In their upright position, the seats are somehow slightly more comfortable than the Odyssey’s non-folding chairs, and they still tilt out of the way better for slightly easier third-row access, even with a child seat installed. Plus, the cavity they fold into provides an extra covered storage space. On the downside, the second row doesn’t slide in any direction, and the optional center seat is difficult to remove.
Honda’s Magic Seat solution is equally clever but not quite as versatile. Being able to slide the second-row seats forward puts kids in easier reach of parents up front. The ability to slide them side to side means quick access to the third row and the option of separating quarreling siblings.
Making space for cargo, though, requires unlatching and lifting the seats out like in the old days; whatever the seats lack in outright weight, they make up in bulkiness. Sliding them sideways is predicated on removing the center seat, and it’s bulky as you muscle it over the other seats. In the end, you’re still left with a tighter squeeze accessing the third row and no underfloor storage.
The battle of the built-in vacuums plays out similarly. Honda pioneered the idea with its small vacuum mounted in the cargo area, but Chrysler perfected it by locating the hose between the second and third rows on the driver’s side, where you’re most likely to use it and where it can’t be blocked by cargo. The Pacifica also boasts a retracting hose; the Odyssey’s has to be crammed back into a cubby just big enough for it.
We likewise prefer Chrysler’s second-row entertainment system, which features two independent screens mounted to the backs of the front seats, compared to the Honda’s single roof-mounted screen. Not only does Chrysler’s solution head off arguments over what to watch or play, but it also allows for a massive sunroof.
Honda does have a few exclusive tricks, though, most notably Cabin Watch and Cabin Talk. The former employs a ceiling-mounted camera that looks down on the second and third rows, can zoom in, sees in the dark, and looks over rear-facing child seats. The latter uses front microphones and rear speakers (plus entertainment system headphones if equipped), allowing front-seat officials to call fouls without all the head-turning and shouting. Both options are accessed through the infotainment screen—the software for which we found less intuitive all around than Chrysler’s.
Fully equipped or fully stripped and regardless of the party tricks your monthly payment allows, Chrysler steals the win at the Honda test center. The Pacifica is the more comfortable, stylish, and clever package—and therefore the representative for the minivan class in the final four of our competition.
|2019 Chrysler Pacifica S Limited||2019 Honda Odyssey Elite|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$52,605||$48,115|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door van||Front-engine, FWD, 8-pass, 4-door van|
|ENGINE||3.6L/287-hp/262-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6||3.5L/280-hp/262-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||9-speed automatic||10-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,609 lb (56/44%)||4,561 lb (55/45%)|
|WHEELBASE||121.6 in||118.1 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||203.8 x 79.6 x 69.9 in||203.2 x 78.5 x 69.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.6 sec||6.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.9 sec @ 89.9 mph||15.2 sec @ 94.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||124 ft||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)||29.0 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/28/22 mpg||19/28/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/120 kW-hrs/100 miles||177/120 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.87 lb/mile||0.87 lb/mile|