Okay, ‘fess up: Know anybody who drives a minivan? Just as we thought. The segment-busting sensation of the Eighties and Nineties peaked at 1.4 million sticky mom bombs in the U.S. in 2000 but it’s been a slippery slope ever since with SUVs and crossovers gaining increasing favor at the expense of minivans, its sales cut by about two-thirds in recent years.
Still, the question remains: Did minivans fall out of favor as the family transport pod because they were irrelevant or just not in style. Chrysler, the company that practically invented the modern, front-wheel-drive minivan back in 1984 with the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, is about to find out with the all-new 2017 Pacifica. Chrysler just lifted the curtain on the people hauler at the North American International Auto Show.
The boxy styling of the previous Town & Country is out. In its place, a sleeker and wider-stance Pacifica gets the Chrysler 200 familial grille, a new sloping nose and windshield with visibility-enhancing front quarter windows and free-standing side mirrors, sculptured flanks with muscular haunches, more tumblehome (curvature) of the side glass, a jaunty Renault Espace-like kicked up rear roof pillar and, oh yeah Dub fans, optional 20 inch wheels. Watch out, Housewives of Beverly Hills, Chrysler design boss, Ralph Gilles, is so jazzed about the look of the new Pacifica, he recently exclaimed “single guys can get laid in one of these.”
Meanwhile, back in the juicebox aisles, Chrysler’s added several inches of adult-rated legroom for the inhabitants of the second and third rows, and widened the flip-and-fold-into-the-floor third-row seat. The minivan’s Stow ‘n Go second-row seats, which although a clever way to stash the chairs under the floor when unneeded, weren’t the best to sit in with hard cushions and a low, knees-in-chin, steeply raked position in last year’s version, are improved for 2017 with greater comfort and get the option of a new three-across seating configuration.
Where minivans trump crossovers is sliding side doors; there’s simply no better way to get kids, pets, clunky cargo, seniors, anyone really, into and out of the cabin. But can Chrysler make sliding doors sexy again? We’re about to find out. The 2017 Pacifica’s side doors as well as the liftgate are available with a smart option that allows the keyfob holder to open and close them by waving a foot under the body side or rear bumper.
Other new tech for the 2017 Pacifica includes a 360-degree Surround View camera (like Nissan’s), parallel/perpendicular park assist (like the Ford Edge’s), an onboard Ridgid vacuum cleaner (yep, same brand as those man cave calendars), adaptive cruise control with full stop, forward collision and lane departure warning systems with driver assist and blind-spot monitoring. A backup camera and five LATCH child-seat positions are standard.
Under the skin, the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 gets tuned for more power and torque (now 287 hp and 262 lb-ft) and upgrades to the ZF-designed 9-speed automatic with a rotary-knob shifter. The new minivan platform makes greater use of high-strength steel, switches to more fuel-efficient electric steering and sheds 200 pounds, according to Chrysler. The gasoline-fed version goes on sale this Spring.
But wait, there’s more. Hitting dealers in the second half of this year will be a plug-in hybrid version of the Pacifica. Dubbed the Pacifica Hybrid (the plug-in part isn’t in the name maybe because most moms already have enough to do), Chrysler claims it can go up to 30 miles on electrons, at which point it becomes a regular gas-electric hybrid. That beats other plug-in hybrids currently in the market such as Ford’s C-Max Energi and Fusion energy (20 miles) and Hyundai’s Sonata (27 miles), but not the Chevy Volt (53 miles). With a slightly detuned 248-hp 3.6-liter V6 and electric motor working through a continuously variable automatic, Chrysler is targeting an EPA rating of 80MPGe, just a bit below the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi at 88 MPGe. A lithium-ion battery lives under the floor where the Stow ‘n Go seats would normally store.
We know, you were expecting a new Chrysler 3-row crossover. But this rejiggered minivan just might work. Don’t call it a Town & Country, though.
For more information, options, and pricing, please visit our 2017 Chrysler Pacifica page on AutoWeb’s search and configure site.
Photo Credit ©2016 FCA