Test Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum

I believe it is impossible to drive a minivan for a week and not be a convert. When we talk about practicality in other cars, whether they’re sedans, or hatchbacks, or three-row SUVs, we’re only ever talking about relative practicality. If you want the real thing, the whole enchilada, you can only get it one place: Minivan-land.

Because electrified magic.

And Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid is, for my money, the height of it. Minivans are the perfect candidate for any sort of hybrid, but in particular a plug-in hybrid as this one is. With Honda and Toyota leading the automotive world into the electrified space so many years ago, it is surprising that it was Chrysler who gave us the first PHEV minivan. Our tester, a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum with an as-tested price of $58,390 before rebates, is such a beast.

All Aboard the Power Train

The result of electrification is a loss of the FCA Stow ’n Go functionality – the wells in the floor now house the Pacifica’s battery, but reduces fuel consumption from 12.9/8.4/10.9 L/100 km city/highway/combined for the regular Pacifica, down to 7.3/7.2/7.3 for the Hybrid.

The battery-only rating is 2.8 Le/100 km. Le is a way of converting a power usage number to “litres equivalent”. To put it another way, the electric motor is rated at 24.9 kWh/100 km.

You can charge the 16 kWh battery in 13 hours with a standard 110V household plug, or two hours with a home 220V charger – both via the car’s 6.6 kilowatt onboard charger. Level 2 fast chargers (220V) cost between $1,000 and $2,000 on average to install, and you can get up to $1,000 of that back from the provincial government in Ontario.

For that effort you’ll get up to 53 km of fuel-free driving. Given that the average Canadian commute is around 38 km, you could theoretically do an entire week on just electricity, and then still go out on the weekend without any range anxiety, courtesy of the 3.6L V6 Pentastar.

The system’s combined output of 236 lb-ft and 260 hp is pulled together with an eFlite eCVT (electronic continuously variable transmission) and sent to the front wheels.

Those numbers are slightly down on the 262 lb-ft and 287 hp of the regular Pacifica – but most of this rig’s torque is available from 0 rpm. Because electrified magic. [Or just “electric motor”? –Ed.]

I found the manners of this drivetrain smooth, effective, and even entertaining at times. Throttle response is good when the battery has some charge left, but drops off when you’re relying on the engine alone.

The transmission is unobtrusive, and only noisy on particularly hectic freeway merges. That’s okay. It adds to the drama.

Steering in the Pacifica is about the best in the minivan segment right now, as is ride composure when you’re pushing hard.

“Pfft! Why would anybody ever hustle a minivan?!” I hear the enthusiasts among you scoff... but any true hockey parent knows that sometimes haste is a virtue. Saturday mornings are hectic, especially when your minivan makes you the team’s designated driver. Double that on the mornings little Timmy can’t find his gloves.

Inside the Purple People Eater

Inside our tester we found easy space for seven, courtesy of the second-row captain’s chairs. These seats slide easily out of the way for access to the third row, but I always find it’s not necessary. My seven-year old daughter has no issues climbing through the middle. Even my tubby frame gets through that gap and into the back seat with ease, where I find ample leg-, knee- and headroom. Best of all, there’s still 915 L of cargo volume behind me. Fold the third row down and it balloons to 2,478 L.

Visibility, seat comfort, and interior quality are all very good. Cabin storage is spectacular thanks to the deep bins, under-console storage and big door sill pockets.

Chrysler’s rear-seat infotainment system and its included “Are We There Yet?” app is richer and more intellectually stimulating than yet another showing of the Frozen DVD, and my daughter loves it. For teenagers who can’t be seen to enjoy anything publicly, there is a 110V power outlet in the second row as well as multiple USB ports to power their devices.

For the adults, the 8.4-inch UConnect system is 100 percent the best infotainment system on the market now that it includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality. The buttons on the back of the steering wheel, the mix of hard buttons and touchscreen options for main controls and the easy access to core functions all receive frequent praise from me.

Apps and screens to help manage fuel-efficient driving replace the Performance Pages you’d find in SRT models, and just like with those pages, I had fun playing with the various screens and maximizing my green performance.

Audiophiles can revel in the 13-speakers and 506-watt amplifier provided by Alpine.

Driving assist content like adaptive cruise with stop-and-go and forward emergency braking make the commute easier to deal with, and the 360-degree camera was a blessing when I went to shoehorn this banana into my condo parking space.

Paying to Play

The Chrysler Pacifica is already an expensive proposition in Minivan-land. Adding this plug-in hybrid tech and loading it to the gills – as our Platinum tester is – leaves us with an eye-popping $56,495 MSRP. Add on $100 for the federal A/C tax and $1,795 for delivery, and you’re looking at $58,390 before tax. And if that was the entire story, it might well be a hill too steep to climb for most. But we live in Canada. And some of us live in Ontario – where your reward for plugging in your car is a $14,000 rebate.

And here’s where it gets a bit tricky.

That $14,000 is not applied to the pre-tax price, but instead to the final after-tax, out-the-door bottom line. So, if you add 13 percent HST to the Pacifica you’re talking $65,980; minus the $14,000 and it’s $51,980 out the door, tax in.

As well as the loss of Stow ’n Go second-row seats, hybrids also lose the in-car vacuum cleaner. And while regular Pacificas are rated to tow up to 3,600 lb, towing is “Not recommended for hybrid models.”

Feel-Good Practicality

Regardless of those challenges, the rebate, the ability to use the good parking at the mall, and access to HOV lanes are all compelling reasons to shop hybrid when it comes to the Pacifica.

When you couple those perks with as much as a 33 percent reduction in fuel use and the ability to haul a full-size family and their gear in feature-packed comfort, the Pacifica quickly asserts itself as a must-look option.

There will be those who simply can’t get over the styling and stigma of a minivan versus a three-row SUV. I point those people in the direction of Red Green.

Because even if you don’t find the Pacifica handsome, you can’t deny that it’s handy.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Engine Displacement: 3.6L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 260 hp
Peak Torque: 236 lb-ft combined
Fuel Economy: 7.3/7.2/7.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 915 L/2,478 L rear seats down
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum
Base Price $56,495
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $58,390
Optional Equipment None
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.2
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
8 Quality
8 Comfort
10 Practicality
7 Drivability
9 Usability/Ergonomics
9 Fuel Economy
9 Features
6 Value