Just as it did when it invented the minivan in 1984, Chrysler is attempting to revitalize its brand with the 2017 Pacifica, and a family vehicle market that has shunned minivans in favor of crossovers. The poor minivan is being subjected to the same fate it dumped on the station wagon in the ’80s.

Part of the reason Chrysler dropped the well-known Town and Country name was to shed the silly stigma of minivans as the sacrificial lamb of family over self. As if sliding doors look dumber than hoisting your toddlers in and out of their car seats 136 times a day.

Regardless, Chrysler deemed the Pacifica name more chill than no-chill, even for those who associate it with the forgettable Franken-crossover made from 2004 to 2008. The name change is meant not to confuse but to shift expectations.

From a partial side view, one person couldn’t tell if it was a minivan or crossover.

When in reverse, one witness asked if it was electric because it was so quiet.

From the back seat, the 10-year old said, “I like how everything fits.”


After driving nearly 1,000 mountainous miles in the Colorado Rockies, I had to agree.

The Pacifica handles like a crossover, looks more button-down yet still has two sliding doors, a built-in entertainment system, a high ceiling and a low floor, with a tall, wide rear that enables it to excel at what it was meant to do: haul people – and things – in comfort.

The difference is that the minivan has never been this good.

Just like the first time, Chrysler has built the Pacifica on an all-new platform not shared by any other Fiat Chrysler automobile.

It has a wider wheelbase and is 250 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, thanks primarily to lighter doors and liftgate. The tester came with 18-inch wheels ($895) and lower-profile all-season tires, which make it appear to be able to handle mountain back roads – ground clearance be hanged!

It can’t, it’s not meant for that and for now it comes only in front-wheel drive. “We’re always open to feedback from our customers and would consider (all-wheel drive) in our future,” Pacifica rep Angela Bianchi said.


Bring it. Snow tires will handle dicey terrain better than AWD, but who wants to be switching tires twice a year when the kids’ schedule takes no break. Ever.

The Pentastar V-6 provides plenty of pep from a stop, letting certain drivers squeal away from family functions and hot-date drop-offs.

It steers like a minivan, wide and boatish, but the nose tucks into turns more like a sedan than a minivan.

On cloverleaf ramps or two-lane highways bending through valley and forest, it doesn’t escape the body roll inherent in a wide and tall vehicle, just like a cow can’t help but moo.

But the most significant engineering feature on the new Pacifica, base price $37,895, is the nine-speed transmission, which comes standard across the five trim lines.

The nine-speed transmission has gotten about as bad a rap as hippies in Boulder. It was fraught with problems in its first incarnation in the complex 2014 Jeep Cherokee. We didn’t like its balking in the 2016 Honda Pilot either.


The nine-speed in the Pacifica is the best application yet. It helped return 32 miles per gallon combined over mostly highway miles, much better than the U.S. EPA-rated 28 highway mpg, which ties the Odyssey for best in class. The plug-in hybrid variant, expected in the fall, will have a 30-mile all-electric range that gets the equivalent of 80 mpg.

The transmission was remarkably unnoticeable, which is great for an automatic. It didn’t make the engine wail as it climbed mountain passes, which prompts a noise in other automatics that can trick the driver into letting off the gas instead of giving it more.

Up the Continental Divide the Pacifica’s transmission pushed the engine but never bullied it, like an older brother coaxing his little sister over Vail Pass at 10,662 feet.

At flatter moments on the highway, the higher gears keep the engine running at low revolutions per minute so all is calm and quiet as the car’s occupants are fully immersed in the passing world or deepening dreams. There was plenty of torque – class-leading torque, according to Chrysler, for two-lane highway passing moves, even on an incline.

Serenity now can indeed happen in the family road trip, especially when there are 10 USB ports, 2 HDMI ports and two built-in high-definition 10-inch touch screens.

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