2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum Road Test

In the mainstream volume auto sector only Daimler’s Smart brand has fewer models than FCA’s Chrysler. Chrysler has three.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
The stylish Pacifica looks great in both conventional and Hybrid trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
And next year it’ll be down to two. Just how FCA allowed this to happen is anyone’s guess outside of Auburn Hills, but at least the two models that will carry the Pentastar flag into 2018 are very good at what they do.

Case in point, the 300 is the perennial Canadian bestseller in both the mainstream full-size luxury sedan class and the mid-size premium E-segment (it arguably fits into either depending how you load it up). It obviously targets its audience very well. The Pacifica minivan hasn’t been so fortunate thus far, and due to the slow take-rate of electrified vehicles this new plug-in variety even less so, but to Chrysler’s credit the conventionally-powered model’s sales have been growing since a new entry-level trim was introduced, and base pricing concurrently came down.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
The sleek Pacifica cheats the wind. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
is especially critical in the minivan segment that almost always sees a budget-oriented family signing on the dotted line, which is a key reason why Chrysler’s sister brand, Dodge (why do I want to call Dodge a “brother brand”?), sells so many Grand Caravans. The Grand Caravan is the most dated minivan in the industry and probably the least luxurious even when loaded up with features, but regular sales pricing that had the base model starting at just over $22k at the time of writing, makes it hard for families to pass up. Hence it’s a perennial bestseller in Canada, and after the first four months of 2017 once again leads U.S. minivan sales too.

To be clear, I’m talking a serious lead here. Since January 1st, Canadian FCA dealers have sold more than three-and-a-half times as many Grand Caravans as the next best selling Toyota Sienna, almost six-and-a-half times the Honda Odyssey,
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Quad halogen headlamps incorporate auto high beams in Platinum trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
and nearly eight times the Chrysler Pacifica. Let’s remember, the Pacifica was supposed to replace the Grand Caravan, which was to be discontinued by now. Unless Chrysler repositions its new Pacifica significantly down market, the Grand Caravan is likely here to stay for some time.

As noted, Pacifica sales are steadily growing, the newcomer quickly outpacing Kia’s Sedona and rapidly approaching Odyssey sales numbers. This makes sense as the Pacifica is now the industry’s best minivan, or at least that’s what this auto writer thinks. Word about its goodness still needs to get out amongst import buyers that currently place the Grand Caravan at the bottom of the heap due to its old design and discount pricing (but shouldn’t, as it’s still an excellent van) and therefore
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
These chunky 18-inch rims come as part of the top-line Platinum upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
some have lazily lumped the Pacifica into the same category without doing their homework, but believe me this new Chrysler leads the way in driving dynamics, quality, refinement, high-tech innovation, and features.

Our $56,495 Velvet Red Pearl painted Pacifica Hybrid Platinum tester included most everything offered in base $52,495 Hybrid Premium trim, such as auto on/off quad-halogen headlights, LED DRLs, fog lamps, LED taillights, a Stow ‘n Place roof rack, remote start, proximity access, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, overhead ambient surround lighting with LED courtesy lamps, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar, heatable front seats, a clear, colourful and feature-filled 7.0-inch configurable in-cluster multi-info display, tri-zone auto climate control, massive 8.4-inch touchscreen
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
This door leads to potential fossil fuel freedom. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
infotainment, Bluetooth phone with streaming audio, a USB charging port, satellite radio, dual-powered side sliding doors, a powered liftgate, third-row 60/40-split Stow ‘n Go seats, active noise cancellation, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a full assortment of airbags including two for front occupant knees, regenerative brakes, and more.

On top of these items Platinum trim adds more chrome exterior trim, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing hands-free for the side doors and liftgate, a more upscale interior with contrast stitching in key areas, a stunning two-tone heated leather and genuine metal trimmed steering wheel (seriously, this is one of the best steering wheels in the industry), rain-sensing wipers, navigation with mapping,
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
LED taillights are standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
a very useful 360-degree surround parking camera, Park-Sense front and rear parking sensors, parallel and perpendicular Park Assist semi-autonomous self-parking, 13-speaker 506-watt Alpine audio, three USB charging ports, a 115-volt household style power outlet, a 12-way front passenger’s seat, perforated Nappa leather upholstery with forced ventilation up front, and rear entertainment with dual flip-up 10-inch touchscreens.

Additionally, the Platinum includes a host of Advanced SafetyTec features such as auto high beam headlights, dynamic cruise control with low speed follow plus stop and go functionality, forward-collision warning with autonomous braking, advanced brake assist, lane departure warning with active lane keep assist (some of these features causing the removal of active grille shutters that come with the base
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Attractive two-tone interior is nicer than anything else in the minivan class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
model), the latter features earning it a best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating. This makes top-line Pacificas the safest minivans in the industry, with only the Kia Sedona making the Top Safety Pick list and not with a “Plus” rating.

