By on September 16, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

3.6-litre V6 (287 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Nine-speed automatic transmission w/ front-wheel drive

Fuel Economy (Rated, MPG): 18 city / 28 highway / 22 combined

Fuel economy (Observed, MPG): 23.5

Base Price: $29,590 (U.S.) / $45,890 (Canada)

As Tested: $50,270 (U.S) / $62,340 (Canada)

All U.S prices include a $995 destination fee. All Canadian prices include $1,895 freight and A/C tax.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, and Honda produce nine out of every ten minivans sold in the United States. In a category little more than half the size now than it was a decade ago and with an ever-shrinking number of competitors, the dawn of a truly new people-carrying, grocery-getting, pickup-truck-aping van has the potential to upset the apple cart.

Two years ago, the Kia Sedona shook things up. Although the Sedona remains a relatively small player, Kia’s share of the minivan market is nearly seven times stronger now than it was two years ago.

Next year will be the turn of the Honda Odyssey, as the van with which we’re so familiar follows its Pilot and Ridgeline platform partners to market. Better than one in five minivans sold in America are Odysseys.

This year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dramatically altered its minivan strategy by confirming the top-selling Dodge Grand Caravan’s departure and by launching the supremely stylish, Town & Country-replacing Chrysler Pacifica.

The new Pacifica, a successor to the alleged minivan originator, is by most measurements the best minivan you can drive today. But a few glaring faults leave a large window open for Chrysler’s two key competitors, both of which suffer from advanced age.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

NEW
Honda’s current Odyssey was introduced six years ago with an odd beltline and a conspicuous sliding door track. Refreshed for 2015, the current Toyota Sienna is a few months older than its Honda compatriot.

Not surprisingly, relative to those vans, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica feels remarkably new. Not only is the structure stiffer and the whole experience more hushed, the ease with which UConnect can be operated — there is no learning curve — makes the Pacifica feel like a van of the times.

Wheelarch-filling 20-inch rims. Power-folding third-row seats. Front seats with actual bolstering. Chrysler’s smart rotary knob shifter. A very flat seats-folded floor with hardly a gap or exposed mechanism. Surround view camera, an array of available active safety tech, and a nine-speed automatic in a six-speed minivan world. All of those provide the Pacifica driver with an aura of freshness that’s presently lacking in the Sienna and Odyssey.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited rear

AND IMPROVED
Thrown into a comparison test with its in-showroom rival, the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Chrysler Pacifica is differentiated not only in terms of style and transmission, but also by a massive leap forward in refinement.

True, the interior configuration is largely similar, though there is an optional eighth seat (not fitted to our FCA Canada-supplied tester) unseen in the Grand Caravan. Second row seat comfort is still found wanting; the seat cushion is angled awkwardly and the seat foam itself is too firm. But Stow’N’Go seating is a marvel, and the storage wells left behind when the seats are up are useful. Third row access is terrific, but there too comfort falls behind chief rivals and space isn’t as abundant. There aren’t as many air vents as in the Odyssey, lighting is dim (not taking into account our Limited tester’s three sunroof panes), and there’s no Toyota-like Driver Easy Speak to ease conversation.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

But with Pacifica advances, the Grand Caravan now seems even more raucous and chintzy. The monobox minivan shape is not conducive to restricting noise. Once sound comes in, it bounces around all day. Yet the Pacifica’s wind and road and suspension noises are largely kept at bay.

Granted, it’s not a perfect chamber. Presumably due to the shape of the box, the optional 20-speaker Harman Kardon stereo is unimpressive. The brake pedal vibrates annoyingly at idle. The engine still lacks the smoothness of a Honda V6 and is obnoxious enough to deter a heavy right foot. The often impressive transmission can cause headaches for all occupants.

For the most part, however, the new Chrysler Pacifica is the van you’d choose if isolation from the world around you was the top priority.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica rotary knob shifter

UPGRADED
Yet perhaps more surprising is the fact that the Pacifica is now the dynamic leader of the pack. Maybe, just maybe, the Odyssey continues to top the class in the kind of ten-tenths driving seen on Terminal Island Freeway in Mr. And Mrs. Smith. There may be more Pacifica body roll at the limit, but you’d have to be driving aggressively to find out — and even then you’d have to split hairs.

Regardless, the Pacifica has more appropriately weighted and direct steering than all of its rivals. It also feels wonderfully nimble, shrinking around you as you drive (a little) quicker, always feeling like the lightest minivan (which it is), and riding more serenely than its rivals all the while.

