Chicago 2017: BraunAbility Brings New Chrysler Pacifica Style to Everyone

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

One in five Americans lives with some sort of disability, per the U.S. Census Bureau, including 3.8 million veterans. Not every disability requires a customized vehicle, but the minivan has become the ideal solution for those who do.

BraunAbility has worked since 1972 to adapt vehicles for those who need them, and unveiled its new upfitted Chrysler Pacifica at the Chicago Auto Show.

Per Joe Garnett, Braun’s director of marketing, between three and four million Americans rely on wheelchairs every day. As all of the companies converting vehicles for wheelchair access are private, so we don’t have specific sales figures, but Garnett told TTAC that BraunAbility owns nearly half of the entire adapted vehicle market.

BraunAbility sources its customized components from the same Tier One suppliers as do major OEMs, including Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and these modified vehicles are held to the same safety standard as the vehicles on which they are based. That includes crash tests.

That’s no small feat, as building these heavily customized vans requires reimagining them entirely. BraunAbility engineered an entirely new, high-strength steel subfloor to make a significantly lowered floor possible. The rear suspension is redesigned, as well, to compensate for the lowered floor and raised ride height.

That raised ride height is disguised somewhat by body extensions surrounding the van, which integrate steps for front seat access.

BraunAbility re-engineered the sliding door to widen the entrance by approximately five inches since the existing Pacifica slider doesn’t quite open all the way. Adding this more complicated door mechanism increases the upfitted van’s cost significantly, but allows for a wider access ramp for easier loading and unloading.

Chrysler Pacifica standard sliding door versus sliding door modified by BraunAbility for wheelchair access.

Upfitting adds roughly $25,000 to $35,000 to the base price of the Pacifica, Braun’s Kim Hanson explained. Prices vary as disabilities themselves vary, and each dealer will adapt the Pacifica to the needs of the user.

Certainly, this makes the upfitted Pacifica rather expensive. A base Pacifica starts around $30,000 from a Chrysler dealer, meaning a BraunAbility-modified example will run at least $55,000. Granted, that’s a small price to pay to enhance the independence of individuals with disabilities.

A collective “aww” was released by the gathered crowd as a pair of assistance dogs trained by Canine Companions for Independence strutted on the stage. These dogs train for several years to fit the needs of their human friends, and are provided free of charge to their people. One dog and his owner, featured in the video below, wowed the crowd with the pups’ skill at pulling the wheelchair-bound owner up the ramp into the Pacifica, and with the dog’s skill at using the onboard vacuum to clean up his own shedded hair.

More information about this upfitted Pacifica, including local dealers, is available at BraunAbility.com.

[Images: 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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  • Never_follow Never_follow on Feb 10, 2017

    It looks like with each generation, they go a little further with the customization. I recall the first ones looking like custom hackjobs, but this could pass as factory!

  • 7402 7402 on Feb 11, 2017

    Anyone shopping in this market needs to look at these as well: http://www.mv-1.us/. Sure, it won't blend in to traffic the way the Pacifica will, but it is purpose-built from the ground up as opposed to converted. You can also keep the sticker price under 40k if you check no boxes.

  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
  • ToolGuy Lose a couple of cylinders, put the rest in a straight line and add a couple of turbos. Trust me.
  • ToolGuy Got no money for the Tasman, it is going to the Taxman. 🙁
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