Tag Archives: minivan

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

Pacifica minivan nears perfection with quiet plug-in hybrid …

Chrysler has been in the minivan business longer than anyone else and it stands to reason that after 35+ years they’re nearing perfection.

It helps that Chrysler never stopped innovating and it still leads the way as the 2021 Pacifica is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. And it makes a good impression, both for its sleek, refined looks and its quiet operation.

“I love how quiet your minivan is. It surprised me,” claimed the attendant at a Culver’s drive-up outdoor order stand. It didn’t earn me any extra cheese curds though.

Oh, the Pacifica is quiet for sure operating at low speeds on electricity generated by regenerative braking, plus it also will run for 30+ miles solely on electric if you charge it fully. That takes about 14 hours on a home’s 120-volt line, but I got a 70% charge in about 6 hours once. If you have a 240-volt line a full charge takes just two hours. Bingo!

            On a full charge the Pacifica has roughly a 500-mile range combining electric charge and gas. The EPA says to expect 82 mpe with electric power mixed with gas and 30 mpg solely with gas. I think that may be a bit generous. I got 24 mpg with a mix of city and highway driving and one full charge, not bad for a nearly 5,000-lb. van.

            Still, extending the driving range for a family hauler like this, cutting down the number of fill-up and potty breaks, has got to help extend a family’s vacation range. Plus when on electric power the van hums along like a silent missile, and even as it switches to the 3.6-liter V6 gas engine you’ll likely not notice. Transition is seamless. 

Power overall is 260 horsepower with the hybrid system and it’s linked to a CVT automatic that works well to meld power flow.

            In reality, the van is a super easy and smooth drive all around. There’s plenty of power for acceleration as electric power is instantaneous and steering is fairly light and breezy too. There’s a bit of play in the wheel, but no family is expecting sports sedan handling in their minivan. Nope, but Pacifica is easy to turn into a parking spot, or back out. Of course there’s a 3D rearview camera and parking sensors too.

            Ride remains vanlike, not punishing, but bouncier than a car or crossover. You notice it most on uneven surfaces where the minivan can feel a bit roly-poly. But on the highway it’s a gem, a cruising mecca, a family room on wheels.

            That was helped in this Hybrid Limited model because it’s loaded with goodies and this one even added a $2,495 option package with twin seatback video screens that plays Blu-Ray DVDs or pop up with a variety of video games. The 12-year-old grandson approved! What kid wouldn’t?

            Mom and dad will love it too because there are wireless headphones to keep the parents from blowing their gourds the 10th time a wee one has watched a SpongeBob episode or a Disney film with a song that will NOT leave your head. I’m looking at you Little Mermaid!

Front seat headrests included video screens behind them to amuse second seat occupants!

            This beautiful Maximum Steel Metallic (sparkly bluish pewter) delivered a luxury look and feel interior that might surprise a first-time minivan buyer. Seats were a saddle brown with mocha brown piping and the dash and doors were brown and black, a spiffy look. Trim is all satin chrome behind gauges along with air vents and door release handles. The console and surround of the big 8.4-inch touchscreen are trimmed in gloss black. Chrysler nails the look!

            And if you need storage up front there’s a monster cubby between the seats with a black textured roll-top for easy access. Much nicer than a lid that must awkwardly be flipped up.

            Seats are only modestly contoured, the backs being decent, but the bottom cushions are fairly flat. That can be good for long drives and certainly makes ingress and egress easy. Of course those power sliding rear doors help small folks load and unload quickly too, and yes, the hatch is powered.

            This unit had captain’s chairs for the middle row, so would carry just seven, but a bench in the middle row would allow you to haul eight. The first two rows of seats also had folding armrests, although I feel it’s a bit intrusive on the driver’s seat during city driving, yet it’s OK as you cruise the highway.

            Front seats are powered and also heated and cooled, while the steering wheel is heated. You access all that through the big touchscreen, not my favorite way to get at such often used buttons, but the touchpoints are large, as are all dash buttons and controls.

The screen is big, includes a 360-degree camera and dash buttons are large and simple to use too. Bravo!

