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Is the Chrysler Pacifica Better Than an SUV?

Car and Driver spends time each year test driving and inspecting lots of new vehicles to write up reviews on each. For 2020, it named the Chrysler Pacifica as the best minivan, even saying the Pacifica is the “best minivan you can buy—and better than most SUVs, too.” Car and Driver named the Kia Telluride their best mid-size SUV for 2020. Here’s a look at how the two compare and whether the Pacifica is really better.

Minivan vs. SUV

Car and Driver’s review is very enthusiastic about minivans and about the Pacifica. The review says,

“we are huge fans of minivans: they are great at hauling people and stuff, get good fuel economy, and in most cases are better than crossovers and SUVs in accomplishing their missions.”

While minivans have a bad reputation, they are more fuel-efficient and have better cargo space than SUVs. However, only the Toyota Sienna and now the Pacifica have the option of all-wheel drive, a feature that is more common in SUVs. While minivans can tow, drivers looking for heavy towing or off-road driving will do better with an SUV. 

Minivans have the upper hand over most SUVs for fuel economy, generally getting between 24 MPG and 30 MPG on the highway. There are some hybrid SUVs, but they add to the initial purchase price and still may not beat the hybrid Pacifica.

Minivans have lower floors, which give them ground clearance but also more space for third-row passengers and for cargo. Behind the third row of seats, minivans have at least 31 cubic feet of storage, while mid-size SUVs have less than 20 cubic feet.

Powertrain and towing

Looking specifically at the Chrysler Pacifica and the Kia Telluride, the two have similar engines and the option of all-wheel drive, but the Telluride has a higher towing capability.

The 2020 Pacifica has a 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. It produces 262 lb-ft of torque. There is also a plug-in hybrid option that has a 3.6-liter V-6 engine but makes 260 horsepower. It’s paired with two electric motors.

A limited number of 2020 Pacificas have all-wheel drive, but it will be an option for 2021 with the gas engine. This capability looks like a direct appeal to people considering buying an SUV. The Pacifica is able to tow up to 3,600 pounds.

The 2020 Telluride has a V-6 engine, generating 290 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, with an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional. With the towing package, the Telluride is able to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Fuel economy

The Pacifica gets slightly better fuel economy than the Telluride, but it also has a plug-in hybrid model that can beat both. The EPA rates the Pacifica for 19 MPG city and 28 MPG highway, getting a combined 22 MPG. The hybrid Pacifica has 82 MPGe combined and can travel for 32 miles on electric and gas. After switching to gas only, it gets 30 MPG combined.

The front-wheel drive Telluride gets 20 MPG city and 26 MPG highway, with a combined 23 MPG. The all-wheel drive version gets slightly less, with 19 MPG city and 24 MPG highway, getting a combined 21 MPG.

Cargo space

The Pacifica is definitely the winner for the most cargo space. It has 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space normally but 87.5 cubic feet with the third row down and 140.5 cubic feet with both rows of seats folded down.

Car and Driver was able to get 53 suitcases inside when all the seats were stowed. It also has Stow ‘n Go seats for the second and third rows, except on the plug-in hybrid model where only the third row stows. This makes it super easy to use all that storage space.

The Telluride has 21 cubic feet of cargo space normally but 46 cubic feet with the third row folded down, and 87 cubic feet with both rows folded down. Car and Driver fit four suitcases in the cargo area with all the seats up but 35 with all the seats folded down.

Both minivans and SUVs offer three-rows of seats and a great way to transport families. For comfort, fuel economy, and cargo space, minivans are the way to go, and the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica is a great minivan to choose.