In earlier parts of this series, I pointed out that the EPA city/highway combined mileage for the Pacifica Hybrid is 32 mpg, assuming you never plug it in. In case you’ve never owned one, that’s amazing economy for a big freakin’ vehicle.
Minivans are about the biggest vehicles you can get now, in terms of interior space. Sure, SUVs are big on the outside, but try shoving a 4×8 or a stiff mattress into a Durango or Explorer, and see how far you get — but, thanks to the flat-folding seats and utilitarian styling, you can stack up all sorts of things inside a Pacifica. The load height is easy to manage, and the openings are huge. Minivans are the way to go if you have to move things around in comfort, and don’t plan to tow anything.
You can’t get center-row stow-and-go seats, but you can take out the seats (as you have to with Toyota and Honda minivans, too). The bucket seats are relatively light and easy to take out and reinstall. It’s intuitive, though not as easy as the rear “1-2-3” strap system — pull on strap 1, then strap 2, then strap 3, and the seats fold and tumble into place, with the headrest snapping down first. With the removable seats, you have to line up the front hooks just right, and then it does most of the work of falling into place with a snap.
The seats are all contoured and supportive; and all support adults quite well. You can seat six full-size adults into the Pacifica quite easily, and they can walk from the center row into the back row without moving the center seats. It’s a fine arrangement that you really don’t get without a minivan.
Visibility is excellent; the glass is huge, the windows start well below your shoulder, and you have a straight path to the rear window, with big mirrors and rear quarter panels. The rear camera is clear and well-lit, even at night, and there’s a 360° view option, which lets you see through either front or rear cameras, with or without a simulated overhead view (it uses side cameras under the mirrors to fill that in, and the computer stitches it all together).
The gauge cluster is attractive, with a modern “blue for technology” look. The gas gauge is massive; the power gauge on the left shows both power applied to the wheels and to the battery, with the needle swinging up and down. The speedometer, large clear digits on top of the seven-inch LCD center display, can be switched to larger digits in the middle. Your speedometer is digital, period — no faux-analog display as on the 2013-15 Dart.
You can change the information shown on either side of the main display (but there are few choices), and you can page through information screens in the center, with Trip A and Trip B setups, gauges, navigation, and other options. (I wonder who leaves it on song information?)
Controls are sensible with big buttons so you can wear gloves and drive. The “knob” transmission control is easy to figure out and use, with a slight amount of experience, and the pushbutton parking brake is in an obvious position. The UConnect system works well and is easy enough to figure out. It had no problems with the big USB thumb disk that drives other cars into conniption fits; and if you want to operate the climate control without the touch-screen at all, well, you can do that quite easily. The new layout is nicer to look at and more convenient than the traditional vertical center stacks. There’s lots of storage in the stack, too, with a huge bin that slides out (the center console has another huge bin, but that’s for the center-row folk).
The interior is pleasant to look at, especially with the cream-and-black scheme; electric blue stitching looks good against the black leather, but maybe not so good against the cream. Regardless, the new control panel is pleasant and looks good, there are loads of well-thought-out storage spaces with a nice look and feel (including large sliding bins for front and middle rows), all having a better feel than past minivan generations. USB ports abound, and if you get the rear video system, you get games and different inputs for both sides including HDMI and optical disk (well, there’s just one of those). You can even play tic tac toe against person on the other side of the car, or adjust the rear climate control. There’s a nice “are we there yet?” app but it’s fairly limited in the information it provides.
The rear seats seem more comfortable and supportive than the ones in the car-show minivans, though maybe that’s just car-show fatigue on my part. There’s full leg room for three rows of adults in here, and the middle seats slide forward and back.
The Pacifica has an optional seatback display, with two ten-inch screens on the backs of the front seats (nothing for the rearmost row); they can be driven by an optical disc up front, or they can be driven separate USB or HDMI inputs, or they can let kids play games, including a very simple one that updates how far you are from the destination every 15 minutes or so.
Overall, Chrysler combined its decades of experience in making practical interiors with some forward thinking and the “look of luxury” lessons they’ve learned with the 300C, upscale Rams, and probably Lancias as well. The result is a practical, attractive interior that’s festooned with helpful touches.
The author of Dodge Viper, Jeep’s Go-Anywhere Vehicles, and The Rise and Reinvention of Chrysler Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.