On the handling front, to be fair to rivals, our van was fitted with the biggest wheels and tires of any minivan. Yet to be fair to the Pacifica, those 20-inch wheels did no harm to ride quality. In fact, increased rear suspension stiffness would be all that’s needed to fend off any belief that the Odyssey is the superior corner carver. And the Pacifica still wouldn’t ride choppily.

DOWNGRADED
Issues persist. Besides a transmission that can perform admirably and then suddenly shift with all manner of harshness, sub-par rear seat comfort, and an unrefined engine, in spite of high-grade leather and innumerable luxury features, “quality” is not a word that consistently comes to mind.

Adjusting headrest height in the second row twice resulted in the headrest and its whole cylinder assembly coming right out of the seat. There are sticker alignment conundrums. The rear sunroof’s visor is either firmly affixed in its closed position or refusing to close. Air vents up front, clearly resulting from the goal of adding weightiness to controls, are so firm they don’t want to be adjusted at all. Even in 2016, the rearview camera copes very poorly with high and low light.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica rear seats

This is an almost fully equipped version of the top-trim 2017 Pacifica, and as frequently as it declares itself worthy of the asking price, it also shows signs of why Chrysler/Dodge products have for so long required steep discounts to move.

By offering equipment not available on key competitors and by simply being present as the newest, freshest product, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica’s price is permitted to rise to uncharted territory. U.S. Pacifica pricing begins at $29,590, just below the $29,845 Toyota Sienna L and $30,450 Honda Odyssey LX. At that level, the Pacifica’s superior ride/handling balance, flexible Stow’N’Go seating, and artful exterior shine brightly.

Up a bunch of notches, even with the accoutrement of a luxury minivan, many buyers will still expect to see a competitive Chrysler undercut its chief rivals. But equipped like our tester ($1,995 Advanced SafetyTec Group, $995 Trailer Tow Group, $995 Tire And Wheel Group, $2,795 Theater And Sound Group), the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited climbs to $50,270, a pricing stratosphere the Chrysler occupies on its own.

GRADED
With a few more refinement tweaks, a quieter powerplant, a consistently cooperative transmission, greater rear seat comfort, and a reliability reputation not tarnished by awful Consumer Reports rankings, minivan buyers looking forward to frightening depreciation on a $50,000 Chrysler minivan would have far less cause for concern.

In a snapshot, a one-week test completed by a minivan owner after week-long tests of every rival, it’s clear to me that the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is currently the van I would choose to drive and to live with, a verdict not swayed by this Pacifica’s outrageous levels of equipment. Yet because of the causes for concern, I’d want the Pacifica to cost significantly less than its rivals if I was forced to pull the trigger with my own money.

Right now, it doesn’t. But it will. Probably sooner than later.

[Images: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars. Rear seats detail: FCA]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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44 Comments on “2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Review – Is This the Best Minivan You Can Buy?...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’d want the Pacifica to cost significantly less than its rivals if I was forced to pull the trigger with my own money. Right now, it doesn’t. But it will. Probably sooner than later.

    Aye, there lies the rub. Pre-Mercedes, we’re on a roll, Chrysler maybe could have continued on a trajectory that would have allowed them to charge what they’re charging for a Chrysler minivan and sell a $50,000 top trim model with out their customer base doing spit takes. Post Mercedes, post Cerberus, Fiat using Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep profits to prop things up – not likely.

    I know some will likely complain about these indoor, florescent lit photos but I like them. Imagine this van with the windows fully tinted, idling in a parking garage. Wouldn’t you find it vaguely menacing and disquieting?

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Definitely. In exactly the way that a Honda Odyssey wouldn’t be.

      I agree with you on the photos. That’s a hard location to make look good, and these do. Plus, lots of cars are viewed this way as we approach the airport garage rental fleets.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      I also like the photos. They’re more realistic than the automaker-sanctioned (i.e. incredibly retouched) photos of the car, and thus a better depiction of what the car looks like in real life (i.e. in a parking garage).

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      Notwithstanding Chrysler’s dismal record for quality, reliability, customer care and vehicles that fail in the marketplace, the US$50,000 Pacifica comes with lousy 3-year/60,000 kilometer basic and 5-year/100,000 kilometer powertrain warranties. They’ll have to pile money very high on the hood before I’ll look at one.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    that’s not a sticker, it’s “pad printed” and looks like a double hit. Should have been rejected by QC at the supplier, never mind making it all the way into a f***ing press car.

    “Presumably due to the shape of the box, the optional 20-speaker Harman Kardon stereo is unimpressive.”

    vans are a challenge. The sheer size of the cabin means bass re-inforcement will be non-existent unless you throw subwoofers at it. and those take up a lot of space.

    nothing is so disheartening as being handed a Transit with a two speaker system and being expected to make it “sound good.”

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Stow’N’Go has persistently created problems with second-seat comfort. I’ve seen this complaint with the previous-gen FCA vans, and now with this new one.

    I have to question the worth of a feature that adds a secondary capability, easy stowage, at the expense of compromising the component’s primary purpose – in this case, seating.

    Several years ago, I wrote a review of the Jetta sedan on this site. It had a multi-purpose rear armrest so chock-full of features that it was a hard and uncomfortable place to rest your arm, and I criticized it.

    But that was just a large compact sedan, and rear seat comfort was only a secondary part of its mission anyway. This is a minivan, and nobody will buy it unless they have a rear seat (or two) full of people to carry. Much as I’d like to root for the home team, discomfort there is a crippling mission-critical deficiency I can’t bring myself to gloss over.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Parents love the easy storage of the seats, especially as it means they take up 0 garage space. They don’t regularly sit back there so 2nd row seat comfort is not a priority issue. Its worse in the Chrysler vans than the competition, but not a deal breaker.

      Rental companies love it too for obvious reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      I agree, but when you do need the interior open its killer-useful. Mine has swallowed full-size couches with the doors closed, and its a longer space than a standard pickup bed.

      Odyssey middle seats are limo nice, it was one reason it won our dollars. The downside? Getting them out is super-annoying. Sponge-Bob annoying. They tilt forward with one of many plastic levers, but don’t get it wrong or they just fold. Then, they must be tilted up and rocked to free the front legs from the brackets in the floor. Not too far however, as they will just alternate grabbing the brackets again and fight you like a dog in the vet parking lot. Once you have the leg connections undone, you have to get them out of the van sans handles or straps to pick them up, while keeping the sharp parts underneath from fragging your door sills and shins. Do not let one of the rear legs clamp down on any of the exposed floor brackets, or you might as well give up and get the sawzall.

      I don’t get mad at Honda much, but these are brutal to use. While I’m old, I’m not a wimp, and I can’t imagine many smaller people with less upper body strength doing this successfully. Honda also stores the spare in this area of the floor, which works but seems odd.

      If any manufacturer could get fold-away seats perfected, it would be an awesome selling feature for the furniture-schlepping hubby. (Disclaimer: my first van was the el-cheapo package Windstar with a single side door and second row bench, so I’m not that bright.)

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        I agree 1000%.
        I want to give a shout out the the Pacifica for all dads today.
        (and to stop all you PCers, I say dads because it is highly unlikely mom is pulling out and lifting in these heavy seats)
        I have owned probably 4 minivans, maybe five.
        And through the years raising kids they were the perfect car.
        Probably still are.
        And those hundreds of times I had to take out the rear and second row seats still haunt me.
        The garage almost always had the third row stashed along the wall.
        It was just to heavy to keep putting in and out.
        And basically the kids always were in the second row. And seats today must be better than those.

        So again, I say Thank You for all dads today who have to cart kids one day and boxes or furniture the next.

    • 0 avatar
      Hemi

      Yup having sat in a 95 Grand Caravan Sport SE, those seats were insanely comfy. While I loved the stow n go opton, both rear rows feel very uncomfortable to me.

      I do love the looks inside and outside of this van.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    As long as it has the ZF 9-speed automatic, my answer is absolutely NO.

    And I don’t care about bling options I won’t purchase. All I want is a long wheelbase minivan that can haul a 4×8 sheet of plywood inside, or carry 7 passengers, plus some towing.

    Unfortunately, this rules out the new Kia Sedona, since the middle seats are bolted in.

    My excellent 09 Sedona is probably the last minivan I will own, since my family’s station in life is changing. If I had to buy another one, I’d start by looking at Toyota.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I recently visited a Chrysler dealer to look at these. I like the styling a lot and a minivan would serve my family’s needs well.

    They had six on the lot and every single one of them had obvious alignment problems between the front fenders and doors, particularly on the driver’s side. The panel gaps were uneven from top to bottom and the panels weren’t even in depth.

    The dealer was closed so I didn’t drive one yet, but looking at them up close I really started to think that steep discounts would be required to get me to buy one. There are still just too many questions about Chrysler quality (and resale values) for them to price themselves like their competitors.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    I enjoyed the one I test drove, your average buyer is not going to be so critical the measure panel gaps. It is currently the best on the market. You have to tick just about everything on the option sheet to get it to 50k. Very nicely equipped with most options will put you around $46k.

    Keep in mind the Flex, Explorer, Pilot etc all get near or exceed $50k. Yes I’m quoting CUV’s a mini-van is a CUV with sliding doors and better functionality.

    Keep in mind the hybrid hits late this year, you will likely be able to buy a hybrid for less than the gas version once you factor in federal and state incentives.

    • 0 avatar
      RS

      I also enjoyed the one I test drove (and was a passenger in a rental Pacifica this week too). I thought the transmission was much improved compared to the early version of the Cherokee I drove with the same 3.6L/9sp drivetrain. It was unobtrusive during the test drive and riding in one. Of course, given it’s early issues, it will be well scrutinized in every review – which is good.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        RS…I agree.
        My two test drives were pretty nice.
        And I really pushed to test in uphill and around these little mountain towns.
        The trans seemed perfect, but the Jekyll/Hyde that has been spoken of here these past reviews does have me worried.
        It seems the high speed sudden change of trans attitude was missed by me since I never really had the chance.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      Just to be clear, the panel gaps didn’t require a micrometer to spot. My friend who was there with me (she likes cars but the thought of even reading a car magazine has never entered her mind) commented on the poor fit before we got within 10 feet of the cars.

  • avatar
    Jaeger

    A wonky transmission, unrefined engine and compromised rear seat comfort are not elements I would find acceptable in any vehicle that I would otherwise consider purchasing. The Odyssey and Sienna might be comparatively retro, but they are retro-good. Nobody struggles to apply the term “quality” to those vehicles.

  • avatar
    plee

    The son-in-law of a friend of mine took delivery of a new one and less than two weeks later it dumped some transmission fluid on the driveway then transmission completely failed on the interstate that same day. Why do Chrysler products keep being dogged by these failures? There seems to be a step missing in quality control especially on a vital new product that they need to be a hit.

  • avatar
    DougD

    I’m pretty sure the best minivan I could buy was a $9k used Caravan, which has been surprisingly good for the past 5 years, and apparently freeing up $36,890 for motorcycles, electric guitars, and trips to Costa Rica.

    But that’s just me, I only want to get to work and soccer practice in my minivan. No doubt others have different priorities, I know a CEO type who just got a Pacifica and quite likes it. Obviously you can’t be a CEO and drive around in a 9 year old Caravan with the drivers door panel off… :)

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Likewise my used 09 Sedona, bought in 2010 for $18k. I can’t imagine buying a $40-50k minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        Cactuar

        Same here. Bought our 06 Odyssey in 2014 for $9000 CAD. $10-15k is about the max I’d pay for these utilitarian vehicles.

        It’s freeing to know that I don’t have to keep the vehicle perfect for when the lease ends. I also don’t care about its value so I don’t need to baby it. We do take care of it and do all preventive mainteannce/repairs, but it’s still just a van.

        I can’t imagine the anxiety of owning a $50k van as a primary family vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          Waterloo

          We are on our 4th Odyssey. 4 year leases, zero down, for about $600/mo (Canadian). Have traded each of them in for a new one after 2 years. Even with the damage my wife and kids inflict on the vehicle we have had about $2000 of “equity” to transfer to the new van. The Odyssey holds it’s value really well and low km vehicles are in high demand.

          Leasing isn’t for everyone but it works for us.

          • 0 avatar
            Cactuar

            If I multiply your 600$ payment by 192 months (4 x 48mo leases) I get 115,000$. Surely you haven’t spent that much on vans in 16 years?

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Chrysler always does a good job with their minivan designs, it’s the quality control problems that keeps people away.

    But some people look at these as disposable appliances anyway.

  • avatar
    carguy

    There is nothing wrong with an upmarket minivan and this one looks great. However, at this price point glaring quality issues are a non-starter.

    Its an unfortunate problem that afflicts many otherwise good FCA (and Ford) products.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    “Is this the best minivan you can buy”

    As a 10 year owner of a 140,00 mile 2006 Sienna and having just traded it in on a 2016 Sienna, my answer would be no. Ten years of ownership consisted of oil changes/tires/brakes and that’s it. I expect the same out of the new one. From a reliability, dependability, and resale standpoint, it’s hard to go wrong with a Sienna.

