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2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 3/28/2017 DAVE VANDERWERP

2017 Chrysler Pacifica 2017 Chrysler Pacifica - Long-Term Test Intro After an effort that drifted perilously close to indifference with its previous, fifth-generation minivans, Chrysler revived the Pacifica nameplate and attached it to a sixth-gen model that drips with the confidence of a company that created the segment. This van’s new-from-the-ground-up platform is substantially lighter—aluminum sliding doors and a magnesium-and-aluminum liftgate help it shed a couple hundred pounds—far more aerodynamic, feature rich, and gracefully good-looking. To be the lightest in its class is particularly impressive considering the Pacifica also aces NHTSA and IIHS crash tests, although its smallish door pockets—the Toyota Sienna’s are twice as large—are likely due to side-impact optimization. And the platform’s additional stiffness and first ever independent rear suspension have worked wonders for its dynamic performance. Duly impressed, we named it the Best Van in our 2017 10Best Trucks and SUVs competition and then promptly ordered one for a 40,000-mile long-haul test.

Aside from the Pacifica hybrid, which is the first plug-in-hybrid minivan for the U.S. market—how’s that for coming back swinging?—there are no powertrain choices. All Pacificas are front-wheel drive and powered by the latest 287-hp Pentastar V-6, which is replete with efficiency tweaks such as two-step variable intake-valve lift, cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, and a compression ratio increased to 11.3:1, although the engine hasn’t yet made the switch to direct fuel injection. Starting in January 2017, all Pacificas now have stop-start capability, boosting their EPA ratings by a single city mpg to a best-in-class 19/28 city/highway. Our car was built just before the switchover point and keeps its engine simmering while stopped; it thus is rated at 18/28 mpg.

With no indication of gear state and no way to manually select gears other than a generic L position on the rotary shift knob—which provides early downshifts and engine braking—Pacifica drivers may not know that it’s a nine-speed automatic doing the shifting. Although when starting off on a cold morning, upshifts are notably long and lazy, overall the nine-speed in this long-term Pacifica shifts much more smoothly than in earlier Pacifica test vehicles—or our long-term Honda Pilot, which shares this transmission—so clearly there was some fruitful last-minute fiddling.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica© DAVE VANDERWERP 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

How We Did Spec It

In our dance with the configurator and the Pacifica’s five available trim levels (four of which carry over from the outgoing Town & Country), we leapt past the base $30,090 LX, the $32,090 Touring (adds passive entry and power sliding doors), and the $36,090 Touring-L (leather seating, power liftgate, heated front seats, three-zone automatic climate control) to the $39,390 Touring-L Plus, as it’s the least expensive way to get the new Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment. (Oddly, this is a $1995 option on the more expensive Limited model.) Although lesser trims offer an optional single-screen rear-seat entertainment system, Uconnect Theater features two 10-inch touchscreens that flip up from the back of the front seats. In addition to the usual DVD capability, there’s an HDMI port for each screen and kid-friendly built-in apps and games such as bingo, checkers, the license-plate game, and tic-tac-toe, which can be played against your traveling companion, as well as an “Are We There Yet?” app that keeps rear-seat riders informed of progress toward an entered navigation destination. The Touring-L Plus model also includes the larger, 8.4-inch Uconnect screen up front—a system we generally find easy to use and one of the quickest-responding touchscreens we’ve tested—a larger display screen in the instrument cluster, a power seat for the front passenger, and a heated steering wheel and second-row seats.

We quickly spent all of the $4600 saved by stopping short of the top Limited trim (which includes a panoramic sunroof, hands-free sliding doors and liftgate, a built-in vacuum, and ventilated front seats) in options. The most expensive line item was the $1995 Advanced SafetyTec group, a bundle of driver-assist features that includes adaptive cruise control that operates all the way down to a stop (we also appreciate that it’s easy to switch between regular and adaptive cruise), a 360-degree video feed to ease maneuvering, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking, automatic activation for wipers and high-beams, and an automated parking feature. We also opted for the $995 Class II trailer hitch to enable maximum cargo and recreational flexibility, $895 for 18-inch wheels and tires, and $695 to add navigation to the Uconnect system. Perhaps most important, we also added $295 for an inflatable mini spare, something that we strongly believe should be standard, particularly on a vehicle that doesn’t wear run-flat tires. We suspect that Pacifica owners who are introduced to this tire strategy while stranded on the side of the road will wholeheartedly concur. Another spare-tire snag is that the available built-in vacuum (Limited only) resides in the same space and therefore can’t co-exist with the spare.

From among the nine exterior colors, we selected the deep red paint—Chrysler calls it Velvet Red Pearl—and went with the light-taupe seats, which, along with black and various copper accents, create a bright and striking multi-tone interior. Wisely, Chrysler pairs the light interior with black carpeting, which should show less grime, although the plastic doorsill trim matches the seats and may be tough to keep clean.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica© Michael Simari 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Numbers Game

We’ve now tested Pacificas on each of its three wheel sizes—17s, 18s, and 20s—and these 18-inch Michelin Premier A/S tires turned in a shockingly strong performance that dominates the other two, stopping in 164 feet from 70 mph (13 feet and 23 feet better than the 20-inch Falkens and the 17-inch Yokohamas, respectively) and hanging on for a very impressive 0.87 g while cornering (better by 0.04 and 0.09 g). Not that long ago, in the early 2000s, this was BMW M3­­–grade chassis performance. Seriously. And this van is on all-season tires, no less. And the stability control was intervening before we hit the actual grip limit. Among today’s fleet, the Pacifica will no longer be nipping at the heels of an M3 on an autocross, but it’s in the upper echelons among three-row vehicles, outperforming everything but a few fringe outliers, such as the Mercedes-AMG GLS63 (0.91 g). Acceleration times, including a 7.3-second zero-to-60-mph scoot, are in line with our previous Pacifica tests and are at the quick end of the minivan segment.

Chrysler remains alone in providing second-row seats that tuck away into the floor (called Stow ’n Go), although this means the seats themselves are flatter and thinner than the best non-stowable alternatives. (If rear comfort for adults is a priority, you’ll want to take a long look at a Honda Odyssey, which also has more third-row legroom.) Even when the seats aren’t folded, however, the underfloor bins provide useful additional storage; one of them easily swallowed a case of bottled water and a sleeping bag to support a weekend of camping, for example. Accessing them does require sliding the front seats very far forward, but that task is made easier by the Pacifica’s new Stow ’n Go Assist feature, which consists of buttons at the base of the B-pillars that power the seats out of the way; a second push returns a front seat to its previous location. Those regularly lugging small children appreciate that the second-row buckets for the first time kneel forward to allow third-row access in a manner that doesn’t alter the angle between backrest and cushion, thus allowing a child seat to remain mounted in place during the process.

Early Impressions

We’re definitely appreciating the Pacifica’s quiet-at-speed demeanor—our interior-noise measurement of 68 decibels at 70 mph puts it at the quiet end of the three-row pack—thanks in part to standard active noise cancellation. And at those highway cruising speeds, we’re seeing impressive fuel economy that is pushing 30 mpg. (Our 21-mpg running average to date will no doubt improve as we take more road trips.) Although we’re perfectly fine with the light snarl in the V-6’s voice when it is pressed, occasionally an unwanted warble shines through at low rpm when driven gently.

We wish the Pacifica’s third-generation Uconnect infotainment had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, features that were added to the 2017 Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger and Challenger as part of a fourth-gen Uconnect upgrade that will no doubt migrate to the Pacifica in the very near future. Although the rear-seat entertainment has proved very adept at distracting young riders, we’ve noted annoyance with the four-step process involved to play the audio from a DVD over the vehicle’s speakers, as well as the need for a USB device to be plugged into the front port in order to play on the rear screens.

Our lone minuscule problem thus far happened when we removed the rear access panel to take a peek at the spare tire and one of the plastic locking tabs snapped off. Oil-change intervals are dictated by the onboard computer, and it’s looking as if our first one will be requested a bit before 10,000 miles. The first scheduled-maintenance visit happens at 20,000. Until then, we’ll be behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel, heaping on the miles in pursuit of all things practical.

Welcome, Pacifica. And welcome back, Chrysler.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 5250 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 21 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 19.0 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

Specifications >VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door van

PRICE AS TESTED: $43,765 (base price: $29,590)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection

Displacement: 220 cu in, 3605 cc

Power: 287 hp @ 6400 rpm

Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 9-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS:

Wheelbase: 121.6 in

Length: 203.8 in

Width: 79.6 in Height: 69.9 in

Passenger volume: 165 cu ft

Cargo volume: 32 cu ft

Curb weight: 4515 lb

PERFORMANCE: NEW

Zero to 60 mph: 7.3 sec

Zero to 100 mph: 20.4 sec

Zero to 110 mph: 25.9 sec

Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.7 sec

Top gear, 30–50 mph: 4.0 sec

Top gear, 50–70 mph: 6.0 sec

Standing ¼-mile: 15.6 sec @ 90 mph

Top speed (governor limited): 112 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 164 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.87 g

*stability-control-inhibited

FUEL ECONOMY:

EPA combined/city/highway driving: 22/18/28

C/D observed: 21 mpg

Unscheduled oil additions: 0 qt

WARRANTY:

3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;

5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;

3 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;

5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

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