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The Chrysler Pacifica Might be the Best Vehicle on the Road

Executive Wheels: With one reservation, this is the best, most versatile minivan on the market


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2019 CHRYSLER PACIFICA HYBRID LIMITED

This is an odd vehicle, although I don’t mean that in a negative way. In fact, with one little tweak the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica could be among the best -- if not the best -- vehicles on the American road today.

When I first got my hands on the Pacifica I almost felt like I was in a Hummer; I wasn’t sure if I fit in the lanes. But once I got used to it, the vehicle grew on me.

I went from not liking it on day one to absolutely loving it by day three, and over the moon by the end of the test drive. Though large, the Pacifica proved to be nimble, not anywhere near as mushy-handling as many minivans and, coupled with the excellent power sources, it is a top-notch driving vehicle, a road trip super star. A beautiful day trip up 285 and over Guanella Pass, on some winding and narrow roads, proved the Pacifica to be a very able (and comfortable carrier) carrier.

Besides being roomy, comfortable and a pleasure to drive, what makes this beefy minivan such a super star is the hybrid system – with a little reservation. I’ll start with the reservation before I gush.

Chrysler has decided to make this Pacifica Hybrid a plug-in hybrid, so that as it achieves full charge in overnight electricity hookup (which takes about 7 hours on 120 watts, a couple hours on 240 watts), and then it operates on electric motor only – for a while. The vehicle itself keeps track of its electric and gas ranges, and fully charged it says that it will go 30 miles on full electric. I got about 24 miles in city driving, at best. That is certainly good enough for a downtown round-trip commute each day from my south Denver home, so in that sense it is a great commuter car. The EPA has rated the Pacifica Hybrid at 82 MPGe combined city/highway. Once the juice is out and the system operates on its 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine (with hybrid assist, charging through braking, etc.) this vehicle is rated at a combined 30 mpg city/high, which for a vehicle of this size is excellent. The gas engine is rated at 260 horsepower, and coupled with the electric powerplant the hp output is 287. Trust me, you will not experience any lack of power in either mode.   

This Pacifica may be the most equipped vehicle I have ever driven for review purposes. It is among the most technologically advanced vehicles, with every safety and entertainment option imaginable. For instance, on the back of the front seats there are two entertainment screens that can handle movies and games, with wireless streaming – a must for modern kids. There’s also a tri-pane panoramic sunroof, outlets and plug-ins aplenty, cup holders galore, and a 20-speaker Harmon Kardon, 760-watt sound system that sounds wonderful in this very quiet ride.

In the way back there is a roadside assistance kit including a first aid kit, tools, jumper cables, reflecting triangles, and a blanket for making tire changing less messy. In a side panel is hidden the long plug-in cord that is easy to get to and to hook up. And with a nod to older kids, this Pacifica comes with two key fobs – one, for the main driver that is the usual keyless entry job, and one called KeySense that can be programmed to limit speeds and geographic roaming – a way to keep an eye on teen driver’s without actually being there.

And, as Chrysler has done for years, the second and third row seats fold flat into the floor of the vehicle, opening a huge cargo space that I swear you could use to move furniture. When the seats are up for seating, these floor receptacles are excellent in-floor storage areas for all manner of stuff. And the sliding doors on either side and the back liftgate open hands-free with the wave of a foot, a very handy feature. My wife would not be happy if I didn’t mention the “purse shelf” on the floor up front between the seats. I can’t forget the Stow ‘N Vac integrated vacuum extending throughout the cabin.

I mentioned that this vehicle could be the best vehicle on the road today. It has dial-up transmission access, which is like push-button gear selection and not my favorite, but I can live with that. And the electric-only range of sub-30 miles could be improved for more utilitarian value; I suspect that once the initial rush of having the system wears off most people will stop plugging it in and go hybrid.

But the one thing that would make this the vehicle of the year – and wonderful for Colorado – would be the addition of All Wheel Drive, a feature lacking here. In the minivan category only the Toyota Sienna has AWD, the best safety feature of all. Chrysler execs at a car show a couple of years ago hinted that AWD might be in the future for the Pacifica, but no word yet.

The regular gasoline-only version of this excellent vehicle starts at $27,235 MSRP and runs to $44,695 in the most expensive package. The hybrid version starts at $40,245, and this Limited trim – decked out – carries a base price of $45,545. The optional equipment is surprisingly inexpensive on the sticker – except for the sunroof, which is $1,795. For $995 they added the Advanced Safety Tec Groups – with most of the blind-spot, cross traffic systems, a 360-degree, overhead view camera, parking assist, adaptive cruise control – every safety item you can imagine. Then there’s the relatively expensive destination charge of $1,495, for a bottom line of $50,005.

I have driven the competition, similarly equipped and priced, and I can say with only the AWD reservation, that this is the best, most versatile minivan on the market.

RATING: THREE AND 7/8 WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR).

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Jeff Rundles

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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