            The radio system is simple to figure out and use while driving too, yet there are several levels of info you can find there. Best to do all that data mining while sitting at a stop light or in a parking spot.

            Naturally there are plenty of safety devices, including blind-spot warning, lane departure, adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go system, collision warning and emergency braking along with parking sensors.

            As for interior amenities, well, there are side window sun shades for the second and third rows, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof with power sun shade, and a wireless phone charger in the front of the console, making it easy to access.

            Behind the third row seat is a deep well for storage, or if you don’t need to use the split third row seats you can fold them down into that cargo floor to create a large flat storage space. The second row seats are Chrysler’s patented Stow ‘n Go design that fold down into the floor. Most vans still require you to remove the middle row manually if you need to use that space for cargo.

            One interior bugaboo I hope Chrysler fixes soon, the fancy two-tone leather steering wheel with its satin chrome trim ring. It’s a pain in that it’s hot when the sun hits that metal, and it’s cold in winter, even when the heated steering wheel is engaged. Just lose the ring and all is well!

            Like many vehicles now, there are so many trims in the Pacifica line that pricing should not put you off. Although the test van was near the top of the hybrid range, starting at $47,340, including delivery. Add the rear-seat entertainment package and this one hit $49,835. Obviously not affordable for every family.

            But the hybrids range from the Touring at $41,490 up to the Red S model at $50,635, the latter featuring a bright red leather interior. Most folks going the hybrid route will likely want to step up to the Touring L model at $43,790 as it adds heated leather seats, a roof rack and third-row seat sun shades.

Big panoramic sunroof really brightens up the interior.

            If hybrid models are outside your price range, consider the gas-only powered Pacifica, whose 3.6-liter V6 makes 287 horsepower. The Touring model there starts at $33,495, but again, moving up to the Touring L might be preferred for the added features. Also, note that Chrysler offers an AWD system now, so that’s enticing to those of us in frozen tundra territory. That van rides an inch higher than other Pacifica models.

            Not wanting to insult anyone’s income level, but if even that entry-mark Pacifica still seems a bit beyond your means, know that Chrysler continues to offers a Voyager model with a lot less features, but a more approachable starting price of about $27,000.

            While tall SUVs and crossovers continue to dominate the market it’s nice to know that families can still get the most practical and comfy of vehicles, a minivan, at everything from a budget-oriented model to ultimate luxury. And now a plug-in hybrid adds to its economy. Oh, and there’s still a federal tax rebate of $7,500 on the hybrid model. …. Drop the mic!

FAST STATS: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

Hits: Handsome, roomy for 7, good smooth power, improved mpg. Quick acceleration, big easy touchscreen and dash buttons, and a full bevy of safety equipment. Luxury feel interior with heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charger, power side doors and hatch and second/third row sun shades. Plus this had rear-seat video screens.

Misses: Bouncy van ride, a bit of wheel play, and steering wheel is hot and cold because of metal beauty trim strip that heats in sun, but is cold on icy mornings.

Made in: Windsor, Ont., Canada

Engine: 3.6 V6, hybrid, 260 hp

Transmission: CVT, automatic

Weight: 4,987 lbs.

Wheelbase: 121.6 in.

Length: 203.8 in.

Cargo: 140.5 cu.ft.

MPG: 82 gas/electric, 30 gas only

MPG: 24.0 (tested)

Base Price: $47,340 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $47,289

Major Options:

Preferred package 2EP (Uconnect theater group, FamCam interior camera, Blue-Ray DVD player, seatback video screens, headphone ports, USB video port, 115-volt power outlet, video remotes, wireless headphones, Keysense), $2,495

Test vehicle: $49,835

Sources: Chrysler, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited hybrid

New Pacifica hybrid a refined people hauler …

Chrysler has been making minivans since the 1984 model year, but its latest, the 2020 Pacifica, is easily the best of the bunch.