For reasons unknown Chrysler didn’t totally load up my Pacifica Hybrid tester with its available tri-pane panoramic glass sunroof, and due to not having a working online configuration tool at the time of writing there’s no way to give you price. I checked south of the border and saw it available for $1,795 USD, so I’m guessing around $2k here.

Options in mind, the top-line Pacifica Hybrid Platinum is devoid of some additional key features that caused me to enjoy my previous Pacifica Limited model more, albeit these are not available in this electrified van at all. The list of missing items includes
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
A comfortable, high-quality cabin includes luxury finishings and superior tech. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
HID headlights, driver’s seat memory, auto-dimming interior and driver’s side mirrors, auto-tilt exterior mirrors, a universal garage door opener, heatable second-row seats, second-row Stow ‘n Go seats that fold away below the floor, power-folding third-row seats, and the Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum. The inclusion of these features in the Hybrid would’ve likely pushed its price well over $60k, which probably wouldn’t go over well with minivan buyers. Still, it’s a shame the fully loaded conventionally powered $51,495 Pacifica Limited is a more agreeable van than this $56,495 Pacifica Hybrid Platinum, at least until you need to fill both up with fuel.

Unlike the regular Pacifica, the Hybrid gets a 32A socket on the left front fender for recharging its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery that powers an innovative dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission (EVT), which allows just over 50 kilometers of EV driving before automatically transforming into a regular gasoline-electric hybrid by letting the specially designed low-friction,
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
This 7-inch configurable display is standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
high compression (12.5:1) Atkinson-cycle 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 do some of the motive driving chores, its combined electromechanical forces resulting in a healthy 287 horsepower. The majority of the Pacifica Hybrid’s fuel savings are found in town, while there’s a considerable advantage on the highway even when not in full EV mode (it has a top speed of about 120 km/h under all-electric power).

Its estimated 2.6 Le/100km combined city/highway fuel economy (when factoring in EV driving) is best in class by far, as is its total possible range of 911 km, which makes it the ideal choice for family road trips (we took a load of friends to a local tulip
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
A 360-degree surround camera system is included with the Platinum. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
festival and they loved the ultra-comfortable “first class airline” experience, great rear visibility, twin TVs (that come stocked with video/card/board games), etc.

It takes about two hours to recharge the battery with a 240-volt Level 2 charger, these available for your home from your FCA dealer or via aftermarket sources, or you can find them (for free most of the time) in front of shopping malls, government buildings, hotels, some retail stores like Walmart and Ikea, or curbside in most urban centres. Alternatively you can plug it into a regular 120-volt socket at home or work, at which point you’ll need about 14 hours to top it up from empty (it can’t manage Level 3 “superchargers”).

When doing so, a big charge indicator on top of the dash lets you know that all systems
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
This space-saving dial selects gears. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
are working by showing one to five blue lights, these large and bright enough to be seen from a distance. Once unplugged these disappear so as not to distract while driving. This is the best charge indicator I’ve used, so kudos to Chrysler for getting it right.

Other than the trip out to the Fraser Valley (about an hour and a quarter each way, including picking up and dropping off friends along the way), I spent about half of my time behind the wheel in EV mode (as life would have it, we were too busy to regularly recharge and can’t do so from home). Still, its first full charge lasted for a couple of days of errand hopping, and various quick top-ups minimized fuel usage the rest of the time.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
The Platinum’s heated and cooled Nappa leather seats are fabulously comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
over my notes, we drove the Pacifica Hybrid more than most vehicles we test yet only put $20 of $134.9/litre regular into the tank at the end of the week. Normally a van or mid-size crossover SUV will cost us between $40–$60 per week, so I must admit to being a bit surprised at how much better its real-world fuel economy was than the conventionally powered Pacifica, especially when factoring in how much highway driving we did (not normally a hybrid forte). The regular Pacifica was already the fuel economy class leader at 10.4 L/100km combined city/highway before this late-arrival Pacifica Hybrid arrived (compared to 11.8 respectively for last year’s Town and Country van), but we managed a superb 6.3 L/100km during the Hybrid’s weeklong test, which is unheard of in this class (even Chrysler’s conservative 7.3 city and 7.2 highway estimate is ridiculously good). As previously noted, the Pacifica Hybrid is rated at 2.6 Le/100km combined if more diligent with recharging, and with 53 km of potential EV range on tap it would be quite possible for commuters with the ability to charge at home to spend next to nothing on fuel.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Second-row captain’s chairs are comfortable, but they don’t fold into the floor due to the Hybrid’s battery. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
that this will help your efficiency, but the Pacifica Hybrid’s straight-line performance improves over the conventionally powered van as well, although I only tested this out on occasion so I could report my results to you. It actually feels pretty quick off the line for a seven-passenger van, and it’s nice and agile through the corners too. The Hybrid’s greater weight can be felt, its large battery making itself known at takeoff, but all of the added mass sits below the passenger floor (residing where the second-row Stow ‘n Go seats won’t go anymore), so handling isn’t affected very much at all.

