Chances are, if you were a child in the ’80s and ’90s, or an adult raising a child back then, you probably spent some serious time in minivans. And in case you haven’t noticed, minivans have spent the better part of this past decade getting overtaken by crossovers, in a way that’s eerily similar to how they pilfered the station wagon segment in the early 1990s. But now there’s a new wrinkle to the minivan saga: Crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander seem to have abandoned their utilitarian truck roots for a more family-friendly minivan-esque layout and styling. And in this emerging gray area, Chrysler hopes to make up some ground with its all-new minivan.
You might be expecting this new van to be another Town & Country, but it isn’t. For its sixth-generation minivan (for the brand itself), Chrysler has decided to shelve its iconic 76-year-old nameplate to bring back a less prestigious one: Pacifica. Not to be confused with the bulky 2004-’08 crossover, the Chrysler Town & Country is now dead. Long live the 2017 Pacifica.
Another sacrifice made at the altar of the Pacifica is the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler’s first-ever minivan, which ends production in 2016 and will not live to see a new generation. But don’t mourn for the T&C or Caravan too much – Fiat Chrysler promises the Pacifica will not only handle “a requirement with all generations of FCA US minivans – the ability to fit an 8 x 4-foot sheet of plywood,” but will “revolutionize the minivan segment with nearly 40 new minivan firsts,” claiming that “The all-new Pacifica is engineered and executed to deliver a “vault-like” interior environment with low levels of wind noise, road noise and related vibration/harshness characteristics,” so you know your kids will hear you the next time you tell them to pipe down or you’ll turn this damn thing right back around, which is something I assume modern parents still threaten to do.
On top of the expected interior space, and a lot less NVH, perhaps the biggest change ushered in by the Pacifica is its hybrid powertrain, something Chrysler hasn’t attempted to do in serious numbers since before it merged with Fiat.
While there really haven’t been any shocking developments from the minivan segment since Clinton’s first term, Chrysler is still giving it the old college try. According to FCA: “The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan features a choice of two powerful, efficient and advanced powertrains – the segment’s first hybrid vehicle, and the next generation of the award-winning Pentastar V-6 gasoline engine, which is mated to a segment-exclusive TorqueFlite nine-speed automatic transmission.” Color us surprised on this one; if we expected anyone would bring a hybrid powertrain to the minivan segment, our money probably would’ve been on Toyota.
The hybrid version is the company’s own design, and sounds plenty impressive. Again, from Chrysler:
The Pacifica Hybrid, the industry’s first electrified minivan, will deliver an estimated range of 30 miles solely on zero-emissions electric power from a 16-kWh lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. In city driving, it is expected to achieve an efficiency rating of 80 MPGe based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.
When you factor in that FCA currently offers zero hybrids and hasn’t seemed to make much of a public effort with the technology since before the economic recession, coming out with a system that delivers better economy than any hybrids from Toyota and Honda is no small feat. For eco-conscious families who have outgrown their Prii, the Pacifica might be the people-mover of the future.
The gas-powered V6 Pacifica will have the familiar 3.6 liter Pentastar under the hood, putting out a class-leading 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, more than enough to lug your Sears X-Cargo roof pod, pop-up trailer, jet skis, or whatever else we remember seeing other Chrysler-built minivans hauling from the back of our parents’ vans.
A Chrysler Town & Country, Plymouth Voyager, or Dodge Caravan may not be in every other suburban driveway anymore, but FCA still sold nearly 200,000 of its minivans in 2015. They may be lost in a sea of crossovers, but it proves that minivan sales numbers are still holding a little ground. With best-in-class power, acres of room, and a unique powertrain, the Pacifica has the earmarkings of a potential crossover killer. If you’re in the market for a new, green, family vacation mobile, Chrysler may just have the van for you.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.