What would you say if I told you there’s a 5,000-lb. minivan that will get 84 miles per gallon, maybe 88.9 mpg?
I thought so. You’d laugh. You’d think this Savage dude has gone off his noodle, is a couple bricks shy of a full load, has an elevator that doesn’t go to the top floor.
Well hold on. I just got 88.9 mpg in Chrysler’s new Pacifica plug-in hybrid, the Limited model loaded with all the bells, whistles, warning systems, USB ports and more. It’s simply a marvel for families needing a minivan.
Pacifica replaces the former Chrysler Town & Country and takes both luxury and function to a higher level, while also being as smooth and attractive as a minivan seems capable. The hybrid system allows you to plug it into a normal electrical outlet and charge it to get about 30 miles range, then it switches over seamlessly to gas power. You won’t notice.
I charged this test unit every night I had it and the van got me to and from my office, a 24-mile roundtrip, on each charge. A couple times it was close to running out of juice because I charged it less than the 12-13 hours it needs for a full charge. I noticed its dash readout seems a little happy though, saying the van had 34-36 miles of range. I never got over about 28 miles.
For the record, the EPA rates Pacifica at 84 mpg using the gas and electric combo, and 32 mpg with just gas power. That later figure is aided by the regenerative brake charging system common in hybrids that powers up the batteries as the car coasts or brakes to a stop. Regular gas will do and gives the vehicle a range of at least 500 miles.
Like the gas-powered Pacifica, this one uses a strong 3.6-liter V6, but couples it with the hybrid system. It’s rated at 287 horsepower and has a 262 ft.-lb. torque rating.
Power is smooth and plentiful. Despite its weight (the hybrid minivan weighs roughly 600 lbs. more than the gas-powered unit) the Pacifica feels downright quick and powerful. Electric power is torque happy, meaning you get it as soon as you touch the accelerator, so this van will pull away from lights as fast as most sport sedans.
Plus its electronic automatic transmission delivers all the power with such smoothness it feels like you’re running on electric power nearly all the time. When in electric mode though you will notice a bit more road noise from the wheel wells, but that’s because it’s so darned quiet inside.
Ride is generally good, especially on the freeway, making this a primo cruiser for family trips. With just one or two people aboard though I noticed more choppiness to the ride on our crater-filled southeast Wisconsin roads. Pacifica comes with just 17-inch tires standard, but the test van bumped that to 18 inches riding on polished aluminum wheels for $895. I drove a gas-powered model more than a year ago and prefer its 20-inch tires as they seemed to smooth the ride more effectively.
Handling is good for a minivan, but the steering feel is heavy. I’d like that lightened a bit. But the van is easy to handle, keep in its lane and maneuver around turns and in parking lots.
This Jazz Blue (dark metallic blue) top-of-the-line Limited, like it’s gas-powered cousin, was loaded with everything a family of four to seven could want on a trip — video screens for the kids in back, a panoramic sunroof, a third row sunroof and electronic safety devices galore. Plus room, lots of room and power outlets.
Inside, the Pacifica featured an oatmeal and black leather interior with the dash top black and the lighter color beneath and on the doors that include black armrests. Seats were oatmeal colored and perforated leather while there was gloss black trim by the large center dash screen and stack with satin chrome trim on the main gauge hood and some control knobs.
Features here are as plentiful as exceptional students at a graduation ceremony. A few key ones include the power hatch and power sliding side doors that make loading and unloading a simple matter. The third row seats also will split and fold down to boost cargo room and the second row captain’s chairs fold down too.
Seating is comfortable all the way through. The front ones have mildly contoured butt pockets but more supportive seat backs. Front seats are powered and the driver gets a power lumbar support. A couple passengers in back, including the third row seat, said they were comfy.
But there’s more. Pacifica also has TV screens in the back of the front row seats so second row riders can ignore their parents and siblings at will. The front seat folks though can control the Blu-ray DVD player, and yes, there are wireless headsets for the second row occupants.
That giant panoramic sunroof covers the first two rows and can power open, while the third row gets a static sunroof. Cup holders abound and there are plenty of electrical outlets for computers, tablets and the like.
For mom and dad those front seats are heated (comforting in winter) and cooled (a blessing in summer), plus the steering wheel is heated. The downside of the wheel’s design though is a stylish metal strip on its face. This looks fine, but is cold in winter even after the leather wheel fully heats.
Safety equipment? Sure, from blind-spot warning systems, parking sensors, cross-path detection to automatic braking, all are standard. Plus a rearview camera comes with while a full 360-degree camera that aids in tight parking lot stalls is part of a reasonably priced ($1,595) option package.
The package also adds fancy Harman Kardon speakers, smart cruise control and forward collision warning, plus the DVD player and its accessories and automatic high beams. Oh, and that panoramic sunroof is part of the deal too.
Other pluses for a family include sun visors that slide and flip to the side, a big pop-out drawer in the lower center stack for maps, phones, and snacks for the kids. Pacifica has large cup holders too and a vertical cubby in front of those that easily holds a couple cell phones. Likewise there’s a big center armrest up front and storage box with a roll-top, so no matter what you need to tote along, there’s a spot for it here.
The four rear windows, while tinted, also feature pull-up sun shades that help keep rear passengers cool on a summer day, or help them nap by darkening the van’s interior.
Dash knobs are large too and the shift knob on the dash is round so you rotate it to select a gear. That old clunky gear shift knob blocking the dash is gone.
Pricing? Well, this is a hybrid and you pay a bit more to save all that gas by plugging it in your garage. The base for the Limited is $46,090, including delivery. And the test vehicle landed at $48,580.
A fully loaded gas-powered model is not much less and minivans continue to climb up the pricing ladder as families demand more and more electronic features in them. A base hybrid Touring model is $41,340 and the Touring L starts at $43,340, both including delivery.
There’s simply not much more that you could want in a minivan than what Pacifica offers, and now in plug-in hybrid format it gives something extra, exceptional gas mileage and range for long trips.
FAST STATS: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
Hits: Roomy, plug-in hybrid minivan delivers Wow gas mileage, is quick and powerful with smooth shifts. Quiet overall operation, plus oodles of room, good highway ride, plus panoramic sunroof and small one over rear seat. Has power hatch, side doors, heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, sun visors that slide, second-row TV screens, room for 7 or 8 and all the safety equipment you expect now.
Misses: Some road noise noticeable when running only on electric, ride can get a bit choppy on rough roads, metal trim strip in steering wheel is cold, even with heated wheel. Steering feels heavy.
Made in: Windsor, Ontario
Engine: 3.6-liter V6 eHybrid, 287 hp total
Transmission: eFlite Si-EVT
Weight: 4,987 lbs.
Length: 203.8 in.
Wheelbase: 121.6 in.
MPG: 84 gas/elect./32 gas (EPA)
MPG: 88.9 (tested)
Cargo: 140.5 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
Base Price: $46,090 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $46,240 (includes delivery)
18-inch polished aluminum wheels/R18 tires, $895
Preferred package 2EC (20-speaker Harman Kardon sound group/speakers, ParkSense, 360-degree camera, park assist, smart cruise control, stop/go system, forward collision warning, rain-sensing wipers, auto. high beams, advanced braking, Uconnect w/wireless, seatback video screens, Blu-ray DVD player, dual HDMI ports, 3-channel remote control and wireless headphones, USB video port, 115-volt power outlet, tri-pane panoramic sunroof), $1,595
Test vehicle: $48,580
Sources: Chrysler, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage