Let’s take a quick tour through the history of minivans. No, don’t click away to something else; I swear you’ll find it interesting.
According to popular legend, you can thank the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation”—yes, the Chevy Chase comedy—with helping to usher in the era of the minivan.
I hear you saying: “But the Griswolds didn’t drive a minivan.”
You’re right; they drove what was called “the family truckster,” which was basically a station wagon. And because it was ridiculed so much in that film, automotive experts claim it caused sales of station wagons to crater. Chevy Chase made station wagons even more uncool than they already were, if that was possible.
Now you see how this ties in? Something had to move in and take the place of station wagons when it came to family transportation.
And, voilà! Minivans rushed in to fill the vacuum. Their sales began to mushroom, and every car maker scrambled to fill every suburban driveway with a minivan.
They got the exact opposite treatment from Hollywood, too. In John Travolta’s classic comedy, “Get Shorty,” he’s aghast at having a minivan as his rental car at the LA airport, rather than his usual Cadillac. The rental-car associate soothes Travolta by describing the Oldsmobile Silhouette as “the Cadillac of minivans.”
Suddenly, with John Travolta behind the wheel, minivans in general got another boost. And, a quarter century after that movie, a survey asked Americans, “What’s something you never thought you’d do as an adult—but you ended up doing?”
In the top ten of answers: “Drive a minivan.”
What’s my point? I do have one.
Still, to this day, I firmly believe people love to badmouth minivans, but, secretly, they really like them. Hell, every time I drive one to review, I have a pretty good time. Go figure.
Bringing the story full-circle, your choices for minivans have shrunk, namely because of the popularity now of crossover vehicles that have taken the country by storm. And, in a funny quirk, the Pacifica actually started about 20 years ago as a sorta SUV/wagon combo; it was reintroduced as a full-fledged minivan in 2017.
It’s now one of the (few) jewels still rolling along in the minivan category.
I tooled around in the Pacifica Limited, with its 3.6-Liter V6 that puts out 287 horses to its 9-speed automatic transmission. You’re able to get either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and, if you so desire, there’s even a plug-in hybrid option. Keep in mind, if you opt for the hybrid, you give up the Stow-n-Go feature of the rear seats.
The last big makeover for the Pacifica came in 2021, so now they’re at the stage where it’s mostly about some minor equipment changes.
The Limited comes with three rows of seating. The second row features two captain’s chairs, which maybe don’t offer the same legroom you’d get elsewhere, but are still plenty roomy. And, importantly, they fold down in a Stow-n-Go configuration that turns this passenger vehicle into a cargo van, if you so require. It’s a cool feature.
And really, space is what the Pacifica is all about. It’s not an SUV or a crossover vehicle, so who needs to worry about climbing over rocks or splashing through streams? Instead, Chrysler put its money on making one of the roomiest vehicles you can buy. Families want room. Well, you got it. Space for days.
Cupholders galore, all sorts of little cubbies, and even bins that slide out to give you a plethora of storage options. Power sliding doors on each side make it super convenient for loading passengers—especially those little ones—and anything you wanna haul.
I didn’t feel like the second-row captain’s chairs were that comfy, but they’re functional, as is the third row.
You may ask: What about luxury? Is this elegant.
Uh, no. But it also doesn’t come across as cheap—and, at a base price of 50 grand, it better not. The thing is, I was comfortable driving around in my heated and cooled seats, and I didn’t feel like I sacrificed much in terms of materials or the quality of the build.
This is where you have to stop and realize what you’re driving. You will not be winning any drag races with the Pacifica—but is that really why you’d buy one?
For everyday driving around town, hauling kids and running errands, you won’t be disappointed. I found the drive smooth and comfortable, it handled better than I expected for a vehicle this size, and the steering and brakes were good, too.
The knob that functions as your gear selector is conveniently placed and easy to use.
Fuel economy is not, well, economical, really. Your combined average of highway and city driving works out to around 20 mpg.
Chrysler provides their Uconnect infotainment system with a bright, easy-to-read touchscreen. You can integrate Alexa if you choose, plus Android and Apple CarPlay are integrated.
I had minor issues with CarPlay connectivity a couple of times, but only briefly before it kicked in. That’s happened in some luxury vehicles, too, so I don’t ding too many points for that. Sometimes it’s just the nature of tech.
The big deal for families is an upgrade to the dual entertainment system for the back. Dual as in dual screens on the back of mom and dad’s seats, providing hours of a mindless zombie state for children during long trips. Or, who knows, even for short trips to the dry cleaner.
You can even access streaming services. Well, so much for playing the license plate game.
Oh, and you need a USB port to charge something? You only get TWELVE of them around the cabin. Hope that’s enough for you.
The Bottom Line
Chrysler essentially introduced the minivan segment 40-ish years ago, so it’s only proper that they’re one of the last ones standing.
Between the massive amount of space, those stowable rear seats, its well-designed interior, and its good-enough drive, the Pacifica is a terrific option if you’re tired of the endless sea of SUVs and crossovers.
Hey, if it’s good enough for John Travolta, it’s good enough for any of us. I enjoyed it. You likely will, too.
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Limited
3.6-liter V6 (A hybrid option is available)
All-wheel drive or front-wheel drive available
17/25/20 mpg combined
Base price: $50,650
As tested: $59,520
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer