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Back to School: Traveling across Canada in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid logo 2021-09-17 Driving
a car parked in a parking lot: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid © Provided by 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid
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If you haven’t read the first three parts explaining how my adult daughter and I recently moved her to Toronto, Ont. from Victoria, B.C. with a 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid (though I actually picked it up in Vancouver), there’s still time to catch up on all the swashbuckling adventures and knee-slapping laughs. Part one took us from B.C. to Alberta; part two was a journey through the Prairies; and part three was a recap of Ontario, which is very big. And finally, here we are at part four, the final chapter.


If you’re interested in learning how this hybrid minivan — with an as tested price of $62,090 — performed as a moving van, look no further. We’ll talk mostly about access, ease of parking, performance, and fuel efficiency.

This final chapter was originally going to be about the adjustment to being back in Toronto. But there’s little to report except that re-settling my aging spread into the couch for the latest season of Love Island was easy and probably not appealing for readers. Let’s talk about the van instead.

Pacificas are designed for families with lots of stuff. Some seat up to eight in three rows but the Pinnacle trim features two captain’s seats in the middle row, so it seats seven.

However, if you only have one passenger and she’s nearly 25, maybe you don’t need those back rows. Aptly named Stow ‘n’ Go seats, they stash safely in the floor, their caching action a marvelous flourish that requires minimal adult input or knowledge. The second row in most Pacificas does the same but this hybrid caches its electric battery where other Pacificas stow that middle Stow ‘n’ Go row, which made packing all my daughter’s things a bit of a challenge. However, over the years she’s learned to travel fairly lightly (not that there still wasn’t plenty of stuff to move). Not only did everything fit, it fit snugly enough not to block the rear-view mirror, a priority on jaunts longer than a few blocks, never mind 5,000 km.

On the day I arrived in Victoria with the Pacifica, we detached those second-row seats from the floor to store them in her building’s bicycle lock-up, then carried, loaded, and drove heaps of oversized furniture from her apartment to new homes at friends’ or Value Village. Between the oversized cadenza, a backbreakingly solid desk, table with chairs, sunken futon-sofa, upright lamps, bookshelves, more bookshelves, and a double bed with a stack of mattresses inspired by The Princess and the Pea , we made multiple trips across Victoria.

It was miraculous but everything fit, often down to the centimetre — part of the magic and mystique of the Pacifica.

The designers at Chrysler know that, being a modern parent carrying your most precious cargo hither and there in those huge protective car seats, your back aches! So, they make access easy.

The handsfree power panel-doors slide open on either flank with the touch of a button — actually with one touch of your choice of several buttons in different convenient spots. (The designers also know you’re busy.) Same goes for opening the power liftgate. Indeed, buttons for all three loading spots abound: the posts nearest to where the doors open; on all of your three fobs; and in the cockpit (okay, let’s be accurate, the driver’s area).

None of these handsfree technologies are new, so Chrysler’s had years to improve them. Today, they’re robust yet sensitive, reversing automatically if they detect any obstructions from little fingers to detached bicycle wheels.

Meanwhile, a wide aisle allows easy waddling between the second row’s captain’s seats. Of course, back where we left off, that second row of captain’s seats had been removed completely. Now, we had to reinstall them, collapse their backs forward into a compact squat, and pack what’s coming back to Toronto.

The most awkward object is a bicycle and we don’t want it to scratch any surfaces, but there’s still plenty of other possessions, folded flat if possible, or packed tightly into boxes. Altogether there must be 500 pounds of clothes, books, electronics, more books, as well as cooking, camping, and exercise gear. But somehow we manage to accommodate it all with room to spare.

a bag of luggage sitting on top of a car:  It got easier after a couple of days’ rearranging © Steven Bochenek It got easier after a couple of days’ rearranging

We even find storage space for a couple of plants with the armrest lifted between the front seats. They block the illuminated cupholders but add a homey touch that a police officer will find adorable the next week, when I’m pulled over for speeding (see part three ).

One of the plants is an aloe. In a mountainous B.C. passing lane when I’m forced to make a sudden stop by a pickup driver who obviously hated being overtaken by a minivan, the lid swatted shut, breaking off a shoot. The plant’s sacrifice didn’t go to waste; goop squeezed from the detachment treated our facial sunburns, results of the previous two days’ packing in the relentless Victorian sunshine.

Speaking of packing again/still: The Pacifica’s FamCam Interior Camera allows you to view your rear-seat passengers on the Unconnect infotainment system. If you have children riding the back, this overhead spying device creates fishbowl-angle exaggeration, rendering them even more angelic. But if you have a Millennial’s life contents stuffed in boxes, bags, and bubble wrap? The FamCam makes your cab look like a closeup of the city dump.

a person in a car posing for the camera:  Fam Cam makes kids cute. Student stuff, less so. © Steven Bochenek Fam Cam makes kids cute. Student stuff, less so.

Nonetheless, we were compact, organized, and safely stowed. Plus, with the multiple opening doors, we had easy access to all that was packed; important, given that we’d be traveling like a caravan. We camped on some nights, visited with friends on others, and booked dry indoor accommodation for the other two.

A storage area in the wall near the driver’s-side rear post contains a mobile charging contraption for the electric part of the hybrid powertrain. If you don’t have a home charging station, this device juices the battery from kaput to full in around 14 hours. The Pacifica hybrid lasts around 50 km on electric charge, maybe a bit more depending on how you drive and how much juice you demand in the cab. Are you using A/C or heating, playing DVDs or games from the Uconnect Theatre Group? (Do spend some playtime in the back if you can.)

The point? If you don’t have a long commute and plan well, you could live the rest of your driving life without ever burning gasoline.

If you don’t plan well and your commute tallies upwards of 5,000 km from sea to Great Lake, you’ll be pleased to know the gasoline engine powers you for over 800 km. There were times on the prairies and in northern Ontario when we were down to around half a tank — that’s still in the 400 km neighbourhood — and I felt the urge to fill up anyway. On stretches of the Trans-Canada highway and its tributaries, signs abound, warning that there’s nothing but gophers or bears for the next 300 km.

Here, the point is twofold: 1) depending on where you live, range anxiety isn’t limited strictly to electrified vehicles and 2) the Pacifica stores a huge source of calories. Its hefty 3.6-litre six-cylinder engine is efficient. We often rendered as little as 7.2 L/100 km and I’m no delicate driver.

Moreover, despite all the wonderful baubles (we loved the gamer’s-paradise in the back, satellite radio, and state-of-the-art nav on the oversized touchscreen within reach of the heated/cooled seats up front, plus the panoramic sunroof overhead of all), the Pacifica knows its place as a humble minivan.

That is, it’s a cheap date, whose burly engine doesn’t insist on drinking only from the top shelf. As the promotional materials say, it’s imported from Detroit. Or in my case, from Vancouver.


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