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Minivan Review: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2018-02-12 Graeme Fletcher
a car parked on the side of a snow covered road© Provided by Driving.ca

Since its introduction in 1984, the Dodge Caravan and, later, the Town & Country have ruled the minivan roost. Yes, it was and remains one of the most maligned segments in the business, but if you need to carry more than five people on a regular basis or need the flexibility of cargo space and seating, nothing does it quite as well. There are some three-row SUVs, but they usually compromise third-row comfort. As the T&C was showing its age, Chrysler replaced it with the Pacifica — a name once used before on a rather lacklustre ride that disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived!

Click here for exclusive local dealer pricing on the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica

This time around, the Pacifica has been imbued with a sleeker visage and a classier cabin that’s premium all the way, especially in Limited guise. The quality says plush with soft-touch materials, Nappa leather and French stitching combining to provide a premium feel. It’s also very well equipped — heated/cooled front seats, heated middle row seats, a tri-pane moonroof that imparts a lighter and airier feel to the cabin along with power everything including the third row, a built-in vacuum and Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system with a large 8.4-inch touch screen.

The latter remains one of the easiest to use with right-sized icons and an intuitive layout. Whether it is pairing a phone or punching a destination, it is, literally, child’s play. This year it’s even easier thanks to the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — simply hardwire a phone, unlock it and the Pacifica does the rest including reading any incoming texts with the option of responding. For those without the built-in navigation system the apps also give that option through the phone — just watch the data consumption.

The other plus is the built-in entertainment system — it includes an app called “Are We There Yet?” It lets the kids see where they are and how long before arriving, which dispenses with that perennially annoying question.

The lone nit is that while blind spot monitoring is part of the Limited’s equipment list, it requires the $1,995 Advanced SafetyTec option group to get the rest of the desirable assistants. The group includes lane departure and so on, plus parallel/perpendicular self-parking with stop assist. It proved it to be a cinch to use. The plus is the sightlines are better than many multi-row rides so the parking chore is not as onerous in the first place.

The flexibility is also very good. While there is an eight-seat option, the seven-seater is the better route, as it gives the middle row riders more space. In the Limited’s case, holding a button powers the third row – which is adult-friendly for short trips – down to expand the cargo capacity from 915 litres to 2,478. The Chrysler Stow ’n Go middle row seats then fold easily and open up a maximum of 3,979L. The large bins used to stow the middle row seats when folded also open up a lot of extra storage space when the seats are up — it serves to keep prying eyes off the more valuable items in the Pacifica.

The Limited’s drive is also more civilized than many three-row crossovers. In the simplest terms the Limited’s touring suspension is tuned to favour ride comfort, however, it does a surprisingly good job of keeping body roll at bay. No, it is not going to stir your inner driver, but it’s competent through a corner with nicely weighted steering and good on-centre feel.

Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 powers the Pacifica, pumping out 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The engine drives the front wheels through a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission. If there is a weakness it lies in the box. It was occasionally slow to shift and it hunted for the right gear on a longer climb. The key word is occasional — for the most part it cooperated.

a close up of a car© Provided by Driving.ca

The powertrain combination means Pacifica is no slouch getting off the line in spite of its portly 1,964-kilogram curb weight — it has a spry 7.9-second run to 100 kilometres an hour and an 80-120 km/h passing move (with just the driver aboard) comes in at 5.2 seconds. Both are strong times. It also allows a generous 1,633-kg tow capacity when the $700 tow group is aboard. The inclusion of trailer sway control eases the chore of keeping Pacifica and trailer in a straight line.

During the test, the Pacifica Limited returned an average fuel economy of 11.9 litres per 100 kilometres, which considering the weather and other factors was pretty good. What’s interesting is the effect engine start/stop technology has on economy. According to the 2018 EnerGuide fuel consumption guide, the system shaves 0.5 L/100 km off the city consumption, dropping it from 12.9 L/100 km to 12.4. This seems low, as shutting the engine down when coasting and at stoplights should have a greater effect. Indeed, Natural Resources Canada says “This technology reduces fuel consumption during city driving by 4 to 10 per cent or more.” Using their numbers, it suggests the saving should as much as 1.29 L/100 km.

The Chrysler Pacifica is a worthy replacement for the aging Town & Country — it has much better driving characteristics, so much more refinement, the needed technologies and yet it sacrifices little in overall utility in the process. As a surrogate for the Dodge Grand Caravan it does not work nearly as well because of the hefty price differential. Hopefully, FCA will see fit to run the two Windsor-built rides alongside each other for the foreseeable future.

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