2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Review - Is This the Best Minivan You Can Buy?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
Fast Facts

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.
2017 chrysler pacifica limited review is this the best minivan you can buy

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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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2 of 44 comments
  • Kosmo Kosmo on Sep 17, 2016

    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!

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Sep 19, 2016

    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.

  • IH_Fever Another day, more bloviating between the poor downtrodden union leeches and the corporate thieves. But at least pantsuit guy got a nice new shirt.
  • IH_Fever I can't wait to see an Escalade on 24"s blow the brakes off of the competition!
  • Redapple2 Why does anyone have to get permission to join? Shouldnt the rules to race in a league be straight forward like. Build the car to the specs. Pay the race entry fee. Set the starting grid base on time trials.?Why all the BS?I cant watch F1 any more. No refuel. Must use 2 different types of tires. Rare passing. Same team wins every week. DRS only is you are this close and on and on with more BS. Add in the skysports announcer that sounds he is yelling for the whole 90 minutes at super fast speed. I m done. IMSA only for me.
  • Redapple2 Barra at evil GM is not worth 20 mill/ yr but dozens (hundreds) of sports players are. Got it. OK.
  • Dusterdude @SCE to AUX , agree CEO pay would equate to a nominal amount if split amongst all UAW members . My point was optics are bad , both total compensation and % increases . IE for example if Mary Barra was paid $10 million including merit bonuses , is that really underpaid ?