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Recently Driven

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

By: Ron Corbett, APA Staff Writer 

 

 

The Pacifica features sleek elegance with artfully applied bright detailing 

Background
The Pacifica name, once appended to a luxury crossover vehicle, now refers to Chrysler’s luxury minivan that replaced the long-running Town & Country. The new Pacifica debuted for 2017 with both conventional power and a plug-in hybrid variant, which is the subject of this review. Only premium-priced variants of the Pacifica were available at launch, and while cheaper Pacificas have joined the lineup over time, it is still a deluxe minivan. Our test units (one in Quebec and one in Ontario) were Hybrid Limiteds.

Styling
Adhering to the styling notion of “knowing when to lift the pen” the Pacifica’s exterior design is clean and elegant, with artfully applied bright accents.

Vehicle tested  2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Body style  Minivan
Engine 3.6L-V6 (gas), two electric motors (114 and 84 horsepower), with 260 total system horsepower
Transmission   Electronic continuously variable transmission
MSRP Price range  $51,445 to $56,945
Price as tested  $58,190 Hybrid Limited with large format glass roof
Observed fuel economy  5.3L/100 km 

Powertrain
The Pacifica Hybrid’s has a total system output of 260 horsepower, which includes 198 horsepower available from the electric motors. Power reaches the front wheels via an electrically variable transmission with dual motor EV drive capability, or EFLIGHT, in FCA parlance. 

Performance
When fully charged and in optimal weather conditions (about 20 degrees centigrade), the Pacifica Hybrid can easily complete a 50 kilometre one way commute without engaging the gas engine unless the driver commands maximum velocity, which will trigger the gas engine momentarily. When the plug-in battery pack is fully charged, the Pacifica Hybrid defaults to full electric mode until the battery pack is depleted. Acceleration in full-electric mode is swift and near silent. Once the plug-in battery pack is exhausted, the Pacifica hybrid reverts to conventional hybrid vehicle operation, which proves to be both quick and refined. The plug-in battery pack took about 12 hours (the manual notes 14 hours) to recharge using a standard 110 volt household socket. If you owned the car you would have a 240 volt home charger, which restores full power to the batteries in about two hours. Extraordinary fuel economy of 5.3L/100 km was achieved despite two high-traffic stop and go commutes.

The EFLIGHT transmission works well in the hybrid and is a nicer road companion than the nine-speed automatic employed in the conventional V6-engined Pacifica. Some APA drivers complained about the ability to overshoot the desired gear when using the rotary dial gear selector.

The Pacifica hybrid’s steering, though numb, is nicely weighted, geared and confidently holds its line on the highway.

The low-mileage Pacifica hybrid driven in Ontario exhibited crisp, stable, confident handling and a firmly compliant ride. A higher mileage example driven in Quebec lacked the handling enthusiasm and the impressively damped ride motions of the Ontario car.

Strong, confident braking that betrays no hint of the regenerative braking feature that sends power back to the battery pack. 

 

Clean dashboard design rendered in a chic two-tone colour scheme

Interior
One of the most obvious changes in Chrysler vehicles since the Fiat takeover has been the dramatic improvement, both in terms of design and materials, of the cabins of FCA’s vehicles.

The interior of the Pacifica Hybrid Limited reflected a sublime elegance fashioned from near sumptuous components. While makers of other minivans rely on applied ornament to create some visual interest and impart a sense of luxury, the restrained opulence of the Pacifica seems to have been generated organically. The cabin of the Pacifica relies on largely unadorned shapes that are harmoniously highlighted with beautifully rendered bright accents. The ivory portion of the ivory and black cabin trim might prove hard to keep clean but is visually striking. The only discordant trim note inside the Pacifica Hybrid Limited is the turquoise stitching on the dashboard, which struck some APA drivers as chic and others as revolting.