Chrysler minivans have nearly always been comfortable and easy to drive. The company’s Stow N Go seats were a brilliant addition, as were its earlier rear seats that could be rolled out for easy removal and storage. But, let’s be honest, there were some mechanical issues, something about transmissions. That’s behind the company, now part of Italian conglomerate, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Continue reading 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited hybrid

2019 Subaru Ascent Touring

Subaru’s new Ascent  nails 7-passenger crossover market … 2019 Subaru Ascent

Subaru took a couple years off from the minivan/larger crossover market in an effort to get it right. The strategy worked, its new 2019 Ascent nails it.

Rarely does a vehicle deliver fully what it promises and at a reasonable price. Ascent offers room for seven or eight passengers, a comfortable and useful interior, good power and handling, plus Subaru’s noted all-wheel-drive. Pricing starts at $32,970. Yes, you read that right. Continue reading 2019 Subaru Ascent Touring

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

Pacifica plug-in hybrid rocks the MPG …2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid 2018 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid

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. Continue reading 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

Die-cast: NEO’s 1935 Stout Scarab

1935 Stout Scarab, the first minivan … NEO 1935 Stout Scarab

I’ve seen two Stout Scarabs in my life, one up close and personal, one in a museum. Both were amazing.

The Scarab was a minivan before anyone even thought of minivans. It’s a rounded aerodynamic bug of a car, before the world was aware of the VW Beetle, although it may have already been on Ferdinand Porsche’s drawing board in the 1930s. It’s light before automakers were thinking of weight reduction.

Now NEO creates a beautiful 1/43 scale 1935 Stout Scarab in silver and it’s an eye-catcher that’s smartly executed.

The History

The Scarab came from Stout Engineering Laboratories, later Stout Motor Car Co. in Detroit and was designed in 1932 by William Bushnell Stout, an aviation and car engineer. He believed in strong lightweight bodies, so created a unitized body structure from aluminum aircraft metal with the help of designer John Tjarrda. The result was a car that would seat at least six and weighed less than 3,000 lbs.

In back they dropped a Ford V8 and with that rear-end placement, eliminated the weighty driveshaft found in other cars. Unlike most cars in the 1930s, the Scarab had no running boards and used coil springs and independent suspension at all four corners for a better ride. Seating inside could be reconfigured too to face backward or forward.   Continue reading Die-cast: NEO’s 1935 Stout Scarab

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

Refined Pacifica minivan replaces Town & Country2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Chrysler has long had one of the best riding, most comfortable minivans. Chrysler invented the minivan for crying out loud.

But it hasn’t always felt as refined as other brands’ vans.

Now comes the Pacifica, a restyling and renaming of the former Town & Country, which has departed. The old Pacifica crossover, which was sort of a minivan, also is no more.

That’s fine because the new Pacifica looks better than both predecessors and delivers a luxury ride and feel that puts it ahead of many of its competitors.

The nose looks sleeker, more aerodynamic. Inside, Pacifica is extremely quiet, and still comfortable. The tested metallic black top-of-the-line Limited 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.2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Seats were tan leather with a dark brown dash, a look similar to that in many luxury sedans. Front seats are powered and have three-level heating and cooling and the first two rows of seats are captain’s chairs, so have fold-down arm rests. The third row seats are split and powered, so you can lower them with the push of a button inside the power rear hatch. Both side rear doors are powered and slide, a feature that starts on the Touring model. Continue reading 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

2016 Kia Sedona SXL

New Kia Sedona improves on solid packagesedona

I had driven the new Kia Sedona early this year and frankly, it had a few issues.

I liked much the minivan had to offer then, and now. But I’m most impressed that all of my earlier concerns seem to have been tended to within the first year. The 2015 model I tested had vague steering, a sometimes choppy ride in back, a heavy feel and a psycho radio that jumped from FM to AM to satellite like a Kardashian trying to choose a new boyfriend.

Continue reading 2016 Kia Sedona SXL

2015 Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop AWD

Durango R/T is SUV that looks like a racy minivandurango profile

            Dodge generally doesn’t try to blend in as a brand, favoring bolder styling than most competitors. That’s what some of us like about Dodge.

