Review of: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid 4dr Wgn Platinum
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: The minivan that plugs in
By Jil McIntosh
Nov. 27, 2017
You want to get some really odd looks? Pull up at a vehicle charging station alongside a Tesla Model S, and plug in your minivan. It stopped a few people in their tracks when they realized there was a cord attached to my Chrysler Pacifica.
In addition to a conventional version, the company now offers the Pacifica as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). When charged from a wall socket, it travels on electricity alone for up to 53 kilometres, depending on driving conditions. Once that charge runs out, it reverts to regular hybrid operation, automatically switching between gasoline, electricity and a combination of both, and recharging itself with regenerative braking.
The Pacifica Hybrid starts at $52,706, while my Platinum model rang in at $56,495. Depending on where you live, that could be reduced by “green” plug-in vehicle provincial rebates. Those in British Columbia get back $5,000, while Quebec rebates $8,000. I live in the generous province of Ontario, where my sticker would be reduced by a hefty $14,000. (Thank you, fellow taxpayers, including you folks waiting on the corner for a bus.)
The Pacifica Hybrid can be recharged at a regular 120-volt wall socket, which takes about 13 hours from depleted. Hooking it to a 240-volt home or public charger reduces it to about two hours. My province also supplies up to $1,000 for the purchase and professional installation of a home charger. It can’t be charged on a Level 3 (direct current) quick-charger, but public ones are almost impossible to find anyway.
Pros & Cons
- + Comfortable, spacious interior
- + Refined drive
- + Fuel economy
- - Brake feel
- - Price
- - Lack of electric-car infrastructure
The hybrid version doesn’t look any different from the conventional Pacifica, except for its rear badge and its charging port, hidden behind a flap on the front fender. It’s a handsome vehicle overall, although the squared-off rear end makes it look a bit chubby from behind.
All models come with power-sliding doors, but the top-line trim adds a power liftgate and hands-free function – on the sliding doors, too – that can be added as an option on the lower levels.
The Pacifica’s cabin is well-appointed, especially with my tester’s Nappa leather upholstery, although families might want to opt for something a little more stain-forgiving that my car’s light “Alloy” colour scheme.
As with the exterior, the cabin is pretty much unchanged from the conventional Pacifica, other than displays you can bring up in the instrument cluster and infotainment screen to show the hybrid information.
The major difference is in the second-row seats. In the conventional Pacifica, they’re Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go, where they can be folded down completely into bins in the floor (which can be used as handy storage cubbies when the seats are up). Since the hybrid battery is under the floor, this feature isn’t available. If you want more cargo space, these seats must be removed and stored elsewhere, as on other minivans. However, the battery doesn’t affect the third row. There’s still a deep storage well behind it, and the third-row seats can be folded flat into it.
Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system is still one of the better ones on the market, delivered on my tester through an 8.4-inch touch screen. Mine included easy-to-use navigation and satellite radio. My van also came with a second-row, dual-screen Blu-ray DVD system, which includes a number of pre-loaded games (my second-row adult passenger on a long trip got into a pretty sophisticated level of a hangman-style word puzzle). If navigation is set, the screen can also display an “are we there yet” function to show how much longer it’s going to take.
My tester also included a number of electronic safety nannies, including lane-keep assist, forward collision warning with braking, 360-degree camera, parking assist, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. Although I’m not sure why it would be different, I found the adaptive cruise to be very smooth on the conventional Pacifica I drove, but on this one, it could be jerky.
The Pacifica Hybrid uses a version of the conventional van’s 3.6-litre V6 engine, but fitted with Atkinson cycle technology. This fuel-saving feature reduces power output, but it’s a good fit in a hybrid where the fuel-free electric motor can make up the difference. The system’s total combined output is rated at 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque.
While a few PHEVs allow you to “save” the stored charge – such as if you’re going onto the highway, and then want to use it once you’re back on city streets – the Pacifica defaults to electric-only as soon as you start driving after plugging it in. If it collects enough power through regenerative braking, it also goes directly to that, running on battery only until it’s eaten that up and returns to hybrid operation.
I took it on a trip through a mountain range, and on one particularly steep downhill slope, I was able to build up four kilometres’ worth of power. On each hill, I collected some electricity on the downward slope, which then got me at least some of the way up the next one without using any gasoline. The regenerative braking is so strong that the van actually slows down when it’s going downhill.
My one complaint is with the brakes, which have an unusual, artificial, and non-linear feel to them. I almost overshot a couple of turns before I got used to them, because I wasn’t expecting so much pedal travel.
I wasn’t able to do much plug-in charging on my trip – public infrastructure is still an issue with electric vehicles – but got an overall 7.3 L/100 km over a week. For some owners who use it primarily for commuting and errands and who charge it regularly, it might be possible to run almost exclusively on battery alone, but with the ability to go anywhere after that, as long as there’s fuel in the tank.
Beyond all that, the Pacifica Hybrid drives about the same as the conventional van, which means it’s a pleasant performer. While Toyota’s Sienna and Honda’s Odyssey used to be well ahead of the outgoing Dodge Grand Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country for ride comfort and handling, the Pacifica is every bit as good or better as its competitors when you’re behind the wheel. The hybrid actually rides and corners a bit better than its conventional Pacifica sibling, thanks to the lower centre of gravity provided by the battery’s low-slung weight.
Of course you don’t get something for nothing, and the Pacifica Hybrid’s extra technology, along with its higher trim levels, puts it a considerable step above the MSRP of the conventional model. It starts at $52,706 and goes to $58,206 (for 2018 models), while a regular Pacifica begins at $36,095 and runs to $53,095.
Whether you’ll make that back difference in fuel depends on your driving and charging habits. Natural Resources Canada estimates that the conventional Pacifica costs $2,027 per year to fuel (at 20,000 km of driving, and gas at 93 cents a litre), while fuel and electricity costs for the hybrid come out to $917.
Your decision may also depend on whether you’re in a province that gives you a rebate, and also on how much the competition charges for its vans – which could potentially override the fuel savings, depending on your driving habits.
The Pacifica’s competitors include the Honda Odyssey, which runs between $33,190 and $50,290; Toyota’s Sienna, from $33,690 to $44,400; and Kia’s Sedona, which undercuts everyone at $27,995 to $46,995. There should also be some decent deals on the Dodge Grand Caravan as it phases out, with an MSRP between $30,495 and $45,495, before any incentives and offers.
So should you go for a minivan that you can plug into a wall? As with full electrics – and hybrids, for that matter – PHEVs have yet to make much of a dent in market share. Chrysler has avoided the trap of making both a hybrid and a plug-in, going straight to the pricier but more advanced and fuel-saving cord version, and it could be a viable option for many families. Just be sure to do the math before you choose