By on February 10, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Braun Ability Van

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.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Braun Ability Van

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.

Standard vs. BraunAbility Pacifica Sliding Door, Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn

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]

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6 Comments on “Chicago 2017: BraunAbility Brings New Chrysler Pacifica Style to Everyone...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Thanks for bringing this often-forgotten market to light.

    We have an acquaintance who has used such a vehicle for many years (MS), and it’s a lifeline to semi-normalcy amid difficult circumstances.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Good point. BraunAbility and FCA are doing great work here supporting veterans and others with disabilities.

      This is what people often miss in the debate over AVs. The point is not to force you to give up your Sunday drive in the Miata. The point – at least in part – is to enable mobility and independence for millions of Americans with disabilities.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Holy moly, that’s quite an engineering feat. I’m impressed.

  • avatar

    These are my favorite vehicles converted for use by people with physical disabilities:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/10/larry-labutes-wheelchair-accessible-lincoln-zephyr-bentley-mk-vi-restomods/

  • avatar
    never_follow

    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!

  • avatar
    7402

    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.

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