2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited Review - Hashtag Vanlife

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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Fast Facts

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

3.6-liter V6 and Dual Electric motor hybrid (260 hp combined)
Electrically-variable transmission, front-wheel drive
32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
84 combined (EPA Rating, MPGe)
29.7 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base Price: $46,090 (USD)
As Tested: $48,580
Prices include $1,095 freight charge.
2018 chrysler pacifica hybrid limited review hashtag vanlife

For those of you voyeurs who enjoy peering at perfectly curated photos of strangers’ lives, do me a favor and click over to Instagram and search the “Vanlife” hashtag. It’s a seemingly endless parade of young folk who have eschewed traditional housing for a thoroughly modified full-size van — typically a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Ram ProMaster, kitted with beds, kitchens, and storage for implements of extreme living such as mountain bikes or kayaks.

The thing you’ll notice about nearly all of these vanlifers: no kids. It’s hard to get the little ones to hockey practice when you’re living life to the extreme.

I live a very different kind of vanlife here in suburbia. While certainly there are times when I’m hauling an empty box behind me, more often than not I have two kids and their assorted crap to haul. Other times, my van doubles as a truck, with a few sheets of OSB or 10 bags of mulch. I’ve even hauled a spare Miata engine to a race track for a friend who’d popped one in an early race session.

For those of us who need to get back and forth to the office, rather than to or from a trailhead, a traditional minivan is nearly perfect. The only downside? Fuel economy isn’t great, as you’re pushing a big, heavy box through the air. Chrysler recognized this with the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, offering a good bit more efficiency in a familiar package. Does it make more palatable?

One thing I notice with Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid marketing — it doesn’t emphasize the plug-in feature. Indeed, when looking at the build and price tool on the Hybrid website, the lead images show only the right front quarter of the vehicle, neatly hiding the plug receptacle on the driver’s front fender. I’m baffled — the ability to charge the big hybrid battery from household power makes this van an incredible commuter vehicle.

Chrysler quotes a 33-mile electric driving range, which I can attest to. I had a couple of days where all I did was drive back and forth to my office, a 16-mile round trip where I don’t often exceed 55 mph, and I didn’t use a drop of gas. Heck, the van can run on entirely electric propulsion up to 75 mph, so if you have a brief highway stint on your commute, the Pacifica Hybrid can manage without petroleum. Only when my trips exceeded the thirty-ish mile range, or I forgot to plug in overnight, did the gasoline engine fire.

[Get new and used Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid pricing here!]

I’m one who always forgets to drain fuel out of my lawnmower at the end of the season, which means every spring I’m attacking the carb with a heady mix of ether and carb cleaner in a desperate effort to get the waist-high grass hacked down before the kids get lost in the jungle. Chrysler notes that the Pacifica Hybrid monitors the age of the fuel in the tank, and will run the engine periodically as necessary so old fuel cycles through the system.

The biggest trade-off in useability between the regular Pacifica and the hybrid model is the lack of second-row Stow n’ Go seating. That center section of the chassis, which would normally allow the seats to fold into the floor, now houses the hybrid battery. The upshot — the Hybrid’s second-row seats, now relieved of their need to fold flat into the floor, are remarkably more comfortable than in the standard Pacifica. The third row of seats still can fold flat into the floor.

As the Pacifica becomes more commonplace on the roads, the polarizing styling isn’t nearly as jarring as it once was. The big Cyclops eye in the lower grille houses the sensors for adaptive cruise control, but it looks a little funky at certain angles. Otherwise, the look is handsome.

The interior is similarly clean-looking, with cream-colored piping trimming the black seating surfaces, and matching cream on the lower dash and on the inside of the steering wheel. The dash is well laid out, with the notable exception of the transmission selector knob in the exact place one would expect the audio volume control to be.

The kids enjoyed the big, seat-mounted touchscreen entertainment systems, though the included games were a bit juvenile for my tweens. The included HDMI inputs, however, mean I could feasibly bring an Xbox on a long road trip. For the kids, of course.

Chrysler, as we’ve seen on countless other vehicles, isn’t shy about acknowledging its heritage. I love this little Easter egg on the rubber mat in the center console, displaying silhouettes (not an Oldsmobile Silhouette, mind you) of previous generations of the iconic Mopar minivan.

Matt wrote a story last week on the S trim package, soon to be offered on the Pacifica Hybrid as well as the standard Pacifica. I texted the lead photo to my wife, who responded by asking me to determine what the payoff is on our current van loan. While my tester is handsome with its bright wheel finish, the blacked-out trim on the S package is stunning.

Perhaps that special trim package will get others looking at minivans again. I can assure you that minivan living is indeed a good thing, and if the alluring styling and stellar fuel economy of the Pacifica Hybrid can get more folks living their best then maybe we can rid the world of yet another blah crossover.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Stevelovescars Stevelovescars on Jun 28, 2018

    I wanted to get one of these last year but they kept delaying the launch due to some mechanical recalls, or so I was told. I think a plug-in like this would suit my needs well. I only drive about 10 miles per day (normally) but then have to make longer trips for my kids' sporting events. I would literally go weeks without using gas. I just went to the Chrysler site and noted that they just introduced a base hybrid model (no leather and power rear tailgate, I think). So one of these can now be had for a bit lower starting price. Last year the hybrid only came loaded. Personally, I like cloth seats, so that was nice to see. I imagine this must be incredibly quiet when running in full electric mode, but there was little mention of how it drives. How is the acceleration with the gas motor not running? The batteries are heavy and very low in the floor, so it may actually help the handling, no?

    • HotPotato HotPotato on Jul 01, 2018

      I recently van-shopped with a family. We drove the Pacifica Hybrid, the Sienna, and the Odyssey. The Dad and I liked the Pacifica Hybrid MILES more than the rest. The second-row seats (and honestly even third row seats) are super comfy even for adults, something that can't be said for the others. The electric torque and silent operation are lovely, and the idea of contributing no tailpipe pollution in your daily rounds is appealing. The interior is fine in mid level trim but very impressive indeed in top level trim. The Odyssey had the highest price, the most road noise, and the best headlights. The Sienna was Mom's choice: Toyota reliability, and quite nice inside in top trim. All had ample power and surprisingly good handling. So what did they buy? The one we all liked the least: the Odyssey. Mom liked her CR-V, didn't trust FCA reliability, and it was hard to find a Sienna with the safety features she wanted.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Jul 06, 2018

    Dammit, I was gone on vacation when you posted this review, and missed the discussion. My wife and I seriously considered but rejected a new Pacifica Hybrid when I bought my used LX570. Three things worked against the Pacifica: 1) high expected depreciation; 2) middling interior refinement compared with our other options (LX570 and MDX), and 3) sad to say, we were prone to van stigma. But then we took a family trip, which included a ton of driving (everything's far away from everything else in East Texas), and our rental was a Grand Caravan. The GC was old and unrefined and bare-bones, but the minivan configuration was *so* useful, and so much more convenient than even the LX. Now we are thinking seriously about going from two cars to one when the lease on our C-Max expires next April, turning the C-Max back in and trading the LX in on a PacHy. One car would be an adjustment for us on a few days, but I might buy a new e-bike with the savings, which could get me to a surprising number of places in the city on days when my wife needs the car.

  • MaintenanceCosts Any 4-door pillarless hardtop gets an automatic stamp of approval from me. Wish there would be one on the market today.
  • Analoggrotto Tassos is going to love this!
  • Art_Vandelay Looks like a Dart racing 400 block (aftermarket Chevy small block) with dart 18 degree heads, a Turbo 400 trans with a trans brake and a Ford 9 inch out back. Should be pretty stout. Seems way more towards the strip end of street/strip though I don't see a cage.
  • Jeff I always liked these 60s Mercurys especially the 63 & 64 Marauder 2 door fastback hardtops. I remember assembling an AMT 63 Marauder 2 door and painting it a peach color with a black interior. Mercury was just a class above the regular Fords and many of its competitors. Mercurys of this time period were more of a baby Lincoln.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Can't wait for the Tassos rant when he thinks this is a Used Car of the Day post.