2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus Review

FCA's Finest

 

FCA is having a tough time.

The Italian-American automaker recently discontinued its slow-selling Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans, models that compete in core segments of the market, Alfa Romeo’s U.S. rebirth has been agonizingly slow, many of the company’s mainline models are well past their sell-by dates, and FCA is too reliant on trucks to make ends meet.

And then there’s quality, which has historically been a sore spot on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, this remains an issue today, with many of their brands and products faring poorly in studies released by firms like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power.

Amidst this turmoil, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan launched earlier this year replacing the long-running Town & Country nameplate. Despite riding atop an all-new platform and offering more features than ever, I must confess that my hopes weren’t very high for this family hauler.

The Prejudice Trap

But as the old saying goes, “When you assume you make an ass out of you and me,” I’m happy to report my fears were completely unfounded because this is the best vehicle FCA builds. Let that soak in for a moment. I’m declaring that its latest minivan is better than the ever-popular Jeep Wrangler, stupid-fast Hellcat cars and even the 505-horsepower Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which, admittedly, I’ve yet to sample. Yeah, you read that right.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

While the abovementioned vehicles may be very good, they’re all something of niche products; the Pacifica is a mainstream model and it’s all kinds of excellent, which should be apparent at first glance.

Its body brings new style to a staid segment. Contrasting sharply with the angular Honda Odyssey and Toyota’s mouth-breathing Sienna, the Pacifica looks like luxury. Resembling a pumped-up 200 sedan, this minivan’s bodywork has a sculptural elegance to it; a breadbox on wheels it most certainly is not.

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Smoothly flowing lines fill this van’s interior as well. Most of the Pacifica’s cabin is made of hard plastic, but the graining is upscale and everything well built. No obvious fit-and-finish anomalies were spotted in my test model.

Pop open a sliding bin on the dashboard or center console and they roll like they’re on ball-bearing slides; their motion is eerily friction free, something that exudes quality.

Engineering Excellence

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is built on an all-new architecture that’s supposedly the stiffest and lightest in its class, attributes that contribute to the reduced intrusion of noise and harshness. Per the specs sheet, it indeed undercuts Japanese rivals by a small amount, clocking in at a claimed 4,330 pounds. While in motion, there are no jiggles or rattles to cheapen the experience. Everything is tight and solidly built; you can tell the people who screw it together in Windsor, Ontario, really care.

Chrysler’s ingenious Stow ‘n Go second-row seats remain and are still a marvel of mechanical engineering, folding, tumbling and dropping into the floor with the simple pull of a strap. No other minivan makes it as easy to transform from passenger-carrying to cargo-hauling duty.

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When people aren’t on your manifest, the Pacifica offers nearly 141 cubic feet of interior volume for all the stuff of modern life. The requisite 4-by-8 sheet of building material has no trouble sliding between the wheel-wells and being enclosed by the hatch, neither will dishwashers, bags of potting soil or other bulky goods.

In their upright and locked position, those second-row seats are extremely comfortable, offering plenty of knee- and headroom with a lower cushion that’s nicely elevated off the floor. Even this van’s third-row bench is adult friendly with plenty of space for full-grown humans. With these seats in use, the Pacifica still offers more than 32 cubic feet of space in the way-back.

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Curiously, this van’s rear accommodations may be more comfortable that its front buckets, which are too flat and tailored a few sized too wide for my narrow body. A bit more padding or bolstering would have been appreciated in these otherwise lifeless seats.

Keeping up with rivals, the Pacifica offers plenty of advanced technology. Some of its most desirable options include a 360-degree Surround View camera, hands-free sliding doors and liftgate, automatic parking and adaptive cruise control. Top-trim Limited models even feature Stow ‘n Vac, an integrated vacuum that should make cleaning up spilled cookie crumbs or other detritus a snap.

Keeping the kids entertained is Chrysler’s available Uconnect Theater system, which allows passengers to watch movies, play games or even surf the internet on two 10-inch, high-definition screens.

The Drive

The Pacifica is motivated by a familiar friend, FCA’s versatile and refined 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. As smooth-running as ever, it sports a raft of enhancements for 2017 including two-stage variable valve lift and cooled exhaust-gas recirculation. Thanks to these changes and others, it delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Start-stop technology, which saves fuel by killing the engine when not moving, will be added late in the model year.

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A nine-speed automatic is the only transmission offered but don’t worry, it’s smooth and speedy, swapping ratios without any fuss, which is exactly the way it’s supposed to function. Chrysler’s had myriad issues with this ZF unit in other products like the Jeep Cherokee and 200 sedan where it’s earned a reputation for being both harsh and unresponsive. Well, at long last engineers have managed to civilize what was once unruly; the dream of an efficient, responsive nine-speed automatic is finally realized.

This powertrain combination is a winner, promptly propelling the portly Pacifica to extra-legal speeds in no time flat. Low gearing gets things moving with unexpected authority off the line, while taller ratios minimize fuel burn in cruise mode. When it comes to consumption, this family-friendly vehicle stickers at 18 miles per gallon city and an impressive 28 on the highway. Combined, it should average 22 mpg, though in mixed driving I’ve managed to beat that by almost two.

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The Pacifica’s ride is silken, with luxury-car levels of silence and smoothness. In particular, impact-harshness seems remarkably low. When a tire hits a pothole or bump you feel the body move but there’s no abrasiveness to the motion. This vehicle is refined in almost every motion.

If there’s any downside to driving Chrysler’s latest and greatest minivan it manifests at low speeds. Because of the sloping hood, it can be difficult to see the Pacifica’s front corners, which makes parking and other low-speed, tight-quarters maneuvering difficult. Fortunately, parking-assist technologies take the stress out of this.

With five models in the range, there’s a Pacifica for every budget. An option-free LX starts off around 30 grand. Bringing far more features and amenities to market, the high-end Touring L Plus model I tested cost a ritzy $43,765 including $995 in delivery fees.

The Verdict: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus Review

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Minivans are far from the sexiest vehicles on the market. They prioritize function over form to a lopsided degree, but Auburn Hills has tried – and largely succeeded – in making one of these family haulers both emotional and attractive. Not only is their new Pacifica the best vehicle FCA builds today, it may also be tops in its segment. When’s the last time we could say something like that about a Chrysler?

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