I need to understand this weird disconnect between minivan reputations and how we actually feel when we drive them. Something doesn’t line up.
If that confuses you, it probably means you haven’t driven one. So, as Inigo Montoya said in The Princess Bride, lemme sum up.
For years minivans have been the vehicles we love to make fun of. The whole ‘soccer mom’ label — which was never intended to represent cool or fashionable in any way — was automatically attached to the image of a mother carting around a brood of children in a minivan.
So we poked fun. We were soooo superior in our sedans and SUVs, right?
And then something strange happened. We drove a minivan, either as a rental car, maybe because a friend owned one, or, in my case, to review.
And we liked them. We liked them a lot.
Suddenly all those soccer moms got the last laugh. While vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica were racking up awards and making lots of families happy, the rest of us were just plain ignorant.
Until now. This is my third time to test drive a Chrysler minivan, and my condescending days are gone. I really like the Pacifica. I’m a convert.
Until 2008 the nameplate for Pacifica went on a crossover vehicle. In fact, it was the first joint product of the DaimlerChrysler era. That vehicle may be gone, but the name lives on with the minivan that was introduced in 2017.
There are three trim levels to choose from, starting with the Touring Plus and working your way up to the Limited, which I drove for a week.
You might read many comparisons between the standard gas-engine model and the hybrid, but I’ve been a hybrid guy for years and in the case of the Pacifica it’s a great choice.
Yes, the starting price tag is pretty high, but in so many ways it’s worth it. Besides fuel savings, there’s also a tax break, which your dealer can talk about with you.
But I also happen to be a big fan of captain’s chairs for a van’s second row, and the hybrid battery ensures that you get those comfy seats. (I think they’re better than the bench options.)
The Pacifica hybrid starts with a 3.6-liter V6 and adds two electric motors. The combined total puts out about 260 horsepower.
One of things Gretchen and I laughed about was the feeling of stretching out in your living room. With all of the space inside the van, that’s what we imagined.
And there is space for days. It’s not as if the Pacifica has some monstrous proportions and takes up three parking spaces; not at all.
But it just oozes room and, at the same time, comfort. The materials also provide a sense of luxury. Okay, maybe not Mercedes luxury, but it’s not chintzy, either.
Everything is laid out well, and your view is extraordinary.
As mentioned, the second-row captain’s chairs provide almost the same sense of spaciousness as the front seats, and how often do you experience that in any vehicle?
Storage is also terrific. The central bin between seats is large, and there are bonus cubbyholes, including a pull-out drawer beneath the console.
Cargo space in the back is more than sufficient. I liked that it was deep, which means it’s a great place to hold groceries without them rolling around a standard minivan cargo area.
True, if you opt for the hybrid you lose the capability of second-row seats folding flat for extra storage. But if you’re honest, exactly how often do you use that? I’d prefer the comfort and convenience of the captain’s chairs instead.
Also, the sliding rear doors on both sides not only provide super easy access, but the convenience is enough to spoil you.
Add to that the panoramic moonroof, which keeps any passengers from feeling even a tiny bit claustrophobic. It’s a nice ride back there.
While I never confused the Pacifica with a Porsche when it came to acceleration, I also didn’t find it lacking. I know hybrid systems used to have a stigma of being sluggish off the line, but those days are gone.
This minivan has more than enough oomph and won’t leave you nervous when you merge or pass.
It’s also a surprisingly smooth ride, given the overall size of the vehicle. No big noise issues, either, with the minor exception of some engine sounds. But nothing obnoxious or troubling.
Steering and handling were also quite good.
This is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which means you’ll have about 30 to 33 miles of pure electric power if it ever came down to that.
If you’re buying a minivan there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have little passengers riding around with you in the back seats. There’s a chance they could spend a week back there without getting bored.
The Pacifica loads up on entertainment options, including dual screens with all sorts of hookups, including HDMI.
And if you check your options list you’ll see things like the UConnect streaming theater package, a BluRay player, wireless streaming, wireless headphones, and more.
Each of those back seats has its own controls, too. You could get out of the car for lunch somewhere and the kids would never know you were gone.
For adults up front, the touchscreen system works very well. I had no glitches with Apple CarPlay (Android Auto is available, too, and both are standard).
Lots of good driver aids too, like a rearview camera (the 360-degree version is an upgrade option), blindspot monitoring, cross-traffic alerts and rear parking sensors. Other goodies can be had as options.
The Bottom Line
Loved it. Gretchen and I found ourselves picturing a life with a minivan — and we don’t even have little kids anymore.
Do I need to say more than that?
2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
3.6-liter V6 engine
Twin electric motors
Fuel economy: 30 mpg (gas), 82 mpg (electric)
As tested: $50,255
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer