Following a slew of spy photographs and several leaks that took place just before its official debut, Chrysler has formally unveiled the 2017 Pacifica minivan which has a new generation of younger buyers in its sights as it aims to standout from sales stealing crossover vehicles.
The moniker was last used on the 2004-2008 Pacifica but unlike that ill-conceived and ultimately doomed to fail CUV, the minivan aims to reinvent itself while also wiping some of the Pacifica’s past sins away from its rap sheet. It all starts with the exterior styling and while the front and rear fascias do look like they were designed by two separate boardrooms, we give praise to the front end which shares much of its styling inspiration with the Chrysler 200 sedan. Its much more elegant than the function oriented boxy look that defined the Town & Country, and it does a good job standing out in a crowd especially at night thanks to its LED daytime running lights. The side profile is much more athletic looking than before (another 200 inspired cue) with Chrysler designers actually concealing the lines for the sliding door tracks in the rear quarter side glass which enhances the overall effect. The back end is still a function oriented exercise in restraint, but the new tail light lenses are a notable improvement over the old units especially with the design of the reverse lamp elements. Wheel choices have also been changed too with the range topping model now sporting 20-inch hoops (quite the upgrade from the 17-inchers that the last Town & Country had.)
A persistent weakness that dogged the previous generation Town & Country was its interior. Lackluster materials, odd ergonomics, and low build quality helped keep the Town & Country several steps behind rivals such as the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey even after a refresh in 2011. The Pacifica aims to steer that troubled ship back to smoother waters, and introduces an all new cabin that finally brings it up to par with its Asian rivals. The interior design shares much of its inspiration with the Chrysler 200 (see a theme here) and the end result is a cabin that is much richer, handsome, and tech filled than ever before. The plastics are also much softer, and remove many of the sharp edges that defined the old van , this is especially true with regards to the plastic for the steering wheel mounted airbag cover (a notorious offender in that regard.) The leather seats are much more comfortable, and promise better support than before while also adding cooled capability for the first time ever. A 7-inch color display screen is nestled in the instrument cluster, and helps drivers find out many aspects of vehicle information at a glance, while the 8.4 inch touchscreen infotainment system now comes equipped with a new version of Uconnect which is faster and more precise than before.
Along with this new found sharpness, buyers that want to keep the little ones entertained will be pleased with the all new Uconnect Theater system. the system allows passengers to watch movies, play games that are built in to the system, and also connect personal devices (such as smartphones) that can surf the internet and stream content to either of the rear mounted 10-inch high definition touchscreens. The Pacifica also has teen drivers in mind and features new KeySense technology that lowers the radio volume, limits speed, and even mutes the audio when a seat belt is not properly buckled in. KeySense also goes a few steps further and not only prevents certain safety features from being turned off, but also allows parents to block certain Sirius XM channels. The Pacifica also debuts hands free operation for both the liftgate and the sliding doors which is done by waving your foot either under the liftgate or the sliding doors.
Performance hardware for the Pacifica is largely carried over from the older Town & Country, but the 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 has been tweaked and now produces 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque with both figures being the best in their class. The Pacifica Hybrid on the other hand is the world’s first hybrid minivan, and aims to bring fuel economy and driving range to the top of its priority list. It achieves this by debuting an all new-16 kWh lithium-ion battery which helps the van achieve a 30 mile driving range when placed in pure electric mode, while also achieving an impressive 80 MPGe. This is more than rivals, and leaves the hybrid in a niche that it currently has to itself (at least until Toyota and Honda catch up.) Regardless of which engine is selected, both are mated to Chrysler’s familiar nine speed automatic, and will eventually come equipped with a new stop/start feature that will make its appearance shortly after its initial launch.
When it does make its official appearance on dealer lots in spring, the standard Pacifica will be available in five trim levels ( LX, Touring, Touring L, Touring L Plus, Limited, and range topping Platinum trim) with the Hybrid only featuring two trim levels. Overall the 2017 Pacifica is quite an improvement, and retains the innovative spirit that defined the original minivan when Chrysler invented the segment itself back in the 1980’s. Pricing information was not released during the company’s Detroit press conference, but with both a Limited and Platinum model being offered, look for the van to see a noticeable uptick in price with the bulk of sales being relegated to the Touring and its two long wheel base variants. Stay tuned to Autoinfoquest for more live coverage from the 2016 North American International Auto Show.