2017 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid

Frank Washington | 1/18/2017, 2:37 p.m.
Game changer is a term used to hype products or events. They used it here to describe the Chrysler Pacifica ...

Game changer is a term used to hype products or events. They used it here to describe the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid. But it’s not just talk. Chrysler is right; the automaker’s new minivan is a watershed for people haulers.

By itself, the Pacifica is a move forward in the minivan realm. But to electrify it as Chrysler has done is a quantum leap. The 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid is the only Plug-in Hybrid minivan on the market. It is impressive.

The base facts: the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid can get 80 mpge on a tank of fuel and it has a range of 530 miles. It can go 30 miles in electric only mode and it has a top speed of 75 mph as an EV. More than one Chrysler engineer who had taken it home for tests said they had gone weeks without visiting a gas station.

The retuned gasoline engine is paired with two electric motors powered by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In the Pacifica both motors as well as the gasoline engine can put power to the wheels via an electric (continuously) variable transmission. The vehicle switched seamlessly between electric and gasoline modes or both depending on driving conditions.

Chrysler apparently was not kidding when it said the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid can go weeks at a time without visiting a gas station. It monitors the average age of fuel in the tank and if needed, the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid will automatically shift from electric to Plug-in Hybrid mode to cycle through any gasoline that is more than 90 days old.

This was a great driving vehicle. When in electric mode it was quiet and other than the silence there was no difference in its driving characteristics from a gasoline powered minivan as we traveled along surface streets to Malibu Pier for lunch. That was the other significant characteristic; the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid did not drive like a typical minivan. It was more like a nimble sedan.

We were somewhat surprised because the afternoon route took us through Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. This is not the place you’d expect to see a minivan. Two lanes, steep ascents, sharp curves and cutbacks prevailed as we climbed to Mulholland Drive and took a left.

The 2017 Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid was rock steady on the road, it was definitely quiet and its power at getting up those steep ascents was impressive. There was no sway in the curves and little compression in the suspension. The minivan’s ride was firm without being harsh even though the Plug-in Hybrid weighed 600 lbs. more than the gasoline powered Pacifica. The low end torque from those electric monitors more than compensated for the extra weight.

And some of that road stability came from where the battery was stored, beneath the floor where the second row stow and go seats would go. That lowered the center of gravity and it put the extra weight pretty much in the center of the chassis. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica weighed almost 5,000 lbs.