In 1983, the Chrysler Group introduced the modern minivan as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. In 1989, Chrysler debuted the first luxury minivan, the Chrysler Town & Country. The Town-n-Country was low to the ground, and my aging dog could get in and out easily. I could hide my valuables under the seat if I put the seats up. I had every reason to buy a van, and I didn’t even have children. Then I got children. Well, I got children for a weekend.
Chrysler Pacifica brought out its new van, and I brought my cousin Louann, and her two children, Abby (12) and Frankie (9) from Newfoundland, Canada to Southern California to give the Pacifica minivan a run for its money.
The party started as soon as they arrived in Southern California. The first day, after the presentation, all five of us took off to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Weaving through the hills of Laguna Nigel, past Lake Elsinore was a testament to the stability and functionality of the Pacifica. My husband, Stretch, is 6’4″. It was a Friday, and Stretch needed to get some business work finished before the weekend. He decided to sit in the back – yes the third row – by himself to get that work completed. His arms full of computers, Stretch used the handsfree power sliding doors, sticking his feet under the second row.
The kids happily set in the second row. Why the second row? Because the DVD monitors were on the back of the first row seats. Kids, they are quick learners.
Chrysler upgraded their powertrain to the 3.6-liter V-6 adding four horsepower to the previous V-6, bringing total output to 287 horsepower, 262 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. The addition of a nine-speed automatic lifted the highway EPA fuel economy to 28 mpg. A plug-in hybrid Pacifica minivan is coming to market soon. I know the battery would add weight and take up space in the third row, but I’d like to see the fuel economy, horsepower and low-end torque numbers for that machine.
A couple of hours into the drive, after all, the twisties, and all the snacks two children could eat, we pulled over to get a cup of coffee, and for Frankie to switch places with Stretch. Remember, Stretch and I don’t have children, so we are not privy to the number of twisties through the mountains a child can take, coupled with how many snacks a child can ingest before they become ill. For Frankie, it was breakfast (which consisted of bacon, sausage, and ham) and three snacks and one hour of twisties. Luckily, we stopped before any damage was done, and the car needed to be cleaned. Frankie was able to lay down in the third row, with sea bands on, and sleep off the over consumption.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is 1800 acres. To give you an idea, Disneyland is 100 acres. After a three hour drive, we decided to go for the Tiger tour. Little did I know, Frankie’s favorite animal in the WHOLE world is a Tiger, “all of my stuffed animals growing up (because he is nine years old!) have been tigers!” Good call there! Our tour guide, Steve, took us on the regular tour and stopped in front of a wooden path. The doors opened, and we walked through, into a behind the scenes visit. It’s every 9-year old boys dream to see tigers up close, to see the food they eat, to touch their skin, to put your hand in the skull of a tiger’s head! Tigers, and Lions, and Bears, oh my!
That evening Stretch and Frankie took the helm of an electric Duffy boat from Newport Beach harbor, silently cruising Newport Bay to The Cannery restaurant. No nauseous fumes from fuel, Duffy boats run on electricity.
Most parents that own vehicles with DVDs in the headrests know they are the best babysitter in the world; this one is Chrysler’s UCONNECT Theatre. Each touchscreen has an ample amount of games and apps, along with a DVD/Blu-ray player located up front. Abby and Frankie spent most the day oohing and aahing over all the places they could plug their games in, and all the games and shows that were already in the car. They could watch the same movie, at the same time, or at different times, or different movies.
HDMI input and the accessories needed are available for each screen, USB ports are available in every row, and a wireless hotspot can even provide internet access to load as many pictures to facebook as you can in the car.
I’m telling you; Disneyland should be concerned. In a minivan, I can give the kids roller coaster rides, snacks, and movies without waiting in line. Honda was smart enough to put a vacuum cleaner in its Honda Odyssey; Chrysler put its vacuum cleaner, stow-n-vac, in the second-row area. The second row makes the most sense since the kids are in the second row watching shows and snacking all the way. You can put the seats in the stow-n-go, vacuum, put them back up and the seats will remember the exact position they were in before the vacuum. Ingenious!
There is a tenuousness when you are hosting children as your guests. You go for what you know will be a sure fun time for them, like Disneyland. But the next day our storm chasing friend, Cori, drove down in her Dodge Caravan, and we took Louann and the kids to the beach. Louann went surfing with Scott, a surf instructor while we babysat the kids on the beach. Two hours into the beach and the kids were saying they would rather spend the entire day on the beach then go back to Disneyland. Score! Me too.
By the end of the long weekend, both Abby and Frankie were telling their Mother they wanted her to buy the Pacifica minivan. To them it was the height of luxury, it surpassed transportation as utilitarian. It was everything they wanted in a car, especially the wifi DVD/monitors. It is what Stretch and I think the autonomous future will look like in our plug-in hybrid minivan.
Competitors: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona
2017 Chrysler Pacifica specs:
Wheelbase 121.6 in.
Length 203.6 in.
Width 79.6 in.
Height 69.9 in.
Curb weight 4,330 lbs.
Base engine 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower 287 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque, lbs.-ft. 262 @ 4,000 rpm
Base price $29,590 includes destinaton
EPA estimated fuel economy: 18 mpg city/ 28-mpg highway/22 mpg combined
EPA Curb Weight lbs. 4,330 gas engine models 4,943 hybrid models
Weight Distribution (percent front/rear) 55/45 gas engine models
56.5/43.5 hybrid models
2017 Chrysler Pacifica models and prices:
2017 Chrysler Pacifica LX – $28,595*
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring – $30,495*
–adds standard SiriusXM satellite radio, power sliding doors, passive entry plus more
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L – $34,495*
–add power liftgate plus more
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus – $37,895*
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited – $42,495*
–Nappa leather seats, audio, and mirrors and includes power third-row seats, ventilated front seats, 3-D navigation, and Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum plus more
*plus $995 destination
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will be available in Chrysler dealer showrooms in spring 2016, with the Pacifica plug-in hybrid arriving in the second half of 2016. Chrysler says the PHEV will be equipped with a 16 kWh battery, giving the minivan a 30-mile all electric driving range, allowing for an 80 MPGe city.