This article first appeared in the Green Journal magazine on January 6, 2017 by our contributor James Groth.
Chrysler calls the Pacifica Hybrid ‘the reinvention of the minivan segment,’ and it is. In fact, Chrysler actually created the segment over 30 years ago with its Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager/Chrysler Town and Country models, so it’s fitting that the next logical step – the industry’s first-ever plug-in hybrid minivan – come from this automaker.
Pacifica delivers big on many levels including practicality, comfort, and technology. This minivan, and its conventionally-powered counterpart, has come to market with nearly 40 firsts for the minivan segment, plus 115 minivan innovations on these models alone. To enhance fuel economy, Pacifica Hybrid even offers an ‘efficiency coach’ to instruct you for the most efficient driving. As expected there’s is a smartphone app providing charge status, scheduling, and most importantly locations nationwide for charging.
One of many details that stand out on this minivan are sliding door tracks lines hidden under the rear quarter glass, adding to the smooth and unbroken lines of the Pacifica. The Hybrid has its own unique interior colors combining Black and Alloy with Anodized Ice Cave accents, Ice Blue stitching, and Black piping. The blue stitching on the seats and dash have the look of a luxury sedan or sports car. An 8.4 inch UConnect touchscreen integrates seamlessly into the dash with a glossy screen allowing for higher contrast. The model’s optional tri-pane panoramic sunroof lends a perceived open-air spaciousness to the roomy interior. Hands-free sliding doors and liftgate add to the minivan’s convenience.
Contributing to the hybrid’s weight balance is a 16 kWh lithium battery pack that stows beneath the second-row floor. The only downside is that the gas version’s ability to stow second row seats under the floor is sacrificed since the Hybrid’s battery is now utilizing that space. Creating a flat floor for carrying gear is still possible but requires physically removing the pair of second row seats and leaving them at home. The third-row does ‘Stow-in-Go’ as designed. While the Hybrid seats seven rather than eight like in the gas version, the upside is that the second row seats are captain’s chairs that add comfort and a chauffeur-driven car feeling.
Chrysler initially projected 80 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) while driving solely on battery power. Official EPA figures now put that electric driving figure at a higher 84 MPGe, with a combined 32 mpg when running in hybrid mode. EPA testing has also confirmed a battery electric range of 33 miles and total driving range of 570 miles, a nice bump up from the 30 electric miles and 530 mile overall driving range the automaker originally projected. Plus, EPA has assigned the all-new minivan a rating of 10 in its Green Vehicle Guide, marking the first time a minivan has achieved the guide’s highest possible rating.
Pacifica Hybrid accomplishes all this even with an extra 650 pounds of weight over the gas variant – 4,943 pounds for the Hybrid compared to 4,330 pounds for the gas model. Chalk that differential up to the Hybrid’s battery weight and unique plug-in hybrid componentry. For comparison, the gas Pacifica delivers 18 city and 28 highway mpg, with a combined 22 mpg. A drag coefficient of .30 contributes to the mileage figures of both versions. EPA estimates the annual fuel cost of gas and electricity combined to be $850.
Pacifica operates in electric mode whenever possible. During our test drive we noticed no change when the electric charge was used up and Pacifica switched to hybrid mode. The Hybrid has an Atkinson cycle 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 producing an estimated 260 horsepower that’s coupled to a dual-motor, electrically variable transmission (ETV). A one-way clutch enables the motor typically used as a generator to also deliver torque to the wheels, depending on driving conditions. The minivan’s battery can be recharged with a supplied 120 volt charger in 14 hours or in just 2 hours using a home or public 240 volt charger.
The conventional Pacifica is rated to tow 3,600 pounds but towing is not recommend for the Hybrid variant. The Hybrid also has a smaller gas tank at 16.5 gallons compared to the standard 19 gallon tank, although the Hybrid has greater overall driving range. Braking uses standard 13” vented rotors front and rear and ABS. An added benefit with the Hybrid is its regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy to electricity while braking and coast-down, thus adding to driving range by charging the battery.
Manufactures realize that sales are now driven by tech as much as anything on new models. Chrysler engineers and designers have delivered in this regard by offering over 100 standard or available safety and security features. Some highlights are the Pacifica’s 360-degree Surround View camera that includes a bird’s eye view of vehicle surroundings. The model’s Uconnect Theater system offers 7- or 8.4- inch screens while sound systems range from six to 13 speaker Alpine systems or 20 speaker Harman Kardon audio. Six USB ports are standard.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid comes in two models – Premium at $41,995 or Platinum at $44,995. It qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit and may qualify for additional state and local incentives that bring its price down considerably, to as low as $34,495 with the federal credit and even lower with other potential incentives.