By Steven J. Ewing (AutoBlog.com)
I'm sick of people hating on minivans. There's something about two incredibly functional sliding doors that give people this idea that they've given up, and given in to family life. But if the van you see here had two fixed rear doors, and maybe an extra inch of ride height, it'd be gobbled up like mad as part of the growing crossover craze. So yes, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica – that's right, Pacifica – is a minivan. But it's so packed full of features, technology, and functionality, that you really ought to look past those sliding doors. There promises to be an incredibly rewarding vehicle within.
That whole "ugh, minivans" thing is one of the reasons why Chrysler decided to axe the Town & Country name for 2017. Simply put, the target customers for the new minivan (young parents) would have grown up in their parents' Town & Country vans (or Caravans, or Voyagers...) in the 1980s. Three decades later, FCA wants to make it absolutely clear that this isn't just your parents' minivan. Why it chose to bring back the name of a lackluster part of its mid-2000s history, though, is anyone's guess.
The 2017 Pacifica rides on an all-new platform, but dimensionally, it's similar to the outgoing Town & Country. It's a tenth of an inch shorter in length, about an inch wider, and roughly half an inch taller. The body itself looks great – influence from the 200 sedan is obvious up front, and around back in the taillights, and top-trim models can be had with 20-inch wheels – a big change from the old van, which topped out with 17-inch rolling stock. There's big weight-savings here, too – the Pacifica tips the scales at 4,330 pounds in base spec, which is over 300 pounds less than the Town & Country.
Inside, it's more of the same from Chrysler. The interior design uses language brought up from the 200, and the different color and material choices look really rich, especially in Limited Premium trim. Of course, I'll wait to make final judgments on the cabin until I see it in base cloth spec, rife with kid fingerprints and french fries ground into the carpets. Up front, the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen houses familiar infotainment functionality, and for backseat passengers, there's a new Uconnect Theater system, with a pair of 10-inch touchscreen displays. All in, the Pacifica is much larger inside than the old Town & Country, with some 200 cubic feet of total interior volume, and a capacious 140.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the first row. Chrysler's infamous Stow 'N Go seating is still here, with seats that fold into the floor.
As for powertrains, two are available. Both use FCA's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, but in the Pacifica Hybrid, there's a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery that delivers up to 30 miles of electric driving range, for an 80-miles-per-gallon-equivalent rating. Read more about the Hybrid here. Standard Pacificas just use that naturally aspirated V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission (with a dial shifter on the center console). Stop-start will be added to the Pacifica range after its introduction, and all models come with front-wheel drive.
Five trim levels will be available – LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, Limited, and Platinum. Pricing isn't available as of this writing, but given how lush and well-equipped the Pacifica can be in top-level spec, we imagine this van can get pretty expensive.
Overall, there's a lot to like here, and regardless of its name, the Pacifica continues the tradition of being an incredibly well-rounded, nicely executed minivan. Chrysler invented the segment back in the '80s, and it continues to innovate today. The Pacifica launches in the spring, with the plug-in version to follow later this year.