The original manufacturer of the minivan still leads the way in 2021 with one of the best offerings on the market. Today’s minivans have made leaps and bounds in innovation compared to when they were first introduced. Remember when minivans only had a sliding door on one side? They are great vehicles for transporting large families but are losing in the popularity game to the crossover or SUV. It’s hard to replace the functionality of a minivan, no matter how much buyers would like to think an SUV can do the job.
FCA (Chrysler’s parent company) had envisioned phasing out the ultra-popular Dodge Caravan but even after the Pacifica was introduced in 2016, people kept on buying the Caravan in droves. That kept the Caravan going for years longer than intended. People want inexpensive minivans and the Caravan does an amazing job at filling this role but its time is likely coming to an end.
There is now the Chrysler Grand Caravan which is essentially be a rebranded Pacifica but a barebones entry level model to reduce costs and entice former Dodge Caravan buyers. It’s needed because the Pacifica was introduced at a price point of $44,000 whereas the Grand Caravan was being advertised at $19,999 after rebates and incentives. The Pacifica has since been reduced but is still starting at $38,571 after manufacturer discounts. The new Chrysler Grand Caravan starts at $34,522 which I find is a little too pricey compared to the old one.
Compared to that 2011 Caravan I used to own, the Pacifica is miles ahead of it in every way – especially when it comes to how the minivan drives. The Pacifica is more responsive with reduced levels of body roll coupled with enhanced agility that is capable of absorbing just about every bump in the road with ease. Chrysler has also made the entire body structure stiffer and the result is the vehicle drives more like an SUV than a van.
Chrysler’s current design language translates quite well for a minivan with sculpted lines and an attractive silhouette. With its long wheelbase, wide track and low stance, the Pacifica has a sporty aura – as much as is possible for a minivan. To smooth things out even further, the Pacifica’s sliding door track lines are hidden under the rear-quarter side glass, making them almost invisible. The minivan has always been the automotive designer’s biggest challenge. How does one make a box on wheels sexy? Well Chrysler has come about as close as you can with this one.
The interior is a beautifully-conceived design that is both functional and pretty to look at. The shiny black finishing on the dash, the large and easy-to-use buttons, the ample storage space all combine to deliver a cabin that is a pleasant place to be. The van even comes with pillows which were a hit with the kids. A dial-type gear selector allows for significant space savings and is relatively easy to get used to. Third row Stow ‘N Go is a $2,000 option but as a former minivan owner I can tell you that it’s also a must have.
There are two powertrain options for the Pacifica: the standard gasoline Pentastar V6 and the Plug-in Electric Hybrid. The V-6 gasoline engine which is mated to a segment-exclusive TorqueFlite nine-speed automatic transmission delivers 287 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. The plugin Hybrid version was quite helpful at saving fuel since I do many short trips to drop the kids at school. The Hybrid has an all-electric range of about 45 kilometers. The Gasoline version was still decent on gas at 12-13 L / 100km.
A downside to the hybrid version is that you cannot have Stow ‘n Go second row seating because the battery pack occupies that space. In the non-hybrid, however, the Stow ‘n Go option is a godsend because it allows the chairs to fold directly into the floor.
I used the DVD rear seat entertainment system extensively during the week I had the Pacifica. The Uconnect system from Chrysler is one of the most user-friendly on the market. I would prefer one single screen on the roof rather than two separate ones on the back of the seats because if you have more than two children, they will fight over seating position.
You can get a base model Hybrid Pacifica Touring Plus for $41,688 after government and manufacturer incentives. The Pinacle Hybrid you see here starts at $46,688 and the Pinacle non-hybrid starts at $53,446. Both feature Nappa leather, power sliding side doors, the multimedia centre and a 13-speaker Alpine sound system.
The Pacifica remains a great people mover with plenty of features and more than equipped to hold its own against the upscale competition.