Dodge’s Durango though is a bit different in that it stands out from other large SUVs, especially with its wide full-body width taillights. Yet, in its own way, Durango blends in with Dodge’s own minivan styling. Several people asked me if this was a new Dodge minivan, when, to me at least, it seemed obvious the Durango is an SUV.

First, it looks bigger than a minivan, and to be honest, Dodge did its best to distinguish the bright red (Redline Pearl) SUV from anything on the road. The test ute was the R/T version, which means there’s a HEMI under the hood, and this also was the Blacktop edition. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?durango front

Blacktop means the red ute has gloss black aluminum wheels, gloss black Durango badges and an equally gloss black grille and outside mirrors. All that glossy black costs just $295 extra and actually makes this big ol’ SUV look pretty darned sporty, like a ute with attitude!

Naturally putting Chrysler’s muscle-bound HEMI V8, all 5.7 liters worth, under the hood gives it some rumble power. The V8 cranks 360 horsepower and a monster 390 ft.-lbs. of torque. Tromp the gas pedal and Durango R/T gallops to life. That’s no small deal for a 5,531-lb. SUV with all-wheel-drive. But this one feels energetic right from the get-go. Continue reading 2015 Dodge Durango R/T Blacktop AWD

2015 Kia Sedona SX Limited

Sedona roomier, more powerful, will carry 8Kia Sedona

Kia becomes more competitive in the minivan market with its new Sedona, a roomier van with more power.

Pricing and extras, for that price, have been a hallmark of Kia products for several years once the South Korean automaker got serious about the U.S. market. Sedona is all that.

First, it’ll carry up to 8 passengers, with a second row bench, and its interior is many times quieter than the previous model as sound deadening technology has been used to the max. So it feels high-quality and looks sharp too with a less angled nose that Kia says helps it appear more like an SUV. But to be truthful it still looks like the minivan it is, just a tad different up front than other minivans.

A new 3.3-liter V6 engine with continuously variable valve timing and direct injection gives it 32 more horses than the previous 3.5-liter model. Still, in a van weighing 4,656 lbs. the van can feel heavy and a bit slow even when you give the accelerator a serious push. Most minivans feel this way though, so no surprise.

Interior room is generous and a rider feels comfortable, not cramped. The tested dark metallic brown van was the SL Limited model, the top of the line. It featured captain’s chairs in the second row and a third row folds down into the floor in back. These middle row seats also recline and feature foot rests too. Kia calls them Slide-N-Stow seats, which are standard even on the base L model that begins at $26,795 (including delivery). They flip forward and stow up against the front seat backs if you need more cargo room. Continue reading 2015 Kia Sedona SX Limited

2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited

Town & Country minivan carries family, friends and stuff easily and efficiently

Minivans are much maligned by the image conscious, or should we say, self-conscious car buyers. These folks let image stand in their way of buying the most family friendly vehicles on the market.chry1

This week’s Chrysler Town & Country Limited is at the top of the minivan food chain, meaning it’s loaded with extras and luxury items that most families would be proud to wallow in, if they weren’t in a minivan. But heck, a minivan is easy to climb aboard, and this one has a luxurious ride along with good power and tons of storage room. Ah yes, and it will carry a family of seven. Not much else can boast that, and be this comfortable.

First, consider that the tested cashmere (metallic tan) test van had power sliding side doors. This makes it incredibly easy to load up the family for all those kid events, and if you have young children, it’s equally easy to strap them into their child seats. In a sport-utility vehicle, for instance, you have the doors in your way along with a bigger step up, making it tougher for the kid to crawl aboard, and a bigger lift for the parent loading one aboard.

The Town & Country, or T&C, also boasts a power hatch to make loading groceries, luggage or athletic equipment easier too. This one goes a step further with power third-row seats that you control just inside the hatch, part of a $1,995 luxury package. Within seconds you can lower the third row for a hefty hauling area. Cargo space starts at 33.0 cubic feet behind that third seat (about double that of even the largest luxury sedans) and expands to 83.3 cubic feet with the third row down. Continue reading 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited