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Chrysler Pacifica sets new minivan standard with its hybrid powerplant

The original Chrysler Pacifica had a lot going for it when introduced as a 2017 model in late 2016.

By recently adding a hybrid powerplant to the line, the 2017 Pacifica has more going for it today. The hybrid is a first for the midsize three-row minivan market.

That powerplant turns a heavy vehicle into an unheard-of realm when it comes to fuel usage economy. Competitors better take note.

On a 250-mile trip to northern Wisconsin with four people aboard, plus 80 pounds of luggage, the 5,125-pound hybrid averaged 28.3 mpg using unleaded regular gasoline. On the return trip the average was 30.5 mpg. The miles covered interstate, small-town, two- and four-lane state highways.

An earlier testing period with the gas-only Pacifica resulted in an average of 21.1 mpg. At that time, three adults were aboard with minimal luggage, and miles were shared equally between Interstates 94 and 90 and suburban Chicago roadways. Midsize, three-row, all- or front-wheel-drive minivans from the major manufacturers traditionally are heavy and weigh between 4,500 pounds and the Pacifica’s 5,125 pounds. That includes Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Kia Sedona and the Pacifica’s sibling in the Fiat Chrysler Automobile family, the Dodge Grand Caravan. Fuel usage for these minivans is in the 20 to 25-mpg range. Driving habits, weather, road conditions and vehicle maintenance play a part in usage.

There is more to this Pacifica than a hybrid powerplant. It also is a plug-in and can operate in all-electric mode for up to 33 miles. Fuel usage, of course, is nil in this mode. Recharging can take from two to 14 hours, depending on use of a 120- or 240-volt outlet. The all-electric mode could appeal to those who make short trips around town, such as shuttling children back and forth from school, games and activities.

Sight lines are good, seats are sumptuous and leg room is adequate. A class-exclusive “Easy Tilt Seating” system lets passengers access the third row with the lift of a lever.

Chrysler’s patented Stow ’n Go feature is missing, as that space is taken up with the hybrid’s lithium-ion battery pack.

Although the tested hybrid was a seven-seater with captain’s chairs in the second row with an aisle between, the gasoline-only Pacifica can be ordered as an eight-seater.

The hybrid components, paired with a 3.6-liter, 260-horsepower double overhead cam V-6 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, can tow a 3,600-pound trailer. With the hybrid component, this minivan has a range of 500 miles before the 16.5-gallon gas tank hits empty. The driver has to take no action as the hybrid system seamlessly and automatically engages the gasoline engine.

The tested seven-seat hybrid Pacifica was a loaded Platinum model. Thus, the asking price was $44,995.

Although the Platinum is loaded, the less-expensive Premium hybrid model also includes remote start, leather trim, keyless entry, dashboard pushbutton start and stop, hands-free telephone, hill start assist and a sound system, including AM-FM-satellite radio, CD and MP3 players, auxiliary ports besides the USB port and zoned climate controls.

The latest in satellite radio, infortainment system, Bluetooth, hands-free phone technology is on board. See a dealer for details.

The Platinum includes, besides the usual power windows, front seats (heated), exterior mirrors (also heated) and door locks, a power liftgate, three-zone sunroof and shade.

A rear-seat entertainment system is part of a $1,795 option package. The advice is to buy it. The theater package, with two screens behind front-seat headrests, is part of the 13-speaker, 500-watt sound system and has wireless headphones.

Since the Pacifica Hybrid seems destined to become a sales leader in North America, competitors likely are to follow with their own hybrid minivans.

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