Thursday, November 14, 2019

First Again—By Far

The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica is the heir to the original minivan, which Chrysler Corporation debuted as the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan in 1983. Later, the Chrysler Town and Country joined them. Now, Chrysler is first again with the only hybrid minivan on the market with the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

The new Pacifica minivan has nothing to do with the other Chrysler Pacifica, which was sold from 2004 to 2008 and was an alternative to a minivan—with great people space but standard, non-sliding doors (i.e., a station wagon).

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid with the Hybrid

Electric around town; hybrid on the highway

New from the ground up for 2018, the new Pacifica replaces the Town and Country and sits on an all-new platform. From the driver’s seat, it drives, as always, like a tall car. You sit up nice and high, for great visibility, and handling is responsive and satisfying on freeways, in town, and on curving roads.

An Interior Flow

The interior flows with organic shapes and textures found in the best of the Chrysler vehicles. While some cars aim for angular intensity, the feeling here is relaxed, pleasant, and in this case, spacious, too. Spacious for me means carrying lots of musical gear. My big bass slipped right in when I pulled the two straps on the third-row seats, which then disappeared into the floor. Cute. Up front there’s a big bin that pulls out of the dashboard, and there are pockets and cupholders galore.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

It’s all about the bass (room for the bass)

I found myself on curving two-lane roads, including California Route 1, on the weekend. While I drove the weekday freeway commute from home to work using no gasoline at all (more on that later), this time I took off northward with my wife to celebrate our anniversary with a seafood meal in Bodega Bay, which sits along the Pacific Ocean.

The car, whose battery was full of electricity at start, eventually moved over to hybrid mode, and we kept cruising along on gasoline. There was some added vibration, but the quiet and serenity remained. With active noise cancellation, it’s the next best thing to a flying carpet.

The coastal route was no problem with the big van—it felt taut and easy to control, even though my wife felt the edge of the road was pretty close. That’s because the car is wide, perfect for its role as a family transportation device.

I was excited when at two of our stops—Historic Fort Ross and the exclusive and remote Fort Ross Winery—we found free Level 2 charging! It meant more fuel-free miles.

Back to Work—On Electricity

During the work week, I didn’t use any gasoline at all. I plugged in at work on Level 2 (240-volt) power and filled up in about 90 minutes. At home, I plugged into standard Level 1 household current and it refilled overnight.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The Hybrid’s pieces that deliver the electric performance

In my week of driving, I racked up 429.1 miles; 310.1 of them were on electricity and 119.0 were gasoline. This car flaunts an EPA 570 miles of range, so you can travel all day without stopping. If I hadn’t taken a weekend trip, I may have never used the gas tank at all!

Other EPA numbers are 33 miles of all-electric range, 84 MPGe for electricity + gasoline and a still-good 32 MPG for gasoline only. Green numbers are 7 for Smog and a perfect 10 for Greenhouse Gas.

All Pacificas are powered by Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. The hybrid also gets a 16-kWh battery and two electric motors that work through the eFlite Si-EVT (single electrically variable transmission).

A NAFTA Special

Truly a North American product, the Pacifica is a testament to NAFTA. It’s assembled in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with 29 percent Mexican content, including the engine. The transmission is made in the U.S.A.

You can get the regular Pacifica in six trim levels, but the Hybrid comes in three—Touring Plus, Touring L, and Limited. My tester, in Billet Silver Metallic Clear Coat, was the topmost Limited. That means it was pretty well packed with goodness, with features too numerous to name.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Goodies galore can fill up what starts out as a solid package for hauling people and/or things comfortably & efficiently

However, to add to the pleasure, it had several options, including a sensational Harman Kardon 20-speaker audio system with 760 watts of power. The 360-degree Surround View camera was welcome in parking maneuvers, as was Parksense parking assist. The Tri-pane panoramic sunroof covered pretty much the entire roof, and extra-fancy 18-inch alloy wheels added to the tab. There was even the Keysense second key fob, which when handed to your teenage driver, will impose some electronic restrictions, including limiting top speed and selection of satellite radio channels.  

My test car’s list price came to $49,575, but the lowest-level Touring Plus can be had for $41,090.

Chrysler is not the mainstream brand it was in the past, with little to show wearing the winged logo today except this fine new family hauler. There are a few plug-in hybrid crossovers on the market for those with families and environmental sensitivity, but if you want a minivan instead, with its sliding doors and all, the Pacifica is your only choice. Luckily, it’s a good one.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

Steve Schaefer, a Contributing Editor and EV specialist at Smarticd, has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Recently, Steve became a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore, and is focused on moving to EVs and 100% renewable energy. Currently he is working at a start-up dedicated to Read his EV/hybrid blog at

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