Eric's Autos: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Minivans were once the rage. Then along came crossovers. They are similar in layout and road manners but sexier in appearance. Then, minivans receded. Ford and GM stopped selling them altogether. So it's brave of Chrysler to bring out a brand-new one because there's a lot riding on it.
What It Is
The Pacifica is Chrysler's full-size minivan.
Like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna -- the Pacifica's primary rivals -- the emphasis is as much on luxury touring and technology as it used to be on kid-carrying practicality.
Prices start at $26,995 for the base seven-passenger L trim. This can be increased to eight seats by ordering the optional (and removable) second-row center seat.
A top-of-the-line Touring trim with a built-in vacuum cleaner, 20-inch wheels and two sunroofs -- a sliding panorama roof up front plus a fixed rear glass section, kind of like a '70s-era Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon -- stickers for $43,695.
All trims, including the base L, come standard with additional electronic safety features (blind-spot monitor, rear park sensors) and an upgraded version of Chrysler's UConnect interface.
The optional GPS system gets bundled with 4G Wi-Fi, and the optional back-seat DVD entertainment system can stream video wirelessly through Android devices.
The easily removable second-row center seat adds (or subtracts) passenger and/or cargo capacity as needed.
It has a class-best tow rating (3,600 pounds).
The rear-seat entertainment system includes two 10-inch Blu-ray monitors built into the driver and passenger seat backs.
What's Not So Good
It has a wide turning circle (almost 40 feet -- several feet wider than rivals like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna).
It has less cargo room than rivals.
All-wheel drive isn't available.
Under the Hood
The Pacifica comes standard with a slightly larger and slightly stronger V-6 engine than the Sienna and the Odyssey: It has 3.6 liters and 287 horsepower; there are 3.5 liters and 266 horsepower in the Toyota, and 3.5 liters and 248horsepower in the Honda.
The Chrysler also comes with a nine-speed automatic, whereas a six-speed automatic comes in the Sienna and Odyssey. But it works out to pretty much the same. These vans all go from zero to 60 mph in the mid to high seven-second range.
This is performance comparable to that of many current sport sedans -- which can't carry eight people.
On the Road
From the driver's point of view, the Pacifica doesn't feel as lengthy as it is, because the nose is fairly short and you sit very close to the front axle centerline. This gives you a good sense of where the front corners are relative to potential paint-scraping/fender-denting obstacles, as when docking into a parking spot.
But be aware of the rest of the van.
The Pacifica is the longest in length of the current crop: 203.6 inches versus 202.9 for the Sienna and 200.2 for the Odyssey. It also has the longest wheelbase of the three (121.6 inches versus 118.1 for the Odyssey and 119.3 for the Sienna). And it has the widest turning circle: 39.7 feet versus 37.5 for the Toyota and just 35.1 feet for the Honda.
However, this only becomes apparent when maneuvering in very close quarters, such as making a U-turn on a narrow street, while the ultra-plush ride (a function of the extra-long wheelbase) is your everyday companion.
At the Curb
The Pacifica's roomy for people in its first two rows (41.1 inches of legroom up front and 39 inches for the second-row passengers). This is about the same as in the Odyssey (40.9 inches in the first and second row) and noticeably more than in Sienna, which has only 37.6 inches of legroom in its second row.
On the downside, the Pacifica has the least cargo room of the bunch: 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row and 140.5 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. The Sienna has 39.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row and 150 cubic feet total; the Odyssey has 38.4 cubic feet behind its front row and 148.5 with all its seats folded flat.
Numerous high-end features are available, including an elegantly framed 8.4-inch iPad-style LCD touch screen, which is canted slightly toward the driver.
It's odd that Chrysler doesn't offer AWD with this one. Previous Chrysler vans did, and the current Toyota Sienna still does. So why not? Probably because these vans are not so mini and are very heavy. Adding AWD would add even more to their curb weight, which would increase the vehicles' appetite for gas. Buyers might be OK with that, but all the car companies are under enormous pressure to increase their corporate average fuel-economy numbers -- the combined MPG average of all the vehicles they sell -- and an AWD Pacifica would probably hurt that number.
The Bottom Line
All of the vans that remain on the market are very nice. But odds are good you'll be able to wrangle a better deal on the Pacifica because Honda and Toyota are now the established players in the segment Chrysler created -- and now must try to re-conquer.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate, Inc.