Although minivans are gradually becoming an endangered species, the few remaining offerings in North America are the most resilient survivors, and this latest evolution from Chrysler quickly makes a case for best of breed.
Despite the shrinking number of minivan models available, the minivan market has been fairly constant for the top players in the segment, with rising sales for the Toyota Sienna Honda Odyssey over the past few years, even with the Kia rejoining the fray with the Sedona carving out a nice little chunk of the pie chart. While its competitors have been coming on strong, Chrysler and Dodge had a rough 2015, selling 85,000 fewer minivans than 2014 as the aging Town & Country and Grand Caravan were eclipsed by better, newer offerings from Toyota, Honda and Kia. But a New Hope was on the way, and now it has arrived, with a new name to go along with its new platform and new everything. Well, everything except Stow n’ Go; that’s not new, and it remains awesome and is even improved.
After many long years on the market, Chrysler truly started from scratch with an architecture that might again have to serve another long product cycle. With that in mind, Chrysler pulled out all the stops, creating the lightest, stiffest platform in its class through the extensive use of lightweight, high-strength materials in targeted areas. Aluminum for the hood, doors and control arms, innovative cast magnesium inner liftgate with aluminum shell, magnesium instrument panel beam, and Stow n’ Go tubs made of steel, which now form an integral part of the vehicle’s ‘backbone’ structure. Throughout the vehicle, Chrysler used 22 percent more high-strength steel, and almost half that an advanced alloy of high-strength steel. Overall, the Pacifica weighs in at 1,964 kg for the gasoline models, 113 kg lighter and still powered by a satisfying V6.
In fact, Chrysler’s Pentastar V6 is another star of the show for the Pacifica and all the Fiat Chrysler brands, seeing service in vehicles as eclectic as minivans, family sedans and pickup trucks. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 and its 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque are paired with a nine-speed automatic. Acceleration is more than adequate in all conditions, and the nine-speed transmission helps the Pacifica achieve 8.4 L/100 km highway and 12.9 in the city. Also helping on the efficiency front is that sleek exterior boasting a 0.30 coefficient of drag, so it’s not just a pretty shape.
We’ve appreciated the Pentastar in pretty much everything we’ve ever tried, and it continues to impress, but the nine-speed transmission still tends to swap gears just a little too much and isn’t entirely seamless about the process; we can’t help but wonder what issues are going to crop up with this transmission over time after numerous other problems with Chrysler’s nine-speed transmission.
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However, the Pentastar V6 and nine-speed is not the only powertrain combo for the new Pacifica. The Pacifica will also soon feature a new plug-in hybrid option, pairing the same 3.6L V6 – at a lower 248 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque – with what Chrysler calls a “Single Input – Electrically Variable Transmission (SI-EVT)” (catchy, right?). This innovative transmission incorporates two electric motors directly into the transmission, either of which can drive the wheels. The electric power source is a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, giving the Pacifica Hybrid about 48 km of engine-off electric cruising if fully charged, and contribute to an efficiency rating of 2.9 Le/100 km, NRCan’s measuring scale for mixed electric and gas vehicles (combined electricity cost and gasoline consumption equivalent to the amount of gasoline consumed per 100 km).