Combining the utility of a minivan with the efficiency of a hybrid power train would seem like a no-brainer, yet Chrysler is the only automaker to do this. The Pacifica Hybrid delivers nearly as much passenger and cargo capacity as the standard Pacifica, while delivering far greater fuel economy.
This hybrid seats seven passengers and can stow up to 98.5 cubic-feet of your possessions with the rear seats folded down. However, you do have to give up one passenger seat in the second row, as well as Chrysler’s clever Stow’nGo feature, which enables the second-row seats to fold into the floor. But overall, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.
The styling of the Pacifica is the most attractive of all the minivans on the market, in my view. Soft curves in the bodywork and a judicious use of chrome are soothing to the eye. It doesn’t look as large as it actually is, which is quite an accomplishment when you think of it, since the designers are essentially styling a mobile box.
The handsome bodywork is complemented by attractive furnishings on the inside. Perforated leather seats in my test car were accented with contrasting stitching. Eye-appealing leatherette on the dash was nicely trimmed too, and a two-tone, leather-wrapped steering wheel was as much a pleasure to look at as it was to grip.
The dash and console are also worthy of note. They are elegant in the simplicity of their design. The instrument cluster eschews the conventional speedometer, and displays a large digital readout instead. The infotainment panel features a smoothly integrated touchscreen that’s easy to operate. There are also convenient knobs for the radio, and handy dials for air conditioning. A rotary gear selector, also mounted on the panel, frees up space on the center console. Furthermore, there are a half dozen bins and cubbies to hold odds and ends.
Under the hood, Chrysler uses a plug-in hybrid system to propel the Pacifica. It consists of a 3.6-liter, V-6 engine, two electric motors and a battery pack that resides beneath the Pacifica’s floor. The system generates 260 horsepower. The Pacifica doesn’t use a conventional transmission, but utilizes the hybrid system to transfer the right amount of torque to the wheels. It works just fine. The Pacifca can run on electricity alone for 33 miles, and when the juice runs out, the gas engine takes over, and will transport you as far as you want to go, at a rate of 33 mpg. Acceleration right from the get-go is brisk.
Behind the wheel, the Pacifica delivers predictable handling and a mostly comfortable ride. Quick steering and a tight turning radius make this minivan relatively easy to maneuver in parking lots. On curving roads, the body-lean is well controlled. But the Pacifica is at its best on the freeway, where it serenely glides along. However, due to its softly tuned suspension, it can get bouncy on rough pavement.
Chrysler offers the Pacifica in three levels of trim, Touring Plus, Touring L and Limited. The Touring Plus ($41,340) comes well equipped with power front seats, automatic climate control, blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors. Touring L ($43,340) adds leather upholstery and heated seats, and a power liftgate. The Limited ($45,340) delivers more luxury with a panoramic moonroof, navigation and a driver’s memory seat.
The only negative I can see with the Pacifica Hybrid is its price. It runs about $5,000 to $6,000 more than a comparable gas-only version.