After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned…
After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned Toyota Camry in the process, the Accord has now been named 2018 Canadian Car of the Year.
Likewise, after besting the entirely new Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona minivans the all-new 2018 Chrysler Pacifica has earned Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.
“We’re thrilled to declare the Honda Accord to be the Canadian Car of the Year for 2018, and the Chrysler Pacifica to be the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year,” said AJAC President Mark Richardson. “They’ve both been decided through the most vigorous system of testing possible by AJAC’s automotive professionals. They’re both deserving of being considered the very best vehicles you can buy in 2018.”
The latter award might be the more important of the two, being that trucks, SUVs and vans now make up the majority of new vehicle sales in Canada. Of note, the Canadian-made Pacifica not only beat out its “Best Minivan” category competitors to earn the coveted award, but also scored higher than other category winners.
These include the Mazda CX-5, which beat the new Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue for “Best Small Utility Vehicle,” as well as the Mazda CX-9 that overcame the challenge of Chevrolet’s Traverse and Toyota’s Highlander for “Best Large Utility Vehicle,” plus the Range Rover Velar that earned “Best Small Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60, the Acura MDX that earned “Best Large Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, and finally the Ram 1500 that won “Best Pickup Truck” over the new Honda Ridgeline and refreshed Toyota Tacoma.
“There’s an extra air of significance when one of our homegrown products wins a domestic award,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO, FCA Canada. “Chrysler Pacifica’s recognition as 2018’s Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year reinforces its position as the most awarded minivan of the last two years, and provides important third-party validation for the exclusive suite of versatility, style, safety and technology that it brings to Canadians.”
The redesigned Accord also had its share of challengers, including the Volkswagen e-Golf that achieved “Best City Car” over the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Nissan Micra, Mazda3 that earned “Best Small Car” over the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/Electric Plus, Jaguar XE that took “Best Small Premium Car” honours over the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Infiniti Q60, Volvo S90/V90 that overcame the Genesis G80 and Lexus LC to win the “Best Large Premium Car” title, Volkswagen Golf R that won “Best Sports/Performance Car” over the Honda Civic Si and Honda Civic Type R, Jaguar F-Type that achieved “Best Premium Sports/Performance Car” over the Porsche 718 and Porsche 911, and finally the Mercedes-Benz SL that won “Best Convertible” over the Mazda MX-5 and Porsche 718 Boxster.
“We’re honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from a group of respected automotive journalists in Canada,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. “We’re both proud and thankful for all of our associates who supported the production and development of this vehicle and for our passionate customers who have supported the Accord for the past forty years.”
To qualify for entry a vehicle must be entirely new or significantly updated, and the winners were not only up against the challengers noted, but other offerings that didn’t make the “finalists” cut in December.
It’s only fitting that Canada’s favourite family shuttle was the official conveyance in our capital city for our 150th confederation celebrations. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s ultra-popular Dodge…
It’s only fitting that Canada’s favourite family shuttle was the official conveyance in our capital city for our 150th confederation celebrations.
Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s ultra-popular Dodge Grand Caravan, dearly departing Chrysler Town & Country, and advanced new Chrysler Pacifica minivans combine for unsurpassed annual seven- to eight-passenger vehicle sales, having found almost twice as many Canadian buyers as all other minivans combined in calendar year 2016. In fact, if commercial vehicle sales were taken out of the overall equation, FCA’s minivans would have accounted for more business than almost any other vehicle line in Canada last year.
Canada’s most popular Ford F-150 and runner-up Honda Civic might have been appropriate official Canada Day 2017 vehicles for our July 1st weekend celebrations too, but for the purpose of conveying visitors around Ottawa, the fleet of 26 seven-seat Velvet Red Pearl-painted and “Canada 150” maple leaf decaled Chrysler Pacificas were much more useful.
It didn’t hurt matters that these vans were produced in FCA’s Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario; the result of 6,000 hourly workers on three full shifts.
The Windsor facility builds both the conventionally powered Pacifica as well as the Pacifica Hybrid, the former featuring the brand’s class-exclusive second-row “Stow ‘n Go” seating that fold completely into the floor when more cargo space is required, while the latter includes a plug-in hybrid electric powertrain capable of 53 kilometres of pure EV range, up to 911 kilometres of total range, and a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed fuel economy rating of 2.6 Le/100km in the city.
During the Canada Day weekend, Ottawa hosted a three-day festival in three venues including Parliament Hill, the Canadian Museum of History, and Major’s Hill Park.
“I can’t think of a more fitting vehicle than the Windsor, Ontario-built Chrysler Pacifica as the official vehicle of Canada Day 2017,” commented Bill Levasseur, VP, Sales and Marketing, FCA Canada. “Our Chrysler and Dodge minivans have been an integral part of millions of Canadian families’ lives over the years and we are honoured to have Chrysler Pacifica showcased in celebration of our nation’s milestone 150th birthday.”
