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Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 9/12/2018 Eric Stafford
a car parked in front of a building: Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey© Chris Doane Automotive - Car and Driver Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey

Barely three months after wrapping up 40,000 virtually trouble-free miles with a Chrysler Pacifica, we signed up for another long-term test of the company's cutting-edge minivan. Except this time our staff is stuffing their baggage and loved ones into the plug-in-hybrid version. While the regular Pacifica was so highly regarded that we named it a 10Best winner two years running, its electrified counterpart didn't make the cut. We cited its coarse and unpredictable gasoline-electric powertrain for that omission. The van also trades Chrysler's trademark Stow 'n Go second-row seats that fold flat into underfloor bins for the obligatory high-voltage battery pack, although the hybrid's non-stowable seats are more comfortable. However, there are few plug-in hybrids on the market with the Pacifica's three-row seating and utility. In fact, the only similar alternative is the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid, which is less practical and much more expensive. Therefore we've added the first and only plug-in minivan in America to our long-term fleet to discover whether its exclusive format is worth the investment.

Research the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid on MSN Autos | Find a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid near you

For even deeper coverage of the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica, view our Buyer's Guide in-depth review.

The Pacifica's reverential rise started after Chrysler released the all-new minivan for 2017, replacing its soulless predecessor-the Town & Country. In addition to sleeker exterior styling and extensive contemporary features, it received a completely new platform with an independent rear suspension that improved ride and handling and optimized interior space and packaging. The company also dropped in the latest 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and driving the front wheels, the only setup available on nonhybrid models. The plug-in version was available for 2017, and it still represents the brand's lone pluggable offering (the only other example in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family is the tiny Fiat 500e). This hybrid also gets a 3.6-liter V-6, but it's modified with different pistons, camshafts, and valves. An increased compression ratio and Atkinson-cycle timing further improve fuel efficiency, although total output drops to 260 horsepower. The hybrid's most significant hardware is its eFlite automatic transmission, which features two electric motors. Whereas some two-motor-hybrid transaxles designate one motor to be the generator and the other to deliver torque to the wheels, FCA's design uses a one-way clutch that allows the generator unit to also assist in turning the front wheels, too. This setup saves space and-theoretically-increases efficiency and refinement. The Pacifica's plug-in powertrain includes a 16.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be fully charged in two hours using a 240-volt outlet or in 14 hours on 120 volts. A 6.6-kW onboard charger is standard. The regenerative-braking system helps recharge the battery during operation, but this hybrid's lack of variable regen settings renders single-pedal driving odd and disappointing. Technically, there's no all-electric mode, which makes keeping the van from burning gasoline a delicate game between foot and pedal, as pushing the gas pedal down too far causes the engine to start. Selecting the L position with the rotary shift knob adds a subtle dose of regen resistance when the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal but not nearly to the degree offered by most other electrified vehicles.

Is the Hybrid's Literal Juice Worth the Proverbial Squeeze?

a bag of luggage sitting on top of a car: Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey© Chris Doane Automotive - Car and Driver Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey

How efficient is the Pacifica hybrid? Well, the EPA rates the Pacifica at 84 MPGe combined, which exceeds the XC90 but falls short of many other plug-in options. Still, most prospective buyers will compare the Pacifica with other minivans. Here, the hybrid's fuel-economy advantage hinges on whether long road trips are common or sporadic. Our real-world testing revealed the hybrid Pacifica was a little thriftier on the highway, returning 33 mpg versus the nonhybrid's 31. However, the electrified version operates best in the city, where it can utilize regenerative braking and the low-end torque of the traction motor-and theoretically duplicate the EPA's estimate of 32 mpg (versus 19 mpg on nonhybrids). After nearly 7000 miles with the hybrid, we're getting 28 MPGe. While these were mostly highway miles, compare that with the 22 mpg we observed after our long-term test of the nonhybrid Pacifica. These differences will ultimately determine whether the standard or hybridized Pacifica is the better value. While you can have a gas-powered Pacifica for as little as $28,390, the cheapest hybrid version costs $41,390 (before the available $7500 tax credit), as the hybrid is only available on the upper trim levels.