Stitching aside, the dashboard of the Pacifica hybrid, with a mix of conventional dials and crisp electronic displays work well enough, but Chrysler would have done better to adopt transistor film technology (TFT) for the whole display. Located between the two main conventional dials, the electronic centre display provides real time information regarding the charge status of, and remaining range of the plug-in battery pack, as well as some coaching tips and power-flow data as to what part or parts of the system are working. FCA’s large centre touch screen takes pride of place in the centre of the dash and works as well here as in its other cars. 

Very good audio and climate control performance.

The large-format glass roof on the Limited brings a lot of light into the cabin but also additional heat gain from the sun. The electrically driven sun-blind blocks out exterior light completely. When open, the sunroof generates little wind noise.

Front seat riders repose on large, supportive seats. Some occupants find the front seats to be overly firm, however, they do become more welcoming over time. The second row bucket seats are comfortable and combine with abundant legroom to deliver all-day comfort for those inhabiting the middle row. The third-row seat is easy to get to, and the seat itself is comfortable enough, but legroom is tighter than it is in other minivans. On the Limited trim, the third-row seat folds electrically.

Cargo space is substantial, but the placement of the battery pack under the floorboards prevents the middle-row seats from folding into the floor, eliminating the popular Stow' n Go seats that draw many buyers to FCA's minivans. That said, with the seatbacks folded, the cargo bay of the Pacifica Hybrid will accept 4 x 8 plywood sheets with the tailgate closed.

Large info-screen used FCA's straightforward UConnect system. Logical climate controls are manipulated by buttons with a high quality feel. The rotary gear selector was not universally appreciated 

 

Large cargo bay with the third-row seats folded. FCA's popular Stow' n Go middle row seats are not available on the hybrid as the battery pack resides where the seats are usually stowed 

Pricing
The least expensive Pacifica Hybrid is priced at $53,475, with our sunroof-equipped Limited model bearing an MSRP of $58,640. Nappa leather, cooled seats, a premium audio system, navigation and a DVD entertainment system are all standard on the Hybrid Limited. At just $4000 more than a Touring L, the Limited package is an outstanding bargain and well worth stumping up for. Compared with a comparably equipped conventional Pacifica Limited, the advanced powertrain of the Hybrid Limited appears to come at no extra cost. While the MSRPs of similarly equipped conventional and hybrid Pacificas are very close, the $4000 rebate from FCA available on the conventional Pacifica Limited (in July 2018) essentially opens up a sizeable gap in the true transaction prices of the conventional and hybrid variants. Quebec offers a $8000 taxpayer subsidized rebate for Pacifica Hybrid buyers and British Columbia provides a $5000 rebate to those who select the hybrid version of the van. Ontario’s new provincial government has eliminated to generous $14,000 rebate that was available to Pacifica Hybrid buyers before July 11, 2018. This move will no doubt slow sales of the Hybrid which was very popular with buyers in Ontario. Reasonable value leasing for a new Hybrid Limited in July 2018. Depreciation has traditionally been a big factor with FCA's minivans, especially high-end ones. Few used Pacificas have changed hands yet so it is difficult to say whether the van will keep its value better than its predecessors. 

 

The complex hybrid powertrain works very well and was developed in house by FCA

Reliability
The reliability of the Pacifica’s hybrid system and its transmission are totally unknown. Though not long on the market, the conventional Pacifica and the hybrid have so far generated very few complaints from owners, but it is really to early to state whether the vehicle will prove durable. If you plan to buy a Pacifica Hybrid, an extended warranty from FCA might be a good idea. Opting for a seven year/115,000 kilometer comprehensive warranty from FCA will set you back $4045, which leads to speculation that FCA expects that this vehicle may require more than just regular servicing once the basic warranty has run out.  

Discreet hybrid badge on the Pacifica's tailgate 

Summary
On the positive side of the ledger, FCA, with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, has designed and executed a technical tour-de-force. The Pacifica Hybrid is a quick and quiet vehicle that is both a pleasure to drive and astonishingly economical in day-to-day driving. On the cautionary side of the equation, the durability of the fiercely complex nature of the technology that enables the Pacifica Hybrid to function so superbly, is, as of yet, unproven.