Along with the fleet of vans shuttling event-goers from attraction to attraction, those in attendance were able to view 30-second video spots as part of the Major’s Hill event, plus FCA branding broadcasted on big screen displays at other event locations.
I remember when this third-generation 2011 Sienna was brand new, and in sporty SE trim it was the coolest minivan to ever hit the road. I was on the press launch and specifically chose to focus on the…
I remember when this third-generation 2011 Sienna was brand new, and in sporty SE trim it was the coolest minivan to ever hit the road.
I was on the press launch and specifically chose to focus on the SE after driving the majority of trims during the national launch program in early 2010, and soon after I tested a four-cylinder LE model at home (that engine since discontinued in the Sienna), another four-cylinder the following year in 2012 trim while visiting my daughter at her university in Sackville, New Brunswick (a comfortable and economical trip from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Moncton, where I stayed), and after that a well-equipped 2012 XLE model at home, a 2013 LE V6 likewise, a 2014 XLE Limited, the mid-cycle updated 2015 in LE AWD guise, and finally an XLE AWD version of the same vintage, so it feels good to get back in the Sienna saddle once again, this time in an XLE AWD with the Limited package (we’ll just call it the Limited AWD).
You may have noticed something about that list, of all the trims tested and reviewed I’ve only ever covered the top-line Limited model once before. Strange as that may be, it’s good to enjoy this van with all of its many splendoured features, especially now that it’s no longer the newest minivan parked on Canada’s suburban cul-de-sac.
Seven years is a long time for any vehicle to remain fundamentally unchanged, even one that was as good as the Sienna when introduced. Certainly its extensive 2015 update helped breathe new life into the old gal, but compared to the new Chrysler Pacifica, introduced for 2017 to replace the aging Town and Country, the almost as impressive Kia Sedona that was updated for 2015, and the now available all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey, the Sienna is starting to show its age. Ok, it’s not aging as noticeably as the Dodge Grand Caravan (the launch of which I attended in the fall of 2007), but that model sells so cheaply and is so conveniently equipped with second-row seats that fold completely into the floor that it hardly matters how old it is.
Before delving into this top-line Limited AWD model, the 2017 Sienna comes standard with a 3.5-litre V6, and can be had in either front-wheel or optional all-wheel drivetrains. In fact the Sienna is the only minivan offered with AWD, making it a favourite for cold Canadian winters.
The engine, which made a healthy 266 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque last year, gets bumped to 296 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque for 2017 thanks to a new D4-S direct-injection and port injection combination, not to mention a new lean-burn Atkinson cycle design that aids fuel efficiency. What’s more, Toyota added two gears to the standard automatic for a total of eight, which improves both performance and fuel economy.
The numbers you’re likely looking for are 12.5 L/100km city and 8.9 highway for the FWD model, or 13.4 L/100km city and 9.6 highway for the as-tested AWD version, making it the minivan segment’s most efficient non-hybrid competitor (the plug-in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid gets a difficult to compare rating of 2.6 Le/100km combined city/highway), and I should also add it’s most powerful.
Where the modifications under the hood modernize the powertrain, the changes for 2015 gave the Sienna a more upscale cabin with much better materials quality, especially in top-tier trims, with an additional focus on enhancing its infotainment systems to surpass the best in the class for the time. Now, three years later, its newer rivals are starting to outclass the Sienna in most every respect, powertrain aside.
Still, at just $33,690 plus freight and fees in base no-name trim, the Sienna sits directly in the middle of the minivan pricing hierarchy (the Sedona and Grand Caravan still sell for less), which, along with its great reputation for reliability and high resale value (along with Toyota’s overall reputation), gives it a major selling advantage.
Even that base model comes stocked with a higher level of standard features than most rivals, including heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tri-zone auto climate control, high-resolution colour touchscreen infotainment, a backup camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, multiple USB ports, Siri Eyes-Free, second-row captain’s chairs, and no shortage of active and passive safety equipment.
The base model can manage seven occupants, although you can optimize the second-rung LE or the sportier SE with a second-row bench seat if you need room for eight, while that LE model gets 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger infotainment display, satellite radio, eight-way powered heatable front seats, power sliding side doors, and more.
Toyota will have to loan me an SE in order to get me to spend too much time going over its details (that’s a snub their way in hopes of snagging an SE tester, because it’s been way too long since they’ve put one on the fleet and it’s still amongst my favourite minivans), but suffice to say it features sporty 19-inch alloys, a specially tuned sport suspension (that’s a bit firmer), recalibrated (read sharper) steering, a really attractive aero body kit, a unique primary gauge package, and plenty more.
Of note, like the base model the $40,505 SE can only be had with FWD, AWD reserved for the LE and XLE alone. This is where it gets confusing, as Toyota refers to the Limited FWD model without any mention of XLE trim, but the top-line model I’m driving is actually an XLE with a Limited package, with Limited not officially included in the name. It seems to be a lot of nothing, but needs mentioning if you plan to build it on Toyota’s website.
