2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Review - The Perfect People Mover

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L

3.6-liter V6 (287 hp @ 6400 rpm, 262 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic transmission
18 city/28 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
22.1 (Observed, MPG)
Base Price
As Tested
Prices include $995 destination charge.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself: the minivan is the one kid hauler to have when you’re hauling more than one kid. Crossovers are the rage, certainly, but lack vertical cargo and passenger space due to the relatively high ride height. Also, a minivan’s sliding side doors are a godsend when strapping down squirming small-human cargo — especially when aided by a power open/close feature, or when parked in a tight garage.

That’s why I own a minivan — a 2012 Chrysler, to be precise. Besides the two kids, I’m often hauling family members, the kids’ friends, and/or the various implements of suburban remodeling/destruction. No other vehicle is as versatile, but I’m as susceptible to the pull of the shiny new thing as anyone else. Thus, I welcomed the appearance of this 2017 Chrysler Pacifica in my drive for an informal comparison.

I’m hesitant to call the Pacifica beautiful. It’s a highly-stylized box, after all. But it wouldn’t look too out of place at the country club, train dealership, monocle boutique, or any other place where people with money might park their vehicles.

Compared to other minivans, the Pacifica is stunning. It’s a stark departure from the previous-generation Town & Country, which was all slab sides and angles. In darker colors, like the Granite Crystal Metallic of my tester, it looks positively opulent. My only design dislike appears in the rear three-quarter view, where the rear hatch window appears to wrap around the D-pillar. Nope — that’s black plastic, and it looks a little cheesy up close.

The 17-inch alloy wheels fitted to my tester look good only if you haven’t been looking at other Pacificas. When you’re walking through the dealer’s lot, however, these look positively cheap compared to the available twenty inchers frequently fitted to the top-trim Pacifica Limited — which Tim reviewed a few months ago. Don’t let the wheels make or break your deal, though — there is a ride quality payoff when choosing the taller sidewall afforded by the smaller rims. Driven back to back, it’s clear that he larger wheels also deliver more road noise to the cabin.

Chrysler continues to flaunt the flexibility afforded by the Stow’n Go seats, which easily fold away to reveal a flat cargo floor. That flexibility is the prime reason I chose my personal Town & Country several years ago — the hidden storage space beneath the floor is a godsend for road trips. However, I don’t often fold the seats on my van, as raising the floor panel to the full vertical position requires moving the front seat, which can be an awkward dance between the front door and the sliding door.

In the new Pacifica, Chrysler has made those folding second-row seats even easier to lower — the Stow’n Go Assist feature has a B-pillar-mounted button, accessible from the second row, which moves the front seat forward. Push the button, lift the floor panel, and drop the seat down. Lower the panel, and press the button again, and the seat returns to the preset position. It’s brilliant.

Those eight-way power adjustable front seats are much improved over the previous model. On the Touring-L trim I tested, they were trimmed in leather, and heated — perfect for this Ohio winter. I had no fatigue after a long day in the saddle, and my wife almost instantly fell asleep in the cozy-warm passenger chair. The second and third rows aren’t quite as plush, but as they are typically inhabited by dependents rather than breadwinners, the accommodations are more than acceptable.

UConnect should be the template upon which all other in-car entertainment systems are modeled — it is easily the most intuitive system I’ve ever encountered. The base system, named UConnect 5.0 for its five-inch touchscreen, works well enough, but the optional Uconnect 8.4 fitted to my tester is superb. With a customizable menu bar, you can drag and drop your most-used controls to the bottom of the screen. I can imagine, for example, that some drivers in warmer climates may not need the heated seats as often — the controls for those seats can easily be eliminated from the menu bar. My only concern: it doesn’t work with gloved hands. Most touchscreens in modern cars are likewise glove-limited, though. Perhaps I’m just spoiled by my old Town & Country.

Thankfully, many of the frequently used controls on the touchscreen are replicated with traditional buttons elsewhere — audio controls on the steering wheel, a large volume knob directly below the screen, and HVAC controls dead center. The optional 13-speaker Alpine-branded audio system was impressive, filling the big box with high-quality sound.

My week with the Pacifica included a weekend with the in-laws, several hours from home. I was disappointed that the Touring-L trim does not offer the large seatback-mounted touchscreen entertainment system found on higher trims. The kids were forced to go old-school, entertaining themselves with books. Oh, well.

As a fifth-generation Mopar van owner, I was in familiar territory when I popped the hood of the Pacifica. The powerful 3.6-liter Pentastar was present, basically unchanged from my van, but the nine-speed automatic was all-new. There have been plenty of complaints about this new transmission, but it was a pleasant companion for my drive. Shifts were seamless and smooth, and the new powertrain combo proved to be much more efficient.

My first tank of fuel, in driving conditions identical to those I experience daily in my old T&C, yielded 20.5 miles per gallon. I’d typically see right around 15 mpg in the old van. That’s impressive. For the entire week, I managed 22.1 mpg, matching the Pacifica’s EPA combined rating.

