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William Maley

Review: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L

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There is one vehicle that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has to get right the first time - the minivan. The company is credited for creating this vehicle segment back in the eighties with the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Each subsequent version brought forth some new improvement or feature that put it ahead of the pack. But due to the bankruptcy in 2009 and subsequent merger with Fiat, plans for the next-generation Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan were pushed back. This left the old model struggling against some fresh competition in the form of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. 

But last year, Chrysler surprised everyone with a new minivan. Wearing the Pacifica nameplate, the van was unlike anything that had come before. It featured a sleek design, handsome interior, and the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The bigger surprise was that Chrysler would be the only brand getting the new van. The Dodge Caravan would continue in its current incarnation for a few years to provide a low-cost option for those shoppers. Has Chrysler pulled a rabbit out its hat or has the unthinkable happened and the Pacifica trails the competition?

The first thing to take in about the new Pacifica is how good-looking it is. The design comes courtesy of the 700C that debuted quietly a few years back at the Detroit Auto Show. The rounded front end is reminiscent of the recently departed 200 with a narrow grille and headlights, chrome trim along the edges of the grilles, and a sculpted hood. The side profile shows off two character lines; one running from the front fender to the chrome trim for the windows and another running through the door handles and curving into the rear fender. We would only make one slight change to the Pacifica. Our Touring L tester featured 17-inch wheels that looked a bit small for a vehicle this size. We would go for the larger 18-inch wheels that fill in the wheel wells much better.

Anyone who has been in the last-generation Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Caravan knows the interior was well past its sell-by date. When pitted against competitors, the two vans came up very short in terms of design, materials, space for cargo and passengers; and infotainment. Step inside the Pacifica and it is clear that Chrysler has done its homework. The design is much more modern with flowing lines and contrasting colors. It also feels more spacious than the outgoing vans thanks to some smart decisions such as the removal of the center console to allow for an open floor between driver and passenger, and the use of a knob for the transmission. Material quality has also seen a noticeable improvement with many surfaces now boasting soft-touch plastics. It wouldn’t be crazy to say the Chrysler Pacifica is ahead of everyone when it comes to the interior.

Depending on the trim, you can order the Pacifica with seating for seven or eight people. Our Touring L featured the eight-seat layout with a removable middle seat for the third row. It will take you a few moments to figure out how to remove the seat, but once you do, it is quite easy to remove and install the seat. The rest of the seats feature Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go folding system where the seats can fold into compartments in the floor to provide a flat load area. Cargo area is in line with the current crop of minivans with 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 140.5 cubic feet with both rows folded. As for passengers, both rows of rear seats provide an excellent amount of head and legroom. Getting into the third row is much easier thanks to second-row seats offering a tilt function.

FCA has equipped the Pacifica with the newest version of their UConnect system. The interface may look similar to the older UConnect system, but there are a number of changes that help catapult this new version towards the top of the infotainment system list. First, the new system is much sharper thanks to the new fonts and an updated screen that provides improved brightness levels. FCA has also improved the overall performance of the system, meaning no slow downs when going between various functions. One item we cannot comment on is navigation as our test Pacifica didn’t come with it.

Power for the Pacifica comes from the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front-wheels only. It might not be the fastest van on the road (that honor falls to the Toyota Sienna), but Pacifica comes very close. Power comes on a smooth and steady rate. You’ll find yourself not wanting more power when merging onto a freeway or trying to make a pass. FCA has seemed to get its act together with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Issues with clunky shifts and gear hunting have been mostly ironed out. The transmission now features smooth and quick upshifts. The only item we would want FCA to work on is the transmission’s hesitation to downshift in certain situations such as making a pass.

EPA fuel economy for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is rated at 18 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. Our week mostly spent in the city returned 23.2 mpg.

The primary concern when it comes to a van’s ride and handling characteristics is providing maximum comfort and the Pacifica delivers. The suspension delivers a smooth ride even on some of the rough roads on offer from Metro Detroit area. An added bonus is how well the Pacifica isolates road and wind noise from coming inside. At highway speeds, only a whisper of wind noise makes it inside. But the Pacifica becomes a bit of a surprise when it comes to handling. Despite its large size, FCA’s engineers made the Pacifica feel quite nimble. The steering might not give that impression as it feels somewhat light when turning. But go around a corner and the van feels more like a midsize sedan than a van. 

