TTAC Consumer Clinic: Minivans And The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
ttac consumer clinic minivans and the 2017 chrysler pacifica

In keeping with my current life stage, a bunch of my friends own minivans. Three of my four siblings have each owned multiple minivans. I own a minivan.

And this week, the test vehicle at GCBC Towers is this FCA Canada-supplied 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited, with a not-at-all limited array of options. As-tested, U.S. market pricing for this Pacifica climbs just beyond the $50K marker to $50,270.

Honda Odysseys top out below $46,000; Toyota Siennas below $49,000. FCA, however, wants the new Pacifica — which adopts the name of a failed crossover that died eight years ago — to be perceived as the automaker’s premium player. Buyers who want a value-oriented FCA van continue to have the Dodge Grand Caravan as an option, at least for the time being.

But we wonder if it’s a tenable position in the long-term; if, when FCA’s Windsor, Ontario assembly plant finishes its Grand Caravan run, the Chrysler brand can maintain the automaker’s longstanding dominance in the minivan sector.

Rather than simply formulate a cohesive opinion in TTAC’s hyperactive Slack chat, we took questions to the people. We didn’t want to do a Pacifica consumer clinic with this van — we know that a few minutes inside this luxuriously equipped example would produce a handful of Wows and Oohs and Aahs. Rather, we decided to find a minivan baseline.

With five questions in hand, I approached eight individuals: two Toyota Sienna drivers, one driver of a Honda Odyssey with which the TTAC faithful will be familiar, four Dodge Grand Caravan owners, and the current owner of a three-row Kia Sorento whose four previous vehicles were minivans from Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.

Income levels vary. Six of the eight respondents own other vehicles. They live in different parts of the continent. There are 24 children and five dogs represented by the parental participants.

This is not a scientific survey, but more than the strict yes/no answers to TTAC’s questions, the details provided by our eight minivan owners are useful and insightful.

What Was The Leading Factor In The Purchasing Decision Of Your Current Van?

Three of the four current Grand Caravan owners said affordability was the leading factor. Another Grand Caravan owner used the word “value”, while the Kia Sorento driver who traded in her 2012 Grand Caravan said the Grand Caravan purchase was motivated by affordability.

Not surprisingly, Marcus, a Toyota Sienna-driving father of four, said, “Having two friends with older Siennas, I was impressed with the reliability,” and labelled longevity as the leading factor in his purchase. Another Sienna owner said the van’s broad three-seat second row was the big reason for purchase, while Steffani, the primary Odyssey driver, said the cost/quality combination topped the list of reasons.

If You Had No Personal Financial Limitations, What Is The Maximum Price You Would Pay For A Minivan?

With this specific 2017 Pacifica priced above $50,000 in the U.S., only one of our eight respondents would be willing to reach that high on a minivan. The average of responses to this question was $36,400.

Don, the father of two (almost three) and owner of two Schnauzers, said that if price were no object, he wouldn’t be in a minivan at all but rather, “We would probably be in an Navigator or Suburban.” On the other side of the equation, Matthew, very pro-minivan a father of four, would simply buy the most expensive version of the best van available if he could. “Why not get the best one?” Other vehicular styles don’t enter into the running.

Do You See A Difference In Terms Of Prestige Between Dodge And Chrysler?

This Grand Caravan-heavy group is, theoretically, the ideal target market for the new Chrysler Pacifica, but only two of eight respondents — one current Grand Caravan owner and one former Grand Caravan owner — consider Chrysler to be more upscale than Dodge.

Another criticized the Chrysler as the cheaper option and said when she and her husband purchased their Grand Caravan the Town & Country didn’t even earn a second glance. The other five respondents all answered this question with a no. A Chrysler is a Dodge is a Dodge is a Chrysler.

Word Association: What’s The First Thing That Comes To Mind When These Four Vehicles Are Mentioned?

We asked all eight respondents for their one-word views on four minivans: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, and Kia Sedona. One-word answers were few and far between.

First, the Odyssey. The Odyssey owner said, “Longevity.” Of the Odyssey, the Kia Sorento driver said, “love.” One Grand Caravan owner considered the Odyssey’s camera setup to be appealing, another called the Odyssey high-class, and another gave credit to the Odyssey’s alleged “good looks.”

As for the Sienna, the Odyssey driver thought first of Toyota’s “good advertising,” crediting the old Swagger Wagon campaign. Durability, quality, reliability, and boring were the four one-word responses.

