Preview The 2017 Pacifica And Pacifica Hybrid
Posted on March 13, 2020
If you ever wondered what it would take to make the minivan segment cool again, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles has an answer: The automaker invested more than $2.5 billion to create the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, and that does seem to have done the trick.
The starting point, naturally, is the Pacifica's sleek, low-slung appearance. After all, people don't tend to complain about a minivan's ability to get the job done, they usually reserve their criticism for the vehicles' looks--or lack thereof. But Chrysler designers have taken a fresh approach to the segment, leveraging the Pacifica's efficiency-enhancing aerodynamics to deliver windswept, flowing lines that are accented by the rear-angled D-pillars at the rear of the vehicle. It makes for a noticeably athletic stance that can be bracketed by available LED front fog lights and standard LED tail lamps with a distinctive "halo" design
Without going too far overboard here, the results are fairly impressive, giving the Pacifica a modernized visual presence that's missing from today's other minivans. There's much the same story in the cabin as well.
It's one of the most premium setups I've ever seen in a minivan, which have gotten surprisingly luxurious over the years. The Pacifica pushes the ol' envelope, though, and perhaps the best illustration of this comes from the five-different interior themes offered, with each one drawing inspiration from specific U.S. locations. For example, the design inspired by the sophisticated Soho neighborhood of New York showcases a Black and Alloy color scheme with Mineral Shiitake accents and Sepia stitching. But the interior also is just as family-friendly as it is fancy, even though fancy technology does play its part.
That means things like the latest Stow 'n Go seat-management system. This has always been a particular advantage for Chrysler vehicles, since it allows owners to easily make the most out of a minivan's versatile cabin. Well, it gets even easier in the 2017 Pacifica, because the new model now introduces Stow 'n Go Assist with an Easy-Tilt second row. The "Assist" comes from a button subtly located on the Pacifica's B-pillar. Press it once and the passenger's-side front seat slides forward, moving out of the way so that the second row can be folded into the vehicle's in-floor cargo bins; press it again, and the passenger's seat returns to it previous position.
As for the Easy-Tilt function, it allows the second row to be tilted forward for improved access to the third row, and that's even when a child seat is properly latched into that middle row. But not when the child seat is occupied, of course.
The Pacifica further improves access for all rear-row passengers, and makes life a little easier for those in the front, with another minivan breakthrough, in the form of hands-free side sliding doors. A slight kicking motion in the right place does the trick, and similar technology is used for the Pacifica's available hands-free rear liftgate.
Chrysler also extends the "Stow 'n" brand for the Pacifica with its first Stow 'n Vac in-vehicle vacuum system. This is no mere dustbuster, either. It's the most powerful such setup in the marketplace, thanks to engineering by one of the world's most respected makers of wet/dry shop vacs: Ridgid Industries. Conveniently mounted in the trim area of the Pacifica's C-pillar, the vacuum has a standard 11.4 foot hose to reach all the vehicle's nooks and crannies, but there's also an 11.4-foot extension hose just in case.
Even better, the Pacifica's redesigned Pentastar V-6 will be the most powerful engine among the current minivans, with 287 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. of torque, a nine-speed automatic transmission, and what Chrysler claims will be "unsurpassed fuel economy" in the segment. Yet while that's technically true, the Pacifica itself will go even greener with a plug-in hybrid model that can deliver 30 miles of all-electric, zero-emissions driving, complete with an EPA rating of 80 MPGe in city travel.
That's perfect for minivan owners, as pointed out by Bob Lee, head of Engine, Powertrain and Electrified Propulsion System Engineering behind the Pacifica: "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."
Which brings us the refinement part of the equation. Engineers didn't just drop Chrysler's new powertrains into any old minivan chassis. They developed a brand-new vehicle foundation that targets the same smooth ride-and-handling traits as a next-gen premium sedan. The result is a platform that's both strong and light in weight, using aluminum to help reduce the Pacifica's curb weight by about 250 lbs., yet also relying on 22 percent more high-strength steel than the current Chrysler minivan. The package then rides on a highly sophisticated suspension that combines a MacPherson strut setup in the front and a "twist blade" independent rear suspension backed by twin-tube shock absorbers with integrated rebound springs.
Much effort went into creating a more refined cabin environment, too. Thus, active noise cancellation is standard on all Pacifica models, as are sound silencers such as an acoustic laminated windshield, acoustic wheel liners, triple-sealed doors and a host of aerodynamics improvements to cut down on wind noise. In the end, Chrysler expects wind noise to remain as low as 63 decibels when the Pacifica is traveling at 70 mph, a mark that's "at the top of its competitive set."
Really topping it off will be one more segment first: The minivan category's first tri-pane panoramic roof, so that even third-row occupants can enjoy the open feeling of sunroof-style travel.
Finally, because so much of that travel is likely to take place with so many youngster on board, Chrysler engineers additionally put a sharp focus on keeping them both safe and happy. As regards the former, the Pacifica provides cutting-edge driver-assistance measures like adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and more. For the latter, an available Uconnect Theater system serves up a comprehensive infotainment experience with dual 10-inch screens that can display multiple inputs for gaming, video, music and app access. It even has a series of built-in digital games and activities in case of a serious emergency, such as when your kid forgets a smartphone or device at school or a friend's house.
But you don't have to take my word for how well the new Pacifica will satisfy owners. According to Tim Kuniskis: "The all-new 2017 is truly a no-compromises minivan, giving customers everything they need or want."
And he should know, since he's head of Passenger Car Brands, including Chrysler, for North American department of Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles.
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