2017 Chrysler Pacifica wows a typically minivan-averse crowd

2017 Chrysler Pacifica wows a typically minivan-averse crowd

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) visited the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) for an event showcasing the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. Matt McAlear, Chrysler Head of Minivan Product Marketing, was on-hand to speak to a group of 35 D.C.-area journalists during the luncheon and ride and drive.

Not quite SUV and not fully minivan, the Pacifica isn’t your typical family car with seven seats and two sliding doors — you know, the one that your mom drove to drop you off at elementary school. The Town & Country nameplate disappears with the rebranding of Chrysler’s people-hauler as the Pacifica, formerly a well-liked, early-to-market crossover SUV.

As the Millennial generation ages and starts having kids of their own (a frightening thought in and of itself), automakers are thinking ahead to how they can please the future families of America with cars that meet their needs before they’re aware they need that car.

“The Millennials are breaking apart. They don’t want the same old minivan they grew up in, the Town & Country and the Caravan,” McAlear shares, adding that the inspiration behind Ralph Gilles’ team in creating the Pacifica is that Chrysler wants to deliver something new to the Millennial generation.

During the vehicle presentation and walk-around, McAlear described the many details of the 2017 Pacifica. For instance, looking at the vehicle form the front, it is clear that it’s a Chrysler thanks to styling similar to that found on the latest Chrysler 200. In fact, from this perspective, you may not know whether it’s a minivan or an SUV.

Matt McAlear, Head of Minivan Product Marketing, Chrysler

Matt McAlear, Head of Minivan Product Marketing, Chrysler

With best-in-class aerodynamics and features like adaptive cruise control (ACC) with stop-and-go technology, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, Chrysler believes this vehicle is a great fit for both metropolitan families and those living in the suburbs.

“Perfect for DC traffic,” says McAlear, “[the adaptive cruise control] will take the car all the way to a stop, hold it, and then start again.”

Also helpful in commuter traffic, the Pacifica’s forward collision warning system will alert the driver to brake or, if you fail to do so, stop the vehicle for you in certain circumstances. This van isn’t a small vehicle by any means, but the 360-degree surround view camera gives the driver a birds-eye view of the car and its surroundings. Rear park assist also comes in handy for when backing out of the driveway or a parking space and you can’t see something that you’re inevitably going to hit. The system will stop the vehicle if it thinks you’re going to run into a concrete post, or worse, a pedestrian.

“There’s all kinds of semi-autonomous creature comforts just to make driving that much easier.” – Matt McAlear, Head of Minivan Product Marketing, Chrysler

Under the hood of all Pacifica models rests Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6L V6 with 287hp that gets mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Competitors from Toyota and Honda start with a 4-cylinder base engine, so customers have to opt (i.e. pay more) for a V6. The 2017 Pacifica gets five trim levels — two with cloth, three with leather.

Chrysler Pacifica at the historic River House Farm in Alexandria, Va.

Chrysler Pacifica at the historic River Farm in Alexandria, Va.

Chrysler hides the sliding door track in the window, providing an unobstructed view down the side of the vehicle. Don’t worry, the door sharing the side with the fuel cap won’t open if you’re gassing up the Pacifica. Another really neat feature (one that truly is some kind of genius because it addresses both aesthetics and fuel economy) are the “when you need it” roof racks. “When you want it, it’s there. When you don’t it’s hidden,” says McAlear of the feature that has existed on prior Town & Country vans, but somehow escaped our attention. Simply unlock the roof racks that are tucked inside the chrome-finished roof rails, open them up, and fasten them across the roof top perpendicular from the rails. And voila! You have roof racks for a cargo carrier, skis, surfboards or whatever else you decide to mount atop your Pacifica.

Incredibly helpful features on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

  • Power 2nd and 3rd row Stow ‘n Go® seating and storage
  • Kick under rear bumper to both open and close tailgate (with key fob in pocket)
  • 5 LATCH positions for car seats
  • Easy access to third row with power tilt seat function (carseat can stay in place)
  • Optional panoramic sunroof extending to third row
  • Heated 2nd row seats
  • Standard backup camera
  • Rear park assist with an alert in your instrument panel and auto braking
  • 60/40 split rear seats
  • Optional 8th seat if sacrifice captain’s chairs in middle row
  • Power collapsable 3rd row headrests from driver’s seat
  • Capability to haul 64 4’x8’x0.25″sheets of plywood with 2nd and 3rd rows stowed or removed

2017 Chrysler Pacifica WAPA

Chrysler also worked to solve problems such as having car seats installed but needing to access the third row. How do you do this? With a press of a button, Stow ‘n Go® automatically brings the seat forward and back. So, if you’ve got car seat installed, you can still tilt the seat forward and slide the seat to access the back (preferably, with an empty car seat). For third-row passengers, feet now tuck easily under the rear of the second row seats — similar to airplane seating. No more crunching your feet and ankles and suffering through an awkward seating position.

“It’s all about the second and third row. That’s why you buy a minivan.”