The driving experience is better, as well. Certainly, my 2012-vintage van is getting tired, with over 100,000 miles on the odometer, but I clearly recall significant creaks and rattles even when new. Not so with the Pacifica — it’s much stiffer, with a quiet, compliant ride. It’s no Lexus, as wind noise does creep in especially at freeway speeds, as does the somewhat coarse engine note when accelerating briskly, but it’s as good as its competitors from Honda and Toyota.

Would I Buy The Chrysler Pacifica?

Oh, absolutely. I even caught my notoriously large-purchase-averse (she’ll kill me if I call her cheap) wife poking around the Pacifica configurator on Chrysler.com, trying to find the best option package. We can’t make it work for our budget right now — our existing van is fine, after all, though the contrast between old and new is stark — though it is on our radar for a couple years from now.

However, I don’t know how I’d option it. At $36,880 as tested, this Touring-L package was very nicely equipped, but was missing the rear-seat entertainment package that we have on our current van, which retailed for around $29,000 when new five years ago. The UConnect Theater package, which has dual touchscreens fitted to the backs of the front seats, requires the Touring-L Plus trim, which starts at $38,890. The base LX trim, at $29,590, eliminates the power sliding doors and liftgate, fog lamps, automatic climate control, blind-spot monitoring, and satellite radio, among many other features. It’s a tough choice.

Plus, there are changes coming to the minivan marketplace — the Pacifica Hybrid could potentially be a game-changer for fuel economy, though my beloved Stow’n Go seats would be dispatched to make room for batteries. And next week Honda plans to reveal the new Odyssey, which is certain to respond to all of the improvements made by Chrysler.

The family was sad to see the Chrysler Pacifica go. It’s a perfect road trip machine, and it makes the daily commute simple and relaxing. It is basically minivan perfection.

[Images © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Akear Akear on Jan 15, 2017

    The elephant in the room is FCA quality. The Italian connection has just made Chrysler quality worse. Just look at the Dart and 200 for examples. Trust me FCA will find a way to screw up the Pacifica. That is what Sergio does best.

  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Jan 23, 2017

    So here's my thing about FCA minivans. My use case: I need a vehicle capable of doing one of two things but never (or as good as never) at the same time: 1) Move two adults, two under-fives, and their stuff on four trips per year of approximately 1000 miles one-way. 2) Move two adults, two seniors, and two under-fives on local trips of up to 75 miles at a time. This seems like a no-brainer for a minivan -- my folks owned Ford Aerostars from 1986-1998 and my wife's family had at least one Dodge Caravan in the '90s as well. So I was excited to rent a 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan as proof of concept figuring if it worked out I could get a good deal on a used one. I wasn't happy with the visibility and didn't feel like I had a good sense of where the back corners of the vehicle were and I thought the shifter location was awkward. My wife says she hated everything about it and after about 50 miles refused to drive it further. The part that really bothered both of us though was the height of the vehicle floor. Height-wise, I'm above average and my wife is about average, and we found it awkward to pick up our (then) 20 month old and lift him into the car seat. Are we the only ones who experience this? Given my wife's aversion especially to the vehicle length, we fell back on looking for a 3rd row crossover and eventually got a 2007 Pacifica Touring. It's very much a compromise vehicle in many senses of the word, but it rides at least 4" lower and feels much more compact than either the TC/GCV or the new Pacifica. I'm guessing that height is all gobbled up by stow-n-go and while that's nice for stashing some toys or a diaper bag, it won't swallow a pack-n-play and I can put the toddler in the back row using the flip-n-tumble seats just fine.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X As much problems as I had with my '96 Chevy Impala SS.....I would love to try one again. I've seen a Dark Cherry Metallic one today and it looked great.
  • Susan O’Neil There is a good reason to keep the Chevrolet Malibu and other 4 door family sedans! You can transport your parents and other somewhat handicapped people comfortably and safety! If someone can stand and pivot you can put them in your car. An armrest in the back seat is appreciated and a handle above the door! Oh…and leather seats so your passenger can slide across the seat! 😊Plus, you can place a full sized wheelchair or walker in the trunk! The car sits a little lower…so it’s doable! I currently have a Ford Fusion and we have a Honda Accord. Our previous cars were Mercury Sables-excellent for transporting handicapped people and equipment! As the population ages-sedans are a very practical choice! POV from a retired handicapped advocate and daughter! 😊
  • Freddie Remember those ads that say "Call your doctor if you still have...after four hours"?You don't need to call your doctor, just get behind the wheel of a CUV. In fact, just look at one.I'm a car guy with finite resources; I can't afford a practical car during the week plus a fun car on the weekend. My solution is my Honda Civic Si 4 door sedan. Maybe yours is a Dodge Charger (a lot of new Chargers are still on dealer lots).
  • Daniel J Interesting in that we have several weeks where the temperature stays below 45 but all weather tires can't be found in a shop anywhere. I guess all seasons are "good enough".
  • Steve Biro For all the talk about sedans vs CUVs and SUVs, I simply can’t bring myself to buy any modern vehicle. And I know it’s only going to get worse.