2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid rear
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Test Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

A third reason for ownership of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The purchase of a hybrid minivan is likely driven by economics or altruism, or both. The economist will analyze the ROI, or return-on-investment, to determine the break-even point when considering such a purchase. The altruistic will care more about eliminating hydrocarbons from day-to-day operations of the vehicle. The truly gifted will care about both.

After a week of city-based seat-time in this week’s vicariousmag.com tester, I’ve settled on an alternate justification to spend the extra money for a plug-in Pacifica Hybrid. Call it narcissism, but it’s about me and how much pleasure I derive behind the wheel.

Here’s the thing. Until this week, I have not driven a minivan that delivers what I would consider a premium driving experience. Whether powered by a 4-cylinder engine or a smoother V6, the vans cannot match a premium sedan for refinement; that is, until now.

When fully charged, the Pacifica Hybrid will travel in the range of 50-60 km on electric-only propulsion, and that’s where the pleasure truly resides. The van is silent, smooth, and delightful when there’s no intrusion of a gas engine to render it once again a van.

Chrysler has done a remarkable job of supplying the Pacifica Hybrid with realistic electric-only range, and they’ve combined that technology with an award-winning upscale cabin that banishes from the experience any pretense of utilitarianism. And frankly, I have never enjoyed driving a van as much.

There’s no trick to driving in EV-mode. One doesn’t have to feather the throttle or incite road-rage by driving glacially slow. Realistic driving patterns won’t trigger the Pacifica’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine to jump in for extra boost unless the throttle is mashed.

Even at highway speeds, pure electric enjoyment is easily maintained until the battery depletes. When it does, the Pentastar steps in, allowing the family van to complete a combined gas/electric journey of 911 km before needing a recharge or refill.

Flexibility of the hybrid drivetrain is really quite remarkable for a family van, which is a segment of the automotive landscape whose drivetrain technology has largely been ignored by automobile manufacturers.

Now that Chrysler has put a focus on what can be achieved in the plebeian world of family workhorses, it’s time to see other manufacturers step up. The competition will undoubtedly drive down the price of full-size vans that can achieve realistic EV-only ranges.

Before applicable provincial incentives, the Pacifica Hybrid will set you back in the range of $55 large. Suffice to say that the van is a pricey piece of mechanization, and not what most cash-strapped families will place atop their list.

Nonetheless, a loaded Honda Odyssey starts at $51K while a loaded Sienna starts at $48K, so the Pacifica Hybrid’s definitely in the ballpark of engorged minivans, and in my view, would be the superior van for the money given its electrification and premium driving experience.

The Pacifica Hybrid is chalk full of content often supplied as expensive options on other such vehicles, and it boasts the nicest interior design and cabin quality of the bunch. I’d also argue that it delivers the most rewarding driving experience, if a van can do such a thing.

Prospective buyers shouldn’t allow the ghosts of Dodge Caravans of the past to influence their thinking in relation to the Pacifica Hybrid; there is no relationship between them. The Pacifica is a completely new vehicle, and the hybrid version encompasses completely new technology, including an electrically variable transmission (EVT for short).

The Pacifica Hybrid drives exceptionally well and is delightful on the highway making it a great long-distance cruiser, even when operating in conventional hybrid mode. The Pentastar V6 is notably quiet and well-refined when it does awaken.

But the true beauty of the Pacifica Hybrid is found in those short jaunts around town, such as driving kids to one of the million places we drive kids to these days, or making a grocery run.

These motoring sundries can largely be handled with electric propulsion, eliminating both the consumption of expensive gas and the discharge of destructive hydrocarbons. This is especially true in those regions serviced by renewable sources of electric energy.

So, while the penny-pinchers number-crunch ROIs, and the wannabe tree-huggers strive to drive guilt-free, I’d pay the premium to acquire the Pacifica Hybrid simply to enjoy the restorative virtues of its silent, refined, operation; that’s worth something isn’t it?

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Price as tested (before taxes): $56,495.00
Configuration: front-engine, two-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.6L V6 / variable automatic with two electric motors
Power/torque: 260 hp/ 262 ft-lb torque
Fuel (Capacity): Regular (64.3L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 2.9 L/100 km (estimated)
Warranties: 5-years/100,000 km (hybrid components)
Competitors: none

Related links:
Chrysler Canada


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