Seat Time – Shattering The Minivan Stigma With Styling: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

September 16th, 2016 at 8:30am

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.


Reviewer:
John McElroy
Vehicle: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
Price: $48,455 as tested

Final Impression:

Minivans have a problem. Even though they are one of the most practical vehicles you can buy, most people would not be caught dead driving one. They don’t want the stigma of being branded as a soccer mom or a baseball dad, even though that’s exactly what they are. That’s a key reason why minivan sales are half of what they were 20 years ago.

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But maybe Chrysler has cracked the code of how to get rid of that stigma. The new Pacifica looks nothing like the boxy Town & Country it’s replacing. That’s largely thanks to the jaunty angle of the D-pillar, and the wraparound look of the backlite and taillights. It looks more like a premium CUV than a minivan, especially in profile.

The stigma issue also explains why Chrysler enlisted the help of comedian Jim Gaffigan for its Pacifica television ads. His wry sense of humor (he can’t seem to remember his kid’s names) is aimed squarely at dads to convince them that it’s cool to drive a minivan.

The striking styling is more than skin deep; the interior is gorgeous. Or it least on the top-of-the-line Limited model it is. Sumptuous is a word that comes to mind. Every surface seems to be wrapped in leather or some kind of soft-touch material. The styling lines and color combinations are soothing, inviting and decidedly upscale. Lower-level models look good, but use a lot more hard plastic.

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The Limited version I drove came with the “Uconnect Theater and Sound Group” option which transforms the middle seats into a multimedia entertainment center. It features seatback video screens, HDMI outlets, USB ports, Blu-Ray and DVD players, a 115 V power outlet, wireless headphones, remote control and a 760 W amplifier. The option costs $2,795 which is awfully pricey but probably worth every penny for anyone traveling with kids. Maybe not just kids. On one long drive I found myself back there playing solitaire on one of the video screens.

Chrysler continues to have an edge on its competitors with its Stow ’N Go seats that fold into the floor. On the Pacifica the rear row can be electrically operated. No more full body stretches to reach into the back. No more tugging on straps or latches. Even the valets were impressed to see it in action, and they see everything.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Pacifica drives as good as it looks. It’s noticeably quiet inside partly thanks to the use of noise cancellation.It provides good command-view seating, all-around good visibility and does not feel overly bulky when you’re trying to park it.

On the open road its 3.5 L V-6 provides plenty of power. I was stunned to see it deliver 27 miles per gallon traveling 80 miles an hour on a long highway drive. That’s partly due to its 9-speed automatic transmission. Chrysler has had a lot of problems with this transmission in other models and there were a couple of times where I thought it shifted funny. If they offer an extended warranty, I would take it.

Even so, I’m impressed by the Pacifica. Chrysler closed the quality gap considerably to the Toyota Siena and Honda Odyssey, especially with the interior design. But you pay for what you get. The Limited model that I drove came with a sticker price of $48,455. That’s a lot of money for a family hauler, even though it’s quite competitive with comparable Siena and Odyssey models.

Now I can’t wait to see how it sells. If the styling truly does shatter the stigma the Chrysler Pacifica could bring a lot more soccer moms and baseball dads back into the segment.

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