First drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica in Las Vegas USA
When we went to Nevada for the U.S. launch of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk (and visit SEMA) late last year, we had a bit of free time to explore Las Vegas, and we were provided a new Chrysler Pacifica minivan to do it in on our own accord. We figured why not take the chance to review it, since it’s likely destined to hit Middle East shores eventually, maybe within a year.
We first laid eyes on the reborn Pacifica at the Detroit Auto Show about a year and a half ago. New from the ground up, it’s a rather attractive minivan, taking styling cues from the soon-to-be-discontinued Chrysler 200 sedan, and replacing the aging Chrysler Grand Voyager. Available with sizeable 17-inch, 18-inch or 20-inch alloys, there is no truly basic version, unlike workhorses like the Toyota Previa.
Inside, the cabin design is decidedly modern, and surprisingly premium in terms of trim materials, at least up front, with the stitched-leatherette dash and soft-touch padded upper door panels. There’s more hard plastics in the rear compartment, but that’s offset by all sorts of fancy standard and optional features.
Those options include two 10-inch multimedia touchscreens with built-in travel games, an 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen up front, Blu-Ray player, a built-in vacuum cleaner, power sliding doors, power tailgate with hands-free operation, LED running lights and taillights, standard 3-zone automatic climate control, cooled front seats, two large sunroofs and an automated parallel/perpendicular parking system, aside from all the usual standard luxury trappings such as power windows, Bluetooth, cruise control and smart keyless start.
Stereo options include 6-speaker, 13-speaker and 20-speaker choices, the last one being Harmon Kardon. The models with the rear screens also get tons of USB and HDMI ports for rear passengers.
Standard safety equipment includes stability control, ABS, front, front-side and curtain airbags as well as front knee airbags, and a rearview camera (although rear parking sensors are missing in the base model). The ABS can also dry the brake rotors in rainy conditions. Options include automatic braking for forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
The Pacifica offers spacious 7-seater capacity (or 8 seats optionally), with a folding/collapsible second-row “Stow ‘n Go” seats, and a 60/40-split folding third-row seat, with enough boot space still left for prams and groceries, much more so than even large SUVs like the Nissan Patrol. Access to the third row is manageable for most able-bodied people. There is empty walk-through space between the driver and front-passenger (to switch drivers on the move?), while there are tons of storage cubbies all over the cabin.
While a hybrid version is available with full-electric short-range capability, our car was the standard model with a 287 hp 3.6-litre V6, with a 9-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive. That’s a lot of power for a minivan, and giving the throttle pedal anything more than a light touch results in a small tyre-squealing burnout every time the lights turn green. It’s supposed to do the 0-100 kph run in about 8 seconds, but there is enough torque for overtaking comfortably.
The Pacific rides fairly smooth and quiet, easily more comfortable than the Honda Odyssey (which is also about to be replaced soon).
The handling is pretty good, with no obvious body roll in moderate-speed cornering. Basically, it drives like a car. The steering is well-weighted, but there is no feedback from the controls. The brakes are pretty good too. And while the transmission likes to sit in the high gears, it is generally fine in daily driving.
The Pacifica is quite possibly the best minivan we’ve ever driven. More comfortable than the outgoing Honda Odyssey, more modern than the Toyota Previa, and better handling than the Kia Carnival, it is the ultimate family car if you’ve had too many kids, or if your extended family lives with you (if you can get over your mindset of owning a minivan over an SUV). We sure didn’t mind trundling around Vegas in one.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.