Minivan Review: Chrysler Pacifica

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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.


Reviews—2015 Chrysler 200

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Jul 152014

2015 Chrysler 200C

The midsize car segment is the biggest and most competitive in the country. Imports from Honda and Toyota dominate it, particularly popular among Latino car buyers. Chrysler hopes to compete with its all-new 2015 200 midsize sedan. Its good looks and amenities will certainly give it game.

“The all-new Chrysler 200 lays the groundwork for the future of the Chrysler Brand,” says Al Gardner, president and CEO—Chrysler Brand, Chrysler Group LLC. “It involved a three-year process because we wanted to build something fantastic.”

This has not been a good segment for Chrysler, starting with the 200’s precursor, the Sebring. The hapless sedan jus2015_chrysler_200_3t couldn’t capture consumer appeal. At the recent launch in Louisville, Kentucky, however, the new 200 gained immediate attention for its styling. The “new face of Chrysler” includes the updated Chrysler winged badge, signature light pipe headlamps, standard LED tail lamps, rear spoiler, and a European profile. Like the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee before it, the 200 will also be based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform.

But in a segment this competitive, the advantage usually comes down to the details and the 200 stands out with game changing technology.

For starters, it’s the first Chrysler product to feature the nine-speed automatic transmission, standard on all 200s. The clear star of this driving experience in Louisville, additional gear ratios optimize performance by precisely matching the gear state to the most efficient engine operating condition. This was evident, from zero-60 acceleration to deceleration on curvy roads. There’s also a sport-driving mode for added performance.

2015 Chrysler 200S

The transmission is not only a performance enhancer, it’s a fuel saver. Powered by two available engines, the base inline 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 184 horsepower and has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 23 miles per gallon (mpg)  in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Considered best in class, the available 3.6-liter V6 offers 295 horses. On the road, the 200 was quiet and peppy, even with the base four-cylinder engine.

For car buyers who appreciate the added control of all-wheel-drive (AWD) but not the loss of fuel economy, the 200 offers AWD technology that engages only when it detects slippage, operating in front wheel drive the majority of the time to save fuel.

2015_chrysler_200_2No discussion of technology can exclude safety features and the 200 offers 60 of them, more than its competitors. Standard features include airbags with knee protection and side curtains, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and traction control. Available features like ParkSense rear backup sensors, ParkView rear backup camera, blind spot monitoring, and Rear Cross Path Detection are well worth the added investment. Unfortunately, they’re not available throughout the lineup.

On the inside, timeless American design based on simple elegance that includes high-quality materials, epitomized by the Eames chair, Airstream travel trailers, or Apple iPhone, inspired the 200’s designers. Attention to detail is apparent, like the blue backlit instrument cluster with an available seven-inch configurable display, the pass through storage space below the center stack with rubber lining stamped with the Detroit skyline, or the sliding armrest and storage. Storage, in general, on the new 200 is pretty plentiful.

2015 Chrysler 200S

The use of quality materials includes available leather seating with accent piping and real wood accents, a segment exclusive.

The base trim model, LX, is basically sold as-is but does include keyless entry, push-button ignition, air conditioning, a steering wheel with audio controls, the vehicle information center in the instrument cluster, and a Uconnect five-inch touch screen display for the AM/FM stereo. CD players are optional across the lineup.

Available in four trim levels, pricing for the 2015 200, including destination fees,  starts at $22,695.