It has been a long time coming for a new minivan from FCA and the good news is that they haven’t dropped the ball. The Pacifica may not have ripped up the rulebook when it comes to minivans, but it sure has expanded or rewritten bits of it. From a surprising balance of ride and handling characteristics to the best interior in the class, it is clear that FCA wants to reclaim the crown of the best minivan. But there one thing that we need to address and that is FCA’s poor reliability history. No matter which survey or study look at, more often than not, FCA’s core brands are towards the bottom. What does this mean for the Pacifica? We can’t say for right now, but this could be the one thing that makes or breaks Chrysler’s new van.

For right now, the Pacifica is at the top of the class.

Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2017
Make: Chrysler
Model: Pacifica
Trim: Touring L
Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
Base Price: $34,495
As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Premium Audio Group - $895.00
8 Passenger Seating - $495.00


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Nice write up. I have to agree on the tire size, they should have made 18" default on the rim size, those tires do look tiny.

I get that this is made to transport mass people but the seats look uncomfortable to me. The rest of the interior is nice for a Mini Van.

Exterior leaves me with a blah feeling. I know this is subjective, but for me, Pass. Not a minivan man myself.

 

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I liked this when i test drove it a few months ago.  Currently having a 15 Town and Country it was interesting to see the differences.  To be honest, i like the full console in my 15.  The cutout in the floor to put a purse is great for women but i prefer a console with real armrests.  They don't really have a good console or dash in the new one, IMO the bottom part of the dash and the console needs a whole redesign.  The dash looks like a bus dash.  Not sold on the twist knob for shifter either.  The Shifter on the dash in our 15 is not awful, but its probably not where most initially think of it.  I think the knob may be hard for some people to twist and grasp.  I love the button layout on the console on our 15.  The new one looks too random.  Styling wise, the interior on the new one is more contemporary and has a real infotainment system.

The 8th passenger is actually a nice improvement too.  I think the third row may be tighter in the new one.  We used our third row a lot more a couple years ago than we do now.  Fortunately the Pacifica feels nimbler and not so trucky. 

I had heard they may make the new van available AWD but since i hear they backed away from that.  I do think it would help sell more of them to do that, but then they may lose some Jeep sales too.

 

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I wonder how much studying was done in regards to people using a dial versus push a button versus traditional shifter.

The reason I ask this is a neighbor just down the street from me ended up getting a new minivan and it was gone only a couple days later and was replaced with a different one. 

He had bought from one of those mega dealers and due to his arthritis, he had a hard time turning the dial versus using a traditional shifter or as he said it if came with push buttons he would have been fine, but a dial to turn was hard for him.

Just wondering if they thought about turning versusu pushing versus moving a shifter on people.

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You hit it on the head dfelt.  It's just like why all door knobs became levers. Twisting and grasping is very difficult for more people than others realize. 

 

