As Fiat Chrysler moves ever more eggs into the Jeep and Ram baskets, it has let some other parts of the company portfolio go underfed. Electrification, for one, most certainly has not been a priority for Sergio and Co. Unless you’re from California and enjoy the rare treat of an all-electric Fiat 500e, you’ll have to cross the picket lines to GM or Ford for an American dose of energy savings.
FCA has also let the Chrysler cupboard go largely bare. The sweater-wearer-in-chief already killed off the 200 sedan, and it’s all but assured the 300 will get the axe as well once the delayed Giorgio platform arrives in 2020. In light of Chrysler’s thinning herd, and given FCA’s clear predilection for SUVs, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a somewhat unexpected step.
It is, however, a smart and well-executed one. We were already impressed enough with the standard Pacifica to invite it to our 2017 All-Stars showdown, and the hybrid model is a welcome addition to the lineup. Most customers drive 30 or fewer miles per day, making the Pacifica’s 16-kWh lithium ion battery and 35-mile all-electric range wisely suited to the daily grind of hauling folded strollers and accumulating fine dustings of Goldfish remnants, all without the need to stop for gas. It takes two hours to fully recharge the battery on a 240-volt Level 2 outlet, and 14 hours plugged into a standard 110-volt wall socket (the charger is stored in a panel on the left side near the trunk opening).
We had no problem charging up the Pacifica on the Level 2 charger at our Detroit office, but ran into a little more difficulty after a drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan. There are local stations in Grand Rapids, but all available ChargePoint stations require an RFID chip in your credit card. If you don’t have that type of card, you’re out of luck—as we were.
The plug-in Pacifica is some 600 pounds heavier than the standard model, but in regular driving, we didn’t notice any undue behavior with the added heft, which brings the Hybrid within spitting distance of 5,000 pounds. Whether maneuvering around the city or on long highway stretches, it’s the same composed and comfortable minivan we’ve enjoyed in the past. Zero-emission thrust comes courtesy of two electric motors, one for each front wheel, and a one-way clutch can also recapture some kinetic energy via regenerative brakes. The brakes operate smoothly, without the aggressive deceleration like you find on pure EVs like the BMW i3 or Chevrolet Bolt. In fact, that ease of use is what makes the Pacifica Hybrid such a convincing package—it drives like a regular Pacifica and asks for very little sacrifices or forethought on the part of the driver.
In fact, unless you keep your eyes glued to the EV range readout, it takes deliberate attention to be aware of whether the Pacifica is operating in pure electric or hybrid mode. The 3.6-liter V-6 engine is silky smooth and subdued, and short of stomping on the throttle for maximum passing power, the electrically variable transmission makes the handoff between engine and motors seamless. There isn’t even a specific driving mode option to putter along in pure electric mode – the car will always default to EV mode when possible, but it’s out of the driver’s hands by design. Your kids are eating Elmer’s glue and trimming the dog’s hair with plastic scissors, remember?
Compared to the regular Pacifica, however, the Hybrid does demand a few changes. Seating is reduced to seven (two in the second row, rather than three), the second row can’t Stow ‘N Go fold into the floor on account of the battery, and perhaps worst of all, there’s no vacuum cleaner available. Otherwise it’s a fully loaded spaceship of a minivan, complete with three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree parking aids, auto high beams, a 13-speaker sound system, USB and HDMI ports galore, and a $1,795 three-pane panoramic sunroof. The Nappa leather is so nice, you’ll probably feel bad about the punishing it’ll take, so skip the white interior.
While it’s not clear what Chrysler’s future as a nameplate will be, the Pacifica has blazed the trail for the hybrid minivan. It’s a no-brainer for most families who don’t often need to stow the second row, and at about $1,500 more than the standard Pacifica Platinum, won’t break the bank. Not to mention, for those precious moments of alone time, the pure electric silence is golden.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum Specifications
|PRICE||$46,090/$47,885 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.6L DOHC 24-valve V-6/248 hp, 230 lb-ft plus two electric motors/84 hp and 114 hp; combined/260 hp|
|TRANSMISSION||Electronically variable automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, FWD minivan|
|EPA MILEAGE||84 mpg-e|
|L x W x H||203.8 x 79.6 x 69.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec (est)|