Minivans are minivans right? They are soccer mom vehicles, often shunned by the general public who lusts after more stylish and powerful SUVs. What if an automaker turned “what makes a minivan, a minivan” on its head? You would get the stylish 2017 Chrysler Pacifica which challenges your notions on what is a minivan.
My notions and deeply held beliefs on minivans were challenged during my week of driving my press loan of a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. This minivan definitely felt more like an SUV with the added bonus of kid friendly entry/exit and room. It wasn’t anything like I thought it would be.
Styling Is More SUV Like
One of the big knocks on minivans is the look. Quite often, they redefine bland with very blasé character lines, a boring front end and a very flat rear end. They are also typically pretty tall and the interior feels more like a big box than car. Basically, they feel like they were designed by engineers and not the creative team.
Chrysler designers are changing that with the Pacifica. You have to hand it to them, it looks like an SUV with a stylish exterior and with the upgraded interior materials as well as layout, it is again more SUV like. And this “SUV like” phrase is a big compliment.
On two separate occasions, I had the opportunity to drive the Pacifica to my kid’s soccer game. While the Soccer Dad imagery was vivid, it also gave me a chance to see the Pacifica compared to other minivans on the market. As I scanned the parking lot, it was easy to find the Pacifica. All you had to do was find the stylish, long SUV.
On the Road
During my week of driving, I hit the highways, city streets and dirt roads. In most conditions, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica did a good job getting my family around with the 3.6L V6 working nicely with the 9-speed automatic transmission.
As it was a minivan, I was keenly looking for certain things like road noise, sluggish response and mediocre powertrain. In most cases, the FWD Pacifica did a great job of reducing road noise, responding to steering wheel inputs and providing plenty of power.
Now, I said in most cases. I had the opportunity to do some hill climbing (4 percent grade for a mile each way) in the Pacifica in my area as well as deep in the Colorado mountains. The 3.6L V6 just doesn’t feel like it is powerful enough for my tastes and I openly wonder how it will perform loaded down with 8 passengers as my model was. It is one of those cars you say, “it can do it, I just don’t like to do it.”
The fact is there is nothing like having a minivan with kids. These vehicles just provide a superior experience for the parents and the kids.
For example, the Pacifica comes with an easy enter/exit, room for kids to stretch out and plenty of cargo room. The kids love the entry/exit at the push of a button from either the door, the key fob, the button on the pillar in front of them or from the inside controls behind the rearview mirror. Yep, there are four different ways to get the self-retracting middle doors to open and close. Pretty handy indeed.
Also, my test model had the stow and go flooring. This is a pretty handy option as well for versatility. Now, my model didn’t have the automatic middle row stow and go feature which was a bit of a disappointment. With the front, powered driver’s seat, I had to wait while the front seat moved forward to access the storage for the middle row. A bit of an inconveneice and I would prefer a driver’s seat manual lever for doing the operation.
One note on stow and go. The carpet in front of the middle row has to be moved out of the way to put the seat down. I’d like to see this carpet cut differently to allow for easier removal and, well I have kids, the larger size means I have to move and/or clean up more debris to stow the seats.
While my experience with the stow and go was a bit mixed, the rear cargo area was a great surprise. I was shocked to put a set of golf clubs in the back and watch it get swallowed by the massive cargo room. Doing some mental counting, I’m thinking at least 6-7 golf bags could stack on it each. You literally could take the entire family golfing in one vehicle. You just don’t see vehicles that do this.
Finally, the higher trim levels of the Pacifica come with interactive entertainment and rear-seat DVD systems. My test model didn’t have these, but I’ve tested them out before. Get these features. They are worth it.
In the end, I may never be a BIG fan of minivans, I do really like this one. Unfortunately, the low ground clearance makes it a no go in my area (much to the dismay of my wife) since our snow storms would quickly see it getting stuck. If you live in an area without as much “winter,” it is a great option for families and even those who simply want room. It has room for days.
Model: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Engine: 3.6L V6
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 18/28/22 city/highway/combined
Price as Tested: $33,475 with $995 Destination Charge