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      -Nice understated shape conceals a cleverly integrated hatchback design
      -'Decent' propulsion from 2.0t engine
      -Nicely shaped upper dash with touchsreen oriented slightly to driver.  Interesting at least from a design standpoint.
      -Sporting driving position and good room in both rows, mostly, plus the biggest benefit being improved leg room over previous model
      -Really nice cargo space, with seats up, or seats down, the cargo area of this vehicle and the flexibility of it in a car like this IMO is a major draw
      -View outside of this vehicle is improved over its platform mate (Malibu, my daily driver) due to the rear door glass being longer and taller.  View out the front and rear is essentially the same.
      -AWD availability is a nice plus, thanks Buick.
      LOWS:
      -I can't recall any of the GM vehicles I have driven with this ubiquitous 2.0t engine, where i have actually been wowed or impressed by it.  It has decent thrust, but honestly you gotta spool it up a bit, the tranny doesn't respond instantly, it's not a five star smooth tranny, and it's kind of rough and noisy overall as a powertrain (AT LEAST FOR IT'S PRICE / CLASS).  I was hoping the 2.0 would make the car match the near luxury description but I don't think it's overall a smooth enough powertrain to meet that claim.  It's neither smooth, nor sporting or exciting.  And this is with front wheel drive.  I will reserve final judgment until i get in the GS with the v6, which is the engine I think most people will really end up liking in this car.
      -Heavier than it's Malibu platform mate.  No doubt acceptable due to the larger engine, but the benefit of the extra weight doesn't manifest itself in any real tangible way anywhere in the ride and drive of the car.
      -Not really any quieter inside than my Malibu.  Strange, because this Buick is supposed to have quiet tuning, and goo in the tires to help make it quieter.  The ride isn't really any more plush, either.
      -Steering is sort of dead and mushy.  That's not GERMANIC now, is it.
      -NEED TO BE ABLE TO TURN OFF THE AUTOSTOP WHEN YOU WANT TO.
      -Not really much nicer inside than in my Malibu.  The lower dash is the same 'less expensive' plastic you see in cheap Chevy's.  The door panels are a little nicer, but not that much more.  Many switches and buttons are the same.  The console is nicer (I don't like the shifter centered in the console now actually, it's quite a reach) I guess...except for cupholders in front of the climate controls.  The upper dash material is an upgrade over the Malibu, but it's not a PREMIUM dash material either.
      -I can't really tell for sure if the seats are better.  My Malibu seats are poor.  The Regal seats seemed to hug me more, but they still felt thin and insubstantial.  The leather quality was slightly better, but still nothing to write home about. 
      -Rear head room suffers a bit with the hatch design.  I don't mind the tradeoff personally, but the Malibu retains a bit more headroom, and the Regal TourX really has much more....so get the wagon if rear head room matters.
      -Sunroof was nice to have considering how bunkerlike the Malibu can feel....but again the hatch design limits the size of the sunroof here compared to the Malibu's BAMR.  I can live with the compromise here myself, and again, the wagon will satisfy your urge for BAMR if you need it.  I would encourage GM to develop a way to integrate a larger moonroof with the hatch design.  I think it could be done, but would require time and money on a redesign effort.
      -Options / packages on this car are, simply put, stupid.  But that merits its own post.  At least in this car, the heated steering wheel and leather heated seats were both included.  You can actually get this car with heated steering wheel but without heated seats.  How f-cked up is that?  In 2019, Fusion, Toyota, and others will have things like blind spot and cross path detection as standard equipment.  And those are not 'premium' makes.
      -I'll let others decide if they think the styling is too tepid.  I don't mind the understated styling but do admit that the color selections that are available on this car leave me wanting.  I like the red on the GS, and the smoked pearl metallic is nice.  And Buick seems to think they should charge extra for paint colors when they don't make the ride and drive anything special.
      -pricing.  I think the average nature of this car would be easily forgiven if the pricing were in line with being an average car; not priced for a premium marque.  Like the LaCrosse and Envision, it is best to wait out the model year if you are buying and wait for the inevitable 7,000-10,000 or more in discounts...which might bring the pricing in line with what the vehicle really is.  You can't say this vehicle is appealing at the prices it is at now.  
      SUMMARY:
      This probably seems like a negative review, but you should consider it more of underwhelmed and let down.  This car as I drove it just doesn't have any kind of endearing personality to speak of!  At the end of the day, it took Buick two extra years to bring to the US it's own Malibu clone, which doesn't have much more to show for it.... apart from the clever hatch and base 2.0 engine upgrade over the 1.5.  I actually am very curious now to be among the first to try the 2019 Malibu 1.5t + CVT combo.  But that's an aside for another discussion.  The 2.0 that general motors puts in so many vehicles has never impressed me, and that's due more to it's character than anything.  I had hopes this would be the ONE CAR that it would feel sporting in; one that would make the car feel at least a little, like a SPORTS SEDAN.  Nope.  I will wait with baited breath to someday find a v6 GS to test, as i think it will be the only Regal worth anything.  At least worth anything more than just being another option in the midsize, genericar class.  And I hope Buick is working on a twin turbo six option as well for the GS (GSX?).  I tend to think this car won't move the needle in marketplace excitement until it has a tire shredder under the hood to brag about...The v6 will promise smoother revs and deeper lungs at least......... Still, as a replacement in the bottom end of the Buick lineup for the Verano, I am ok with this.  Just please, sex it up!
       
       
       
       
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