Nov 232017
 

From features to specs, the first in class sets a new benchmark in the auto industry and that’s usually a good thing for consumers. Introduced in 2016, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid goes where no minivan has gone before. On a recent test drive of the Pacifica Platinum for Latino Traffic Report, it did indeed go much farther while using less gas.

The Pacifica stirred controversy when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) opted to resurrect its name for the Chrysler minivan, replacing the Town and Country. Once introduced, however, it quickly made amends, named the 2017 North American Sport Utility Vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. A trailblazer in the minivan segment, FCA US added 37 minivan firsts to its portfolio for a total of 115 innovations in the segment.

With plug-ins, however, there’s a trade-off—the longer the electric range, the longer it takes to recharge, especially using a 120-volt outlet in the garage. On paper the Pacifica’s all-electric range of 30–33 miles on electric energy seemed limited, but the minivan recharged overnight and on the test drive, the range didn’t dissipate as soon as I pressed the gas, as others have. It held true and on some occasions recharged to extend the range so that the Pacifica rarely needed to switch to gasoline power.

The plug-in should earn an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 32 miles per gallon (mpg) and 84 mpge using electric power. I averaged 37.2 mpg and during the test-drive.

Its powertrain consists of a dual-motor eFlite electrically variable transmission (EVT) with two electric motors matched to a modified version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gasoline engine. Rather than take up cargo space, the 16-kWh battery pack is stored under the second-row floor. Setting itself apart from other hybrids, the Pacifica uses a one-way clutch that allows the motor, typically used only as a generator, to deliver torque to the wheels, depending on driving conditions.

Standard safety features add value on family vehicles. On the Pacifica plug-in hybrid they include three of my favorites­—a blind-spot monitor, rear park assist with stop, and a rear backup camera. The Platinum that I drove added forward collision warning-plus, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree Surround View camera, among other features.

Standard created comforts begin with a beautifully appointed interior inspired by Juneau, Alaska with ivory leather seats, blue accent stitching and black piping, heated front seats, remote start, three-zone climate control, a seven-inch full color customizable driver information display, and the Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

The test model was the Platinum top-of-the-line trim (trims change for 2018 to Touring Plus, Touring L, and Limited) and included a rear entertainment system, ventilated front seats, the available tri-pane panoramic sunroof ($1,795), and a handsfree power tailgate and power sliding doors, On the down side, the captains chairs did not fold flat into the floor like the innovative Stow N’Go third-row seat, limiting cargo carrying ability.

Pricing for the 2017 Pacifica plug-in hybrid starts at $43,090 but it also qualifies for a full $7,500 federal tax credit. The as-tested pricing came to $47,885.

Sí: The Pacifica plug-In hybrid is a great step forward in the minivan segment plus the battery holds the electric charge better than others.

No: Seating is heavy and clunky to maneuver, and even if the second row seats are removed, that solution is super outdated.

 

Feb 282016
 

2016-02-28 16.37.00-1

A six-month test drive can lead to many adventures. The Kia Sedona minivan I drove from August through February for Latino Traffic Report got me through good times and bad, but then, what else would you expect from a family vehicle?

Redesigned in 2015, the Sedona offers a handsome option in the minivan segment. I received the Sedona SX-Limited (SX-L), the top-of-the-line trim level, and from the beginning, it impressed me with its elegance, comfort, and handling.2016-03-01 17.34.05

As with all Kias, it packs more features than normally associated with its segment, like ventilated as well as heated front seats, heated second-row cushions, a dual sunroof, and a driver mode select button (Eco, Normal, or Comfort), that helped improve the ride and handling as well as fuel economy.

The minivan should earn an EPA estimated 17miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, averaging around 23 mpg. All Sedonas come with a 3.3-liter V6 engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission with Sport-matic simulated manual shifting. I traveled nearly 5,000 miles, spent $333 on gasoline and my final average fuel economy, utilizing the Eco mode, ranged between 20–24 mpg.

After six-months I took a few quick road trips to Bryan, Texas and San Antonio to visit family over the holidays. The majority of the mileage, however, accrued through city driving, particularly during a three-week stint as a holiday mail carrier for the United States Postal Service (USPS). For the most part, I drove rented cargo vans, but there were a couple times when the Sedona came through, in a pinch. This gave me ample opportunity to test the fold flat seating and take advantage of the Sedona’s 142 cu. ft. of cargo volume.2015-12-21 10.16.18

The optional first-class lounge chairs with footrests in the second row on the test model had manual levers that made them clunky to manipulate. The third row, however, folded flat more easily and quickly.

The navigation system, standard on the SX-L, also proved essential and easy to use as the postal routes I was given lacked serious detail. Not only did I come away with an appreciation of the system but also the mail carriers of the USPS—they work hard for the money

The cargo room also fit a six-foot Christmas tree with ease. Added convenience came with the smart power liftgate with a sensor that automatically opened in three seconds when I approached from behind with the keys in my pocket and I didn’t have to wave my foot under the bumper like other systems require.2015-12-11 16.16.27

The keyless system with burglar and panic alarm, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite stereo system, back-up warning, Bluetooth wireless technology, and cruise control are also standard. Only weeks into the loan, however, the Sedona was vandalized outside of the neighborhood post office. The police officer who took down my report after the robbery explained that the alarm did not engage during the break-in because the vandals didn’t open the door, they just reached in to get what they wanted.

One feature that was lacking on the Sedona, however, was a rear entertainment system for viewing DVDs that most minivans offer—they’re a must-have for families on a road trip. According to Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, it is available as a dealer-installed option.

Pricing for the 2015 Sedona starts at $26,995 but you won’t be able to get features like a power liftgate or sliding doors or upgrade it with any options. The as-tested price, with $2,700 of additional equipment like lane departure warning and a surround view monitor, came to $43,295.

2016-02-28 16.31.33 HDR

: The Kia Sedona Is a handsome option, with versatility and a good list of standard and available features.

No: A rear entertainment system is a must for a minivan and it should be a factory option rather than dealer installed.