Functionally speaking, Chrysler’s new-for-2017 Pacifica minivan isn’t substantially different from its predecessor van, the 2016 Town & Country. Both are powered by V-6 engines and automatic transmissions, can seat up to eight people, and can be converted with ease to hard-working box vans. But the Town & Country and its stablemate, the Dodge Grand Caravan, really weren’t competitive with the best minivans on the market, notwithstanding the fact Chrysler Corp. essentially invented the minivan in 1984.
Is the Pacifica competitive with the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna, the class leaders? It sure is. Fiat Chrysler may have borrowed the name from a modestly successful, stylish crossover wagon that was discontinued after the 2008 model year, but the new version of the Pacifica leapfrogged over the inadequacies of the Town & Country.
The Pacifica retains the best features of the Town & Country, such as the stow-’n-go second-row seats and the deep well behind the third-row seat. (The second-row bench seat in our test car, a 2017 Pacific Touring L Plus model, had to be removed from the car to create space for a full-length cargo box. But it added seating for one additional person, compared with models with stow-‘n-go seats.)
The last few Fiat Chrysler minivans we drove had an annoying tendency to downshift and upshift incessantly on the highway. The new model’s 9-speed automatic, operated by a dial on the dashboard, is less inclined to hunt for the right gear, and when it must, it does so unobtrusively. The 287-horsepower V-6 engine is powerful and fuel-efficient, giving us 28 mpg and then some on a 600-mile round trip from western Connecticut to upstate New York.
Our loaded Pacifica had a base price of $37,895, climbing to $43,765 with optional equipment. The base Pacifica LX starts at $28,995. Fiat Chrysler is the only automaker that offers a plug-in-hybrid minivan.
The test car had a few quirks. The inboard front armrest were not adjustable, and were too low for our taller drivers. More alarmingly, our Pacifica’s steering hub had two cruise controls, one on top of the other – a conventional cruise control and an optional adaptive control, which slows the car automatically when sensors detect a slower vehicle in front. This could be quite dangerous if the driver thinks the cruise control is in adaptive mode – and it’s not. The adaptive system is part of a $1,995 Advanced SafetyTec Group option.
In Touring Plus L trim, the Pacifica comes with blind-spot and cross-path detection, and ParkSense rear park assist with stop, as standard equipment. The car also can be quite entertaining, literally, thanks to the Uconnect theater package with seatback video screens and a Blu-Ray/DVD player. Fiat Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect system provides a long list of infotainment services.
The Pacifica has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 287 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: front-wheel suspension: MacPherson strut front, fully independent rear
Curb weight: 4,330 lb
Wheels: 18×8.5-in. aluminum painted satin silver
Tires: P235/60R18 all-season