Of note, both Pacifica models ride on FCA’s new Compact U.S. Wide platform architecture that’s comprised of a rigid framework formed from 84-percent high-strength steel and four-percent aluminum, plus front MacPherson struts and an
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Dual flip-up screens with stock content make for one of the best rear seat entertainment systems yet. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
independent multilink rear suspension, the latter featuring an isolated cradle designed to add strength, stiffness and improve driving dynamics. This platform also serves a number of Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles, both Italian brands renowned for high-speed handling, which explains much of why the Pacifica handles so well.

I’ve mentioned the lack of second-row Stow ‘n Go seats a couple of times already, and while I initially thought this would be a deal-breaker for me if I were to buy a Chrysler van again (I’ve owned a Caravan and also helped my mom purchase her Pacifica), I’m no longer completely convinced. The thing is, I tend to use the large vehicles in my life for hauling stuff around, which is why I’m a big proponent of FCA’s Stow ‘n Go seating system (I wouldn’t consider a minivan without it), so when faced with the prospect of bringing a full-size Ikea Kivik sofa home, which measures
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Even the rearmost seats are roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
228 cm (89 3/4 inches) wide, 95 cm (37 3/8 inches) deep, 83 cm (32 5/8 inches) high (albeit both side arms are removable), I was concerned I’d have to pull out both second-row seats to make space.

I started by removing one seat, which was an easy process that came as second nature after living with the aforementioned Caravan for three years, although when carrying it to the garage I found it heavier than I remembered, probably due to my previous experience being 20 years ago when my then-new 1996 Caravan was utilized by a much younger, fitter driver (I’ve really got to get back to the gym). I was midway to the garage when an idea came to mind: what would happen if I were to flip over the seat I was carrying and put it on top of the seat that was still attached to the van’s floor? I turned around and did just that (after pulling
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Third-row sunscreens are a nice touch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the front seat forward), the process allowing a lot more cargo space without having to do all that carrying, and more importantly it lets you expand utility while on the fly. I suppose this would work with most rival minivans too, except those with fancy second-row ottoman-style leg extenders, but it’s especially notable with this Pacifica Hybrid because of the conventional van’s wonderfully useful Stow ‘n Go seats. Hence, I was able to bring the sofa home with both second-row seats still in the van, making van life without Stow ‘n Go possible. Maybe Chrysler should patent the idea and call it Stack ‘n Go?

Still, faced with the dilemma of choosing between this Pacifica Hybrid Platinum’s superb fuel economy and the greater versatility, many more high-end features, and lower initial cost of the Pacifica Limited, I’d probably opt for the conventionally powered minivan, just like most Canadian consumers. Then again it’s
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
If you don’t manually remove the second-row seats, this is the Hybrid’s maximum cargo capacity. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
hard to pass up free money, and my provincial government (BC) gives me a maximum $5,000 rebate for going green, while Ontarians have a potential $14,000 rebate available (which might make it foolish not to buy it), and Quebec puts $8k on the table.

So my advice to you is as follows: first, if you’re planning to purchase a new seven-passenger crossover SUV, consider a minivan instead as they’re way more useful unless you must have AWD; second, if you’ve decided to buy a minivan make sure to test the new Pacifica as it’s the best, as noted; third, make sure to spend time in the regular Pacifica as well as this new Pacifica Hybrid, as they’re both worthy of your attention yet still quite different from each other.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Chrysler should call this Stow ‘n Go remedy, "Stack ‘n Go". (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the end, FCA should be commended for being first to build a cleaner plug-in hybrid version of its most advanced minivan, but don’t expect others to follow. Toyota and Honda have been in the hybrid biz since the term was coined, and they’ve never done likewise despite being heavily invested in their respective Sienna and Odyssey minivans. Then again, neither Toyota nor Honda has ever sold a hybrid powertrain anywhere near as advanced as this Pacifica Hybrid PHEV, so the jury is out as to Chrysler’s ability to sell enough of them to get their investment back (is there a hybrid other than Prius that’s profitable?), or utilize the technology on other vehicles within the FCA arsenal in order to spread out the costs.

That’s a tall order, but in the meantime we’re all treated to a very innovative plug-in hybrid drivetrain powering a brilliantly executed minivan.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)