Regardless of powertrain configuration, both versions of Chrysler's minivan are loaded with standard features and impressive options. Aside from the aforementioned Stow 'n Go omission, the Pacifica hybrid is essentially available with all the same equipment as the nonhybrid. For 2018, Chrysler renamed the hybrid trims to better align with the gasoline models. Thus, Premium becomes Touring L and Platinum becomes Limited; Touring Plus joins the lineup, too. All hybrids have proximity entry, three-zone automatic climate control, and the ultra-user-friendly 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Specific hybrid pages within Uconnect display monitor energy usage and adjust the charging schedule, among other things. This information and more also can be accessed remotely via smartphone using the Uconnect Access app. Unfortunately, only nonhybrid Pacificas are available with a built-in vacuum cleaner. Pity, because we've already been exposed to the minivan's propensity for crumb and hair collection. Still, every Pacifica has standard blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors with rear automated emergency braking.

Putting Together Our Ideal Hybrid Family Hauler

Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey: Putting the first electrified minivan, a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, under our microscope for 40,000 miles.© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc Putting the first electrified minivan, a Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, under our microscope for 40,000 miles.

To experience all the Pacifica hybrid has to offer, we chose the top-of-the-line Limited version because of its exclusive features. Before the available $7500 federal tax credit, it starts at $46,340, a $5000 premium over the lowest-spec Touring Plus. Every Limited has premium leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, and hands-free power side doors and liftgate. Other Limited exclusives include a standard 20-speaker Harman/Kardon stereo and Uconnect Theater system, with two 10-inch touchscreens that fold up from the back of the front seats. Along with wireless streaming for Android-only devices and/or a Blu-ray player, the dual screens boast built-in apps that will pacify little tots and even teens with a variety of games and such. From the options list, we selected the Advanced SafetyTec package because it has robust content available only on the Limited. For $995, it includes a 360-degree camera, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and more. We also opted for the $395 Hybrid Special Appearance package, which replaces all the chrome exterior trim with black accents and upgrades the standard 17-inch wheels to 18-inch rollers wrapped with Michelin Premier A/S rubber. We also selected Jazz Blue Pearl Coat paint to complement our favorite interior color, the tasteful Deep Mocha. All told, our long-term test vehicle totaled $47,730.

a car parked in a parking lot: Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey© Car and Driver Our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Begins Its Long-Haul Journey

Our initial track testing illustrates the performance differences between the Pacifica hybrid and nonhybrid as well as the toll that 40,000 miles can take. Our hybrid test vehicle tipped the scales at 5049 pounds, 534 more than our recently retired gas-only model. Both wore the same 18-inch wheels and Michelin tires, but the heavier hybrid needed 187 feet to stop from 70 mph, or 23 feet longer than the nonhybrid, and it also exhibited slight fade. Likewise, the Pacifica hybrid has less grip, posting 0.81 g on the skidpad versus 0.87 g-added mass never helps. Otherwise, the hybrid had equally impressive acceleration times that were similar to those of the nonhybrid. The electrified version went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. And it shamed the regular powertrain in our 50-to-70-mph test that replicates a back-road pass, executing the maneuver 1.5 ticks quicker at 4.5 seconds.

Explore the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid inside and out below. Click, drag and scroll to discover more.

Racking Up the Miles (and the Crumbs) Quickly

Considering we've racked up nearly 7000 miles after barely two months with the Pacifica hybrid, our long-term test may not take so long. While some regard any minivan as stodgy, the Pacifica is a hot commodity among our staff of family travelers and youthful vagrants. It's often booked for trips weeks in advance, and it's commonly swapped during weekdays for moving duties and the like. So far, most journeys have stayed within the Midwest, but technical editor Dave Beard accumulated roughly 1700 miles on a vacation to Cape Cod. He called it an excellent road-trip vehicle that kept its passengers content mile after mile while the minivan was stuffed to the headliner with two bicycles, miscellaneous luggage, and stray family members. Despite traveling at some fast speeds, Beard came away impressed with the van's indicated fuel economy in the high-20-mpg range. However, his clan had issues with the rear-seat entertainment system. The main menus sometimes didn't navigate, and there were problems getting DVDs to play. The unavailable vacuum cleaner was missed after a snack explosion left the black carpeting a mess. Still, Beard and online editor Andrew Wendler agreed that the Pacifica's adaptive cruise control is fluid and doesn't slam into a radar wall the way some systems do.

As deputy online editor Dave VanderWerp observed, "Overall, the Pacifica hybrid is a very interesting option in the plug-in landscape, offering minivan practicality with battery capacity for above-average EV range." But while we recognize the niche that Chrysler has carved out here, we're not yet convinced that its innovative powertrain supersedes the standard model's refinement and overall value. Fortunately, we still have thousands of miles in which to make that determination.

Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 6849 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 28 MPGe

Fuel Tank Size: 16.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 462 miles

Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

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