NAIAS 2016: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica - This Is (All of) It, a Caravan for Town & Country
Persistent rumors of the Chrysler Town & Country’s demise have proven true. Going further, the House of Marchionne has dug through its list of historical nameplates to pick a moniker for the minivan’s successor
Chrysler is resurrecting the Pacifica name to affix to the derriere of the next-generation people hauler, a name we last saw on the short lived three-row crossover from 2004 to 2008. Thankfully, the new Pacifica shares nothing with its earlier namesake, and only the good stuff with its Chrysler and Dodge predecessors.
Winning the efficiency game
Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 will continue to do duty under the Pacifica’s new shapely hood, but with some improvements, of course: new injectors, a new valve timing system, idle start/stop, a few weight loss tweaks and a mild power bump from 283 to 287 horsepower (torque gets a smaller bump from 260 to 262 lbs-ft). The ZF designed nine-speed automatic makes its first appearance in FCA’s minivan and, thanks to its low-ratio first gear and tall final gear, you should expect improved fuel economy and faster acceleration.
However, should you watch to stretch the distance between gas station visits even farther, the 2017 Pacifica will be available as the world’s first plug-in hybrid minivan.
There are plenty of details we’ve yet to explore, but here are the main points: Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V-6 gets tweaked to run on the Atkinson cycle, dropping power to 248 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an all-new transaxle that appears to be based on the two-mode hybrid transmission we last saw in the Chrysler Aspen Hybrid. Combining a four-speed planetary gearset with two motors, the system will allow the Pacifica to run in EV mode, serial-hybrid mode, parallel-hybrid mode, compound-split-parallel-hybrid mode and gasoline-only mode. Fuel economy has yet to be released, but Chrysler is promising an impressive 30 mile electric range and 80 MPGe thanks to a large, 16-kWh battery pack.
Unfortunately, we can’t have it all: the rumors of all-wheel drive returning to Chrysler’s minivan have proven false.
Weight reduction is the biggest buzz phrase in the industry as of late and Chrysler has cut 250 pounds out of its minivan, trim to trim. At 4,330 pounds, the delta between a large, three-row crossover like the Pathfinder and the Pacific is negligible. In fact, the Pacifica is now lighter than GM’s Lambda crossovers. It remains to be seen how the weight savings translates to on-road performance, but the optional 245/50R20 tires and new “twist blade” independent rear suspension should help the Pacifica out handle the Sienna.
Catching up with corporate memos
The Pacifica, to put it bluntly, looks like a Chrysler 200 that’s swallowed a bread box — and that’s not a bad thing. Although larger, the same styling cues from the 200’s front end are repeated on the Pacifica, from the grille to the lower valance.
The corners can be fitted with alloy wheels measuring as large as 20 inches and the back end is as square and plain as you’d expect from a minivan that’s trying to maximize interior volume.
The new curvy silhouette and active grille shutters grant the people hauler a low .30 coefficient of drag despite growing an inch longer and wider than the 2016 Town & Country. The growth assures the new minivan will still swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood with ease and a few more cubic feet of cargo to boot.
It appears the Chrysler 200 wasn’t just the inspiration for the Pacifica’s exterior, but the interior as well. The partial LCD instrument cluster is similar to their mid-sized sedan and considerably snazzier than those from competitors at Honda or Toyota. The rotary shifter we’ve seen in other Chryslers makes an appearance in tandem with the new nine-speed automatic; the last generation’s console shifter jammed into the dash never looked right to my eye.
Perhaps the biggest interior change for 2017 is the return of an eight-passenger option after a 20-year hiatus. Instead of an actual bench in the middle, however, it appears to be some sort of “lightweight, removable” seat that’s likely to spend most of its time “as a second-row armrest with cup holders.” Speaking of cup holders, Chrysler hasn’t disclosed how many hundred juice boxes the Pacifica will accommodate.
Contrary to other rumors, Stow ‘n Go sticks around for both rows and has been improved for easier storage of the second-row seats. (No word on needing to remove that snap-in middle seat.) The basis for Stow ‘n Go is deep storage wells that drop below the floor level of the minivan. Using the same trick for the center console, the new storage bin goes deeper than the floor between the front seats.
Because Millennials are parents now
As expected, the 8.4 inch uConnect infotainment systems are available and will benefit updated software that adds a few new features. That system will be joined by new, optional 10-inch touchscreen infotainment displays in the rear. Self-parking, active noise cancellation, a 20-speaker luxury sound system and a built-in vacuum — like the one Honda pioneered with the Odyssey — will also be on offer.
Although safety doesn’t sell cars, it sure helps move minivans. Chrysler has tossed all their latest tech into the Pacifica including its LaneSense system that helps steer you back into your lane, pre-collision braking, blind-spot monitoring, radar cruise control and five different LATCH locations for easy child seat installation. Like Nissan’s three-row Pathfinder, the second-row seat can articulate with a child seat buckled in place to allow easier access to the back (more so than any other minivan, Chrysler claims). There’s also a new 360-degree surround camera system.
Pricing won’t be announced until closer to the Pacifica’s on-sale date, which is expected to be spring 2016 for the gasoline Pacifica and the second half of 2016 for the Pacifica Hybrid. While we don’t know exact figures, you can bet it’s not going to stray too far from the approximate $30,000 starting price in 2016 to stay competitive. The gasoline model will come in six different trim levels, starting at the base LX and going up to Limited Platinum. The hybrid, on the other hand, will come in Touring and Limited Platinum, which is an interesting twist: Limited Platinum is the top-end trim, but Touring is just one notch above the LX.
Although the Pacifica is a few years late in my book, Chrysler has taken the right step by completely redesigning their practical family hauler. With the hybrid model and a much snazzier Limited Platinum trim, Chrysler is also protecting its reputation as the purveyor of innovative minivans.
Be sure to stay tuned as we hope to get out hands on one closer to its on-sale date in 2016.
More by Alex L. Dykes
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