Aside from the “poor quality” label linked to the Pacifica by its Chrysler marque, most respondents had no opinion on the Pacifica because they had heard absolutely nothing about it. One Grand Caravan owner said, “It looks small.”

News for the Kia Sedona wasn’t so great, either. Unproven, fear, and auto shop visits were answers from three of our minivan owners. One Grand Caravan owner slapped the Sedona with a backhanded compliment, calling it “workable.”

The loyalty inspired by the Toyota Sienna with one of our two Sienna owners was noteworthy. He had nothing to say regarding the three competitors, but of his own van, he said, “Buy.”

Will Second Row Stow’N’Go Seating Be A Major Factor In The Purchasing Decision Of Your Next Minivan?

Every one of our minivan owners have third row seats that fold into the floor, but second row seats that collapse into the floor are another thing altogether. Steffani, the Odyssey driver, says, “They are tempting, but currently having second row seats that do not Stow’N’Go has not proved to be a trial.” Stow’N’Go second row seats are, “Not a major factor,” says Jonathan, the Sienna-driving father of three. “The sliding mid-row chairs slide quite far.”

Andrew, the father of three with full Stow’N’Go seating in his current van, says, second row Stow’N’Go, “will be a significant factor but price will dictate in the end.” Rachel, our former Grand Caravan owner and mother of five, had Stow’N’Go but never used it and considers it useless. And Janna, another current Grand Caravan owner, says, “Who needs a truck when you have Stow’N’Go?”

[Images: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars and FCA]

Timothy Cain is the founder of, 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 92 comments
  • Akatsuki Akatsuki on Sep 14, 2016

    Oh, and the T&C we had before it was a piece of crap. Really not well put together at all.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Sep 17, 2016

    I like to buy(or lease) vehicles with a lot of equipment. But I agree that around 40k is the top for most family folks. Our '14 Oddy EXL had a 36k window sticker and has everything we want. I've never found myself really wanting Touring or Touring Elite trim. This time, we might just upgrade to the rear seat entertainment system on whatever van we go with, but that's it. And it will only be used for long journeys, not around the town. We have a portable system, but the wife hates dealing with the wires. 90% certain it will be another lease, so I'm not concerned with longevity or long term repair costs. Our Odyssey will need brakes and tires when it's turned in, but that's for Honda to deal with. Our Odyssey has only needed scheduled maintenance, the early issue with the doors being the only big time WTF issue we didn't expect. If people can afford 50k minivans and there's obviously a market, why wouldn't the manufacturers cash in? I love the whole "if I can't afford it, then no one can" argument. Yes, people do get in over their heads on cars, houses,etc. But that's no reason the folks who are wise with their money shouldn't be able to spend it on whatever they want.

  • FreedMike All 35 units, eh?
  • Kwik_Shift Good looking wagon.
  • Kwik_Shift I'm kind of excited to check one out. Local dealers are anticipating 3 months for the first one to come in.
  • Jkross22 We're all being a little unfair to GM. It could be worse. They could have partnered with Microsoft to deliver RT - that wonderful tablet OS that couldn't run any legacy MS products - and brought it to the car. Or Win 95 and Clippy.
  • JMII The change could help GM better collect data from its drivers and passengers, and it could also be used as a foundation if GM decides to charge for subscription services.Could? Like the sun *could* set in the west today?Things didn't so well when BMW tried to charge for this service. This will go VERY badly for GM. Can you imagine the customer service calls?Customer: hello I am trying to hook up my phone to my new car but it isn't workingGM: we offer Google services nowCustomer: ok I use Google all the time, but how do get the stuff on my phone to show on the screen?GM: its doesn't work that way, your phone is not involved at all, just enter all your personal information again into our system and we will manage it for youCustomer: ummm... my [insert name of competitive vehicle here] doesn't work that way.GM: but we've made it easier for youCustomer: seriously, you don't support Apple nor Android? Guess I shouldn't have bought this POS, I'll be sure to tell all my friends to never buy a GM product, have a nice day.GM: ...This ultra-mega-dumb even for GM. I assumed if anything moving forward technology wise more OEMs would stop developing their own systems as a cost savings measure and just let the phone OS handle everything. Seems data collection is more important. Well as long as TikTok isn't installed we are safe right?