In 1984, Chrysler launched the Dodge Caravan, the very first passenger minivan in North America. While this type of vehicle offers a lot of features that families have come to love, it was eventually replaced in buyer’s minds by SUVs. Today, you seldom see minivans on the road.
The ultimate version of today’s Grand Caravan is the Chrysler Town & Country. Even though it is supremely comfortable and luxurious, sales are constantly decreasing. Why? There are lots of reasons, a main one being the minivan itself. It’s simply no longer an “in” vehicle.
At the Detroit Auto Show, Chrysler just launched the next iteration of its family hauler. There are more than a few changes, but the first you need to be concerned with is on the tailgate: the Town & Country is out; say hi to the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
Under this revived name sits an all-new vehicle: sitting on a newly developed platform, it doesn’t share its powertrain with anything else in FCA’s lineup (for now) and will feature the manufacturer’s latest techs.
According to Chrysler, the platform has been engineered to be peerless. The Pacifica will supposedly be the most silent, comfortable and well-insulated of its segment. To achieve this, engineers lightened the structure as much as possible and strengthened key areas to diminish vibrations.
The van’s aerodynamics were not only tweaked to limit wind noise, but also to give the Pacifica a luxurious style. The front end shows its family tie with the Chrysler 200, and the taillights are also closely related to the sedan. A few chrome mouldings and accents have been added for extra elegance.
Inside, luxury and practicality comes standard: on the most well-appointed models, there are no less than three touchscreens (an 8.4-inch unit up front and a pair of 10-inch displays for the rear passengers), high-quality leather and trims as well as enough storage to fit everything your family might need on a long road trip. Like its minivan ancestors, the Pacifica will be able to fit the obligatory 4x8 plywood sheet in the back and boasts an interior volume of 5.6 square metres, which is more than the outgoing T&C (even though both vehicles are about the same size). Families will be happy to learn that the Stow ‘n Go seats are back, and the 2017 Pacifica will also come with an integrated vacuum, which will be useful to clean those crumbs from your expensive leather buckets.
Two versions are available: first of all, the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 used in a wide variety of Chrysler products is in both variations of the Pacifica, developing 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque in the regular version. A Pacifica Hybrid will also be offered, using a 16-kWh battery and an electric motor to enable an all-electric range of around 50 km. The system is also pluggable and can be recharged in two hours using a 240V outlet, although Chrysler doesn’t want to call it a plug-in – since customers will associate this term with range anxiety.
Since this is a family-oriented vehicle, safety was of the upmost concern. No less than a hundred safety features were installed in the Pacifica: from a 360-degree camera to a parking assist system, adaptive cruise control and a front collision warning chime, the new vehicle will protect its occupants.
I had the chance to see the 2017 Pacifica a few weeks before its launch; I was impressed by its styling, and the quality of the various interior trims was very surprising (in a good way, unlike the outgoing Town & Country…). I am eager to see pricing for this new minivan, but one thing’s certain: when it will launch next spring, it will give Chrysler the weapon it needs to reconquer the segment they created 30 years ago.