Haters gonna hate.
Words by: Adam Allen
Minivans are super cool!
Said no one, ever. Case in point: when the Pacifica Hybrid landed in the Carpages Garage, its reception was decidedly frosty, especially since we had just said goodbye to a Porsche Cayenne S the previous week. Before we had even switched off the ignition a fully committed minivan curmudgeon in our midst snickered at how the exterior was painted the same slick shade of burgundy as his grandmother’s Chevy Lumina Eurosport. Malicious swipes notwithstanding, the simple fact remains that if you have a family and need to get them and their large amount of stuff from point A to point B in the most comfortable and efficient manner as possible, a minivan is the perfect tool for the job- it just is, end of story. We always chuckle a bit when we hear of someone abhorring a minivan in favor of a three-row crossover. Do they really think when they pull up to a restaurant that people are glancing enviously in their direction? It should be noted that in most cases, these crossovers are basically minivans beneath the skin anyhow. People are funny.
On the bright side, if you buy a Pacifica Hybrid, you’ll be the centre of attention at social engagements.
Prepare to be surrounded by family and friends and curious acquaintances wherever you go if you arrive in one of these. In a society that covets exclusivity, the Pacifica Hybrid has it in spades. That’s because there is no one else who is currently building a plug-in hybrid minivan- Chrysler is the only one. Along the streets and highways around these parts you’ll see lots of Pacificas but hardly a hybrid to be found, thus making them decidedly rare. As a concept it’s a good idea- most family commutes outside of long road trips are very short and who wouldn’t be interested in getting superior fuel mileage whilst doing their part to help look after Mother Nature. All those are appreciated assets, notwithstanding the fact you’ll be the hit of the dinner party scene.
Does the inside look like the bridge from Star Trek?
Not at all. Settle inside the Pacifica Hybrid and everything appears…normal. There’s no weird interior design or anything to show that Chrysler is trying too hard to make their hybrid stand out. It’s all familiar, and that’s a good thing- actually, other than the gauge cluster, it is exactly the same as a gas fueled Pacifica. It’s extremely spacious and comfortable, no matter where you sit- not shocking considering this particular minivan is packaged brilliantly- but it’s also quite serene, even when the onboard gas engine steps in to help the electric motors. Uconnect is still its excellent old self and there’s a menu option to grade your efficiency as well as see in real time how the electric and conventional powertrains are working. Our tester had the rear seat infotainment system called Uconnect Theatre which was, unsurprisingly, a big hit with the kids. The little ones can be tough critics to please, and our bunch are privileged to get to ride in some heady automobiles every now and again; so it’s telling that when we asked them which car they’ve enjoyed most recently the unanimous answer was “the minivan” before getting back to their iPads.
They’ve normalized everything else, what about the drive?
Yep, everything is as you’d expect- the Pacifica Hybrid feels like an ordinary minivan although one at the more competent end of the spectrum. The ride is smooth and comfortable, and everything is nicely refined. The only noticeable difference happens when you thumb the start button and…. nothing happens. The dashboard tells you that you’re ready to drive off, and once in gear you set off silently under electric power. If your commute is short enough, and you’re fastidious about plugging in your Pacifica every evening you could feasibly go several weeks without using a drop of gasoline. Unfortunately, our plug-in infrastructure is lacking (plus we admit: we’re lazy) and so we didn’t plug it in once during its stay in the Carpages Garage. It didn’t matter much because the system regenerates electricity when braking and coasting, and there’s a handy readout on the trip computer that shows you how many kilometres you’ve done under electric power alone- when we wrapped up our road test we noted that nearly a third of our distance travelled was done without the use of the engine, a truly impressive feat. The net fuel economy numbers for the week amounted to 9L/100km, an astute number considering the Pacifica’s size and weight. The only thing we missed from the driving experience of the conventionally powered Pacifica was the traditional gearbox- the Hybrid model employs a CVT and frequent visitors to this space know we aren’t exactly enamored with the technology.
What might go wrong?
The biggest issue we had with the Pacifica Hybrid was the lack of the Chrysler’s signature Stow ’n Go seating. In other models, you simply flip a couple of levers and the seats tumble down neatly into a compartment built into the floor. Because of the battery pack, it isn’t offered on the Hybrid model. It was sorely missed because it compromised some of the van’s ability to turn itself into a cavernous space with ease- you are able to remove the captain’s chairs, but that is a much more cumbersome proposition than the ease of Stow ‘n Go. The other gripe we have may have boiled down to the tire choice Chrysler elected to use on the Hybrid models. Unsurprisingly, they are of the low rolling resistance type and trade grip for fuel efficiency, but we noted on a few occasions that our Pacifica would spin its wheels prodigiously when trying to merge into traffic from a stop especially in the rain. It is possible that’s due to the hybrid and gasoline power streams aligning abruptly from rest which overwhelms the limited grip of the tires, but once traction control cuts power suddenly it is a bit disconcerting.
Should I buy a Pacifica Hybrid?
Like we said earlier, you will enjoy the same level of exclusivity usually reserved for owners of high dollar supercars- the Pacifica Hybrid is in a class of one. For those who want a hybrid vehicle yet require the space to take family and gear along, this is the only option. It just so happens that it’s a good one, because even though the minivan segment is a shadow of its former self the Pacifica just might be the best of the bunch.
2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited— Specifications
- Price as tested: $63,920
- Body Type: 5-door minivan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.6 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Electric drivetrain: 16.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack (combined output= 260 horsepower)
- Horsepower: 220 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 236 @ 3,200 rpm
- Transmission: Continuously Variable Automatic
- Curb weight: 2,290 kg (5,049 lbs.)
- Fuel consumption: 9 L/100km (26 mpg)