Vehicle: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Price as tested: $49,665 (starts at $26,995)
Best feature: Roomy and easy-to-adjust seating, loads of storage space
Rating: 4 out of five stars
Who will want this vehicle?: Families who still believe in the minivan, and want one of the best ones still around
The minivan, once a shining beacon of the automotive future when they first gained prominence in the 80s, has seen better days. The SUV craze has taken over the auto world, and poor old minivan has generally gotten the cold shoulder.
But wait, that’s not quite true. Some manufacturers remain committed to the segment, and one company that never really left the segment and still represents it strongly is FCA. To follow up on their longtime minivan successes the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, the company a couple years back introduced the Chrysler Pacifica, and have seen strong success in the category since then.
I recently spent time in a 2018 Pacifica, and I’m back with a full report on how it compares in the segment, for those who still love the sliding doors and a perfect setup for half the baseball team.
The goal of a minivan is space and comfort. You get that all in the Pacifica.
Access to all rows is a breeze once those sliding doors open. It’s roomy all around, even in the third row (though you probably want to put the littlest ones back there) and everybody’s seat is comfortable. Seating for 7 or 8 is offered, depending on configuration.
The optional long panoramic sunroof lets you let the light in, and there are AC/heat controls in the middle row, plus lots of storage spaces for cups and more throughout the vehicle. These are the little things that add up to make the experience better.
But the best part of it all is the impressive amount of cargo space, plus the versatile seating that’s great for families with varying needs. Don’t need the third row today and want some storage space? Hit a button and the seats in back disappear into the floor. Second row seats can also be minimized via Stow and Go seating, giving you a massive amount of cargo space behind the front row.
Need those seats for human butts later? Hit the button and they will return from the floor. Among current minivans, this is the best and most easy-to-use seating system.
18-inch wheels are standard, but you can upgrade to 20-inch wheels.
My test vehicle featured a 3.6-liter, V6 engine; paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission, which is controlled by a dial on the front console (you’ll probably be reaching for a shifter the first few times you get into the Pacifica, until you get used to the dial). Output on the standard Pacifica is 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque.
A hybrid version of the Pacifica is also offered.
All Pacificas come in front-wheel drive only. Towing capacity is 3,600 pounds, and max load is 1,300 pounds. Cargo volume is 66 cubic feet.
Being a somewhat large vehicle (4,535 pounds), the Pacifica does take a bit of time to get moving. It’s not a speed demon, but as my daughter often says it’s not good to imitate a NASCAR driver while lugging the family around.
This is a family vehicle and it drives like one. The ride is smooth, quiet and handles well, but not thrilling. And that’s OK. It fits the vehicle’s character.
Chrysler comes through with bells on in this department compared to its minivan competitors.
First of all, it’s definitely safe — as in nearly perfect government safety ratings (five stars out of five in all but one category). For family vehicle buyers, hearing this is a relief.
You get a plethora of air bags to protect you from all angles in the event of an accident, a ParkView rear backup camera system. On higher trim levels, standard features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, ParkSense rear park assist with stop, and more. Other safety options include an excellent 360-degree Surround View Camera System, parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, full-speed forward-collision warning plus, lane departure warning plus, and rain sensitive wipers.
The Pacifica is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, offers heated and cooled front seats plus heated second row seats and heated steering wheel, and offers either a 13-speaker Alpine audio system or a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. USB ports are found throughout the vehicle so everyone can plug in.
On top of that, when fully equipped it offers about the best tech experience I’ve experienced in a vehicle. For example, in what I would call a brilliant move, on the optional in-car theater system ($2,600), the two screens (placed behind the front head rests, not hanging in middle of vehicle from ceiling) offer not only access to view movies, but also interactive games via the touchscreen. If you thought playing a movie kept the kids busy and excited during a trip, letting them interact on a screen is that much better, and some of the games are actually educational too. The theater system is Blu-Ray disc compatible, and includes headphones and remotes for both screen, and can also show what’s on your phone if you have a compatible model.
Up front, the UConnect system works very well, and responded well to voice commands for everything including navigation.
And to top things off, there is even a built-in vacuum to help you clean up any messes, as family trips aren’t always clean.
Official fuel numbers are 19 city/28 highway/22 combined, and I found those to be accurate in my testing of the Pacifica. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to what I would call its toughest competitor in the minivan segment, the Honda Odyssey, and better than the Toyota Sienna and Kia Sedona minivan options that also compete in the system.
So if fuel economy is a focus for you, and it generally is when you have a family and are trying to save wherever you can, the Pacifica performs admirably.
My test vehicle was fully loaded and came in at $49,665. But if you’re just looking for the cargo space and versatility a minivan offers, and can skip all the tech bells and whistles, you can get the base version of the Pacifica for about $27,000; which is a few thousand less than the starting price on Honda and Toyota alternatives, and roughly the same as Kia’s minivan.
Starting off with a great design that’s user-friendly and easily adjustable, and adding in loads of strong tech features, the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica is no doubt one of the best minivan options on the market for the people still committed to this style of vehicle over standard SUVs. There’s a strong argument to be made that it’s the best overall.
Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His past reviews can all be seen online at autotechreviews.com.