The minivan as we know it was invented by Chrysler some three decades or so ago. Unsurprisingly, it didn't take long before other manufacturers took up the baton and ran with it. The automotive world is highly competitive with the players always looking for new profitable niches to fill. The Chrysler Town & Country has been facing stiff competition from the likes of Honda and Toyota for some time now, so Chrysler designers and engineers had to bring something new with the next-generation Chrysler minivan to usurp its illustrious rivals.The result is the Chrysler Pacifica. Successor to the outgoing Town & Country, it has already set an impressive new benchmark for the segment. That benchmark come in terms of the fuel economy. According to Chrysler, the plug-in version of the minivan can run for up to 30 miles on electricity only. This gives it an EPA-estimated 80 miles-per-gallon equivalent (mpge) as an overall fuel economy rating. That figure doesn't just nudge the Pacifica Hybrid ahead of its Japanese rivals; it positively smashes them into the dust as far as fuel efficiency is concerned.
While the powertrain in the 2017 Pacifica Hybrid is a very good one, what's even more remarkable is how it came into existence. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is one of the few automakers with no hybrid powertrains. In fact, it bought emissions credits from the likes of Tesla, Honda and Toyota. One could argue Ferrari had one with its LaFerrari hybrid sports car; however, the exotic sports car marquee is no longer a part of FCA. So it may have even seemed strange for FCA to make such a big move with the hybrid minivan especially in a segment that's seemingly shrinking in the wake of buyers' tastes for full-size crossovers and SUVs.
But that may have been part of FCA's strategy. What many folks don't realize is that Chrysler and Dodge holds almost half the market for minivans here in the United States. Combined sales of the Town & Country and Dodge Caravan, for example, totaled 272,000 vehicles in 2014 alone. If the company could get close to that level of sales with a hybrid minivan that does 80 mpge, it would not only be a huge help getting minivan shoppers to Chrysler dealerships but get FCA in meeting increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions standards going forward. As Bob Lee, FCA's vice president and head of Engine, Powertrain and Electrification Systems Engineering said in a statement, "Due to its large footprint and multiple daily trip patterns, the minivan is ideally suited for electrification technology. The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica lives up to this promise and then some, with efficiency, power and refinement."
Of course there's an awful lot more to admire with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica than just the fuel economy figures of its hybrid powertrain. Horsepower and torque are 248 and 230, which are competitive figures in the segment. Don't be surprised if fuel economy ratings for city, highway and combined driving beat the competition, or at the very least match them.
Inside, Chrysler's famed Stow 'n Go seats have been redesigned in the Pacifica to make it easier than ever to fold the second row seats into the floor. Those seats' Easy Tilt feature also make it a breeze to get to the third row.
Non-hybrid Pacificas will be offered in five models while the hybrid comes in two. Both have been thoroughly built from a new platform to give a more quiet and smooth drive and ride experience. Safety has also been enhanced. This is unsurprising given the minivan's main purpose as a passenger transport. Additional high-strength steel has been added to absorb impacts in case of a carsh. Five of the Pacifica's seats are configured for LATCH child safety, surpassing similar offerings from the competition.
Lane departure warning notifies drivers when they are crossing lane lines. An adaptive cruise control system keeps the vehicle in place in traffic without the driver having to keep their foot on the gas pedal. Parking the large minivan is made even simpler thanks to rearview camera and ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist. The latter feature assists drivers in slipping into that tight parking space with ease thanks to the use of ultrasonic sensors.
Another advance safety feature available on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is Surround View. This system positions four cameras around the minivan to give it an unparalleled, 360-view of the surroundings. This also includes a bird's eye view setting which gives passengers the perspective they're right above the minivan.
The outgoing Town & Country received five out of five stars in overall safety from the NHTSA. The non-profit IIHS gave its highest rating of "Good" to the minivan in most of its crash tests like roof strength and side-impact crash tests. According to Chrysler, the Pacifica comes with more than 100 standard and optional safety features and technologies. Thus, it will not be surprising if the even more advance Pacifica scores even higher safety ratings.
"The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is truly a no-compromises minivan, giving customers everything they need or want," notes Timothy Kuniskis, head of Passenger Car Brands for FCA - North America. "We started from the ground up to design the most technologically advanced minivan, which offers bold styling, class-leading ride and handling, and unmatched fuel economy, with the Pacifica Hybrid delivering up to 80 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) in city driving. The all-new Chrysler Pacifica was thoughtfully designed and engineered to provide unsurpassed levels of comfort, convenience, technology and functionality, making it the perfect combination for modern families."Just as the automaker was the first to come up with minivan concept itself, it's now become the first to give us a plug-in hybrid version of its own invention. It surely won't be too long until Toyota and Honda follow Chrysler's lead once again, but the credit will stay with the American automaker for once again being the first to give us something new and extremely practical. But 80 mpge certainly isn't a bad place to start when you're thinking of buying a vehicle to carry up to eight people.
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