2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited Review - Hashtag Vanlife
2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
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]
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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