    Also, the stow and go option was never missed by me with the Sienna. I had the second row seats out of the 2006 Sienna twice in tens years, to move my daughter to college. They were not that difficult to remove. The way they get those second row seats to stow and go is to make them much thinner and, I think, much more uncomfortable.

    In the last 10 years, I never once wished I would have bought a Chrysler/Dodge minivan. Not sure I would have felt the same way had I bought the Dodge 10 years ago.

  • avatar
    missmySE-R

    That’s really impressive fuel economy, rated and observed for a 4,300 lb vehicle.

    All the more impressive to think it was achieved without annoying stop/start technology, cylinder deactivation, direct injection, a turbo four, etc. Chrysler’s clearly got to work some of the kinks out here (as most all new models do) but in the grand scheme of things, this seems to be a simpler powertrain than most which should provide the POTENTIAL for better long-term reliability.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Base Price: $29,590 (U.S.) / $45,890 (Canada)

    Come off it Chrysler, this van should come in at $38,995 CAN$ at the current conversion rate.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    You know I could deal with the poor man’s stow and go that the 2nd Gen Quest used to have if they could make them more comfortable than Chrysler’s second row but allows me to leave them in. How come noone is doing that anymore?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    “… I’d want the Pacifica to cost significantly less than its rivals if I was forced to pull the trigger with my own money.

    Right now, it doesn’t. But it will. Probably sooner than later.”

    You’re about to be put on Sergio’s hit list.

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    2000 OLDSMOBILE SILHOUETTE GL
    2004 OLDSMOBILE SILHOUETTE GLS
    2005 BUICK TERRAZA CXL
    All three of the above have been painted in Amtrak colors from 1983 (Red, White and Blue stripes wrapped entirely around the vehicle). Along with Road #622 (an SDP40F locomotive), each has worn the colors with grandeur and class.
    Since the Pacifica is the ONLY minivan I would ever buy, I walked around several of them at my dealership wondering how to apply the Amtrak striping. The Pacifica does have flowing and undulating lines.
    This would be the first SDP40F that is non-GM and the only one with curved stripes!

  • avatar
    Rday

    i bought a ram promaster 2500 high cube van two years ago. love the van but didn’t realize that it has the same power train that the caravan does, and the ram is 50% heavier. Chrysler doesn’t have one model that is recommended by CR and now I have this commercal van with a poorly build power train under it. WHen i asked the dealer about transmission service he said that 60k is what the book says but since the van is much heavier than the caravan it wouldn’t hurt to do it at 30k.
    So i will sell the ram when i get thru moving and never ever buy any chrysler product again. the service is poor, parts are non existent and take forever, the van has rattles and squeaks and much of the hardware is poor quality plastic that does not last.
    If any company deserves to go out of business it is chrysler/fiat.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      Funny, we have a Promaster bus conversion at work for our handicapped people here and have (had now, he got fired) one of the most abusive drivers as far as vehicles are concerned and it is holding up great. It has no more maintenance issues than our Toyota van for the same drivers.

      YMMV.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I saw someone post on facebook that they really enjoyed the Pacifica rental they had… until the sliding door fell off. The picture literally showed the sliding door had detached from the upper track and was hanging off.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Our minivan is used for several Rocky Mountain ski trips every year, so it’s AWD all the way.

    That leaves only the Toyota, which makes comparison shopping easy.

    Great van, but the left behind seat tracks from the middle seats are infuriating!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Just returned a rental Caravan that I put over 2,000kms on over the past week. And as mentioned many times previously have owned/leased 4 Caravans and 4 GM minivans since 1992.

    Thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Caravan and would buy another in a hearbeat, expect for the FCA reliability issues. And now they are expecting consumers to fork out $29,590 (U.S.) / $45,890 (Canada)?????????

    Sergio has lost sight of his market and is shooting the company in the foot with that pricing.

    Minivans proportionately have a greater market share in Canada, mostly Caravans. Canadians will not pay that much for an FCA minivan!

    As for the seating. Nothing was an uncomfortable as the 2nd row bench with integrated child seats in our Chevy Venture. The kids hated it.

    Nothing was as useful as the ‘module’ seating in our ’97 Montana. 5 separate seats that could be removed and configured in numerous different ways.

    Could not fit a child seat in the 2nd row ‘buckets/captain seats’ in our ’96 Caravan Sport. Had to put them in the 3rd row or move the front passenger seat all the way to the front.

    Generally would move the rear/3rd row bench into the middle position in the other Caravans and just remove the smaller 2nd row bench and leave it in the garage. Making the Caravan a 5 passenger vehicle with lots of storage space.

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