The EXL AWD without the Limited package, priced at $44,400, includes sound a unique silver painted grille, LED daytime running lamps, fog lamps, chrome door handles, deadening acoustic glass for the windshield, powered flip-out rear side windows, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 4.2-inch colour multi-information display, chrome interior door handles, woodgrain inlays on the dash, doors and centre console, voice activation, SMS- and email-to-speech, navigation with detailed mapping, leather upholstery, a powered moonroof, a powered rear liftgate, rear parking sensors, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and an anti-theft system.
The $7,315 Limited package, which pushes the Sienna’s price up to $51,715 before freight and fees, adds HID headlamps with auto high beams, heatable, power-folding, auto-dimming side mirrors with integrated turn signals, puddle lamps, and reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, driver’s seat memory, a larger 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, a wide-angle backup camera, a 10-speaker JBL Synthesis audio system, a large 16.4-inch widescreen Blu-Ray rear entertainment system, household-style 120-volt power outlets, upgraded premium leather upholstery, and a dual powered panoramic moonroof.
While this sounds like a ton of gear, the Sienna is missing some high-tech safety equipment like autonomous front braking, dynamic cruise control, lane keep assist, etcetera that would allow for a better IIHS rating. As it is only the Pacifica achieves Top Safety Pick Plus status, whereas the Sedona gets a Top Safety Pick rating.
It sounds like I’m knocking what is an excellent van made even better for 2017, but that’s far from how I felt while at the wheel. To get my full review including a critique on the new engine and transmission, the user-friendliness of other upgrades, just how well the suspension compares to newer designs, how convenient the Sienna is to live with next to other minivans, and much more, check out these pages regularly…
In the mainstream volume auto sector only Daimler’s Smart brand has fewer models than FCA’s Chrysler. Chrysler has three. And next year it’ll be down to two. Just how FCA allowed this to happen…
In the mainstream volume auto sector only Daimler’s Smart brand has fewer models than FCA’s Chrysler. Chrysler has three. 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 luxury sedan is the perennial Canadian bestseller in both the mainstream full-size luxury sedan class and the mid-size luxury class. They’re obviously doing something right. The Pacifica currently in our garage hasn’t been so fortunate thus far, and this new plug-in Pacifica Hybrid even less so, but to Chrysler’s credit sales have been rising after a new entry-level model was recently introduced and prices concurrently came down.
Even more importantly it’s the best minivan in its segment, at least in this auto journo’s opinion. I’ll tell you exactly why in an upcoming review, plus give you a few reasons why I believe it’s not selling as well as it could. In the meantime, here are a few details about the model we’ve been living with this week:
Our $56,495 Pacifica Hybrid Platinum includes most everything offered in base $52,495 Hybrid Premium trim, such as a 7.0-inch full-colour configurable in-cluster multi-info display, tri-zone auto climate control, 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment, a 360-degree parking camera, heatable front seats, satellite radio, dynamic cruise control with low speed follow plus stop and go functionality, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with active lane keep assist, and much more.
On top of these items the Platinum adds more chrome exterior trim, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, proximity-sensing hands-free dual power sliding doors and liftgate, pushbutton ignition, a more upscale interior with contrast stitching in key areas, a two-tone heated leather and genuine metal trimmed steering wheel, navigation with mapping, perforated Nappa leather upholstery with ventilation up front, rear entertainment with dual flip-up 10-inch touchscreens, and the list goes on.
Both Pacifica Hybrid trims get a 32A socket on the left front fender for recharging its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, which allows about 50 kilometers of EV driving after which it automatically transforms into a regular gasoline-electric hybrid with the majority of its fuel savings in town as well as a reasonable advantage on the highway. It’s safe to say its estimated 2.6 Le/100km combined city/highway fuel economy (when factoring in EV driving) is best in class, 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 festival and will have their backseat feedback included in the review).
It takes about two hours to recharge the battery with a Level 2 240-volt 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 eight hours to top it up from empty.
A big charge indicator on top of the dash lets you know that all systems 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 this right.
That’s about all I’m going to say about living with the Pacifica Hybrid for now, leaving the most important details for a full review scheduled later this month (including the positives and negatives of Chrysler’s innovative electrically variable transmission that utilizes twin electric motors for turning the drive wheels).
I’ll let you know now that choosing the Hybrid over the conventionally powered Pacifica brings significant drawbacks, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. I’ll point out each of these later, along with the various features missing from this pricier Hybrid Platinum that were included in my previous gasoline-only powered Pacifica Limited, some of which made the conventionally powered van look and feel a lot more premium.
In the meantime let’s give Chrysler a big cheer for diving right into the deep end by not only introducing the world’s first hybrid minivan, but also making it a plug-in right off the bat. That takes a lot of courage, especially for such a niche brand. Come back soon for more…