Also, to improve Stow ‘n Go®, Chrysler integrated the floor mats into the whole process of folding down the seats to stow them. Before, you would have to know that the compartment rested beneath the floor mats, and remove those mats to access it. “No more flip and tumble,” McAlear tells the group. “In under a minute, [you’ve got a] completely flat floor.”

Moving on to technology, Chrysler has likely given this area the most thought when it comes to its all-new Pacifica. The carmaker removed the once roof-mounted screens and put them behind headrests, improving ease of viewing angle and reducing rear passengers’ likelihood to get sick.

“It wasn’t just about a DVD player,” says McAlear about the technology found in Chrysler’s 2017 Pacifica.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica WAPA

Built-in games and apps are now available on those entertainment screens as well. Kids can play with each other, or play against the computer. But if that’s not enough, they can bring in their Xbox or Nintendo. The Pacifica comes stock with two HDMI slots and USB charging ports – found on the back of the two front seats – and a 115V plug outlet. Also, with HDMI you can plug in your iPhone or tablet with an accessory cable to view what’s on your device on the touchscreen. Rear passengers can use the Pacifica hi-fidelity wireless headphones or connect their own (like Beats by Drake) and plug them in. Want more than two wireless headsets? Additional headsets can be purchased from the dealership as well.

Chrysler keeps the BluRay DVD player up front, which can be viewed by the driver and front passenger when the vehicle is in “park”. “My favorite feature is the USB video port,” admits McAlear. “Take a 32GB thumb drive and put as many movies as you can fit on there, and pop that bad boy in.”

What’s more amazing is the kids (or let’s be honest, your adult friends) can watch the same movie at the same time, different movies at the same time, or watching videos from completely different sources at the same time.

Buyers of the Pacifica either get a 13-speaker Alpine (for $1,995) or can upgrade to 20-speaker Harman Kardon (for $2,795).

The demo vehicle we got a close-up look at came with leather seating in Deep Mocha, a pleasant color that’s likely to be kind toward your kids’ dusty feet. Front seats are heated and ventilated, steering wheel also gets heat. And mommas, you can thank your lucky stars that the Pacifica lead engineer is a woman; she added a recessed bin below the center stack to have a safe spot for your handbag. Other features you’ll appreciate are the 12V outlet, cup holders that easily grasp different sizes of cups, 2nd row cup holders and a storage drawer (trust us, there’s plenty of beverage storage with six cup holders and four bottle holders in this thing!).

The 8-inch screen provides great visibility of rear camera scenes.

The 8-inch screen provides great visibility of rear camera scenes.

Chrysler invested $2 billion to create its ultimate family vehicle.

There’s also plenty of places to plug in your devices thanks to six USB ports in the Pacifica. In the front, expect one charge-only port, one integrated into the system, and one USB video port. Chrysler also gives us a “disassociated” screen in the center stack to provide a seamless iPad look and feel.

But the folks in the back don’t get all the fun; the Pacifica pilot gets a 7-inch customizable driver info display in the instrument cluster. Plus, the owners manual is now searchable in the vehicle and you can set “favorites” to those pesky little details you never seem to remember without referencing the manual. Finally, a drag-and-drop main menu for one-touch options makes accessing your preferences much easier without having to thumb through options.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica comes with 3D navigation, 5 years of SiriusXM Travel Link, 1 year SiriusXM satellite radio, the “Are We There Yet” app…where you can program the destination in and kids can follow along on the screens in the back.

Matt McAlear demonstrates the usefulness of Chrysler's Stow 'n Vac in the 2017 Pacifica.

Matt McAlear demonstrates the usefulness of Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Vac in the 2017 Pacifica.

Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Vac beats Honda’s vacuum solution because it’s located behind the 2nd row, has a 12-foot retractable hose that reaches all corners of the vehicle, and retracts when not in use. If that’s not enough slack, then there’s another 12ft accessory in the trunk that can be added on to do the camper, the floor mats out on the driveway, or your spouse’s vehicle. Cleanup is easy thanks to a hard plastic “catch bin” with a washable filter. McAlear, however, does not recommend sucking up liquids with the powerful vacuum.

Chrysler isn’t currently offering all-wheel-drive on its 2017 Pacifica; however, they have built the infrastructure to support it should they choose to make that available later.

What about the hybrid option? That’s slated to release later this year. The Pacifica Hybrid will have a 30-mile all-electric range and 530-mile total gas-and-electric range. It, too, gets paired with the Pentastar V6. Keeping in mind the need for seating position comfort and cargo capacity, Chrysler has placed the 16 kWh batteries in the center beneath the second row. The only thing that’s lost is 2nd row stow & go (but the seats are still removable). The third row will still fold flat in the floor.

The hybrid version will come stock with both built-in level I (14 hours to a full charge) and level II (2 hours to full charge) converters. On the tech side, the hybrid model has built-in apps for the in-car touchscreen and your smartphone to monitor vehicle energy levels and even to program automatic charging based on the cheapest electricity rates in your area.

Pacifica was designed to go head-to-head with Toyota and Honda. On sale now, families can check out the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at a dealership near them. You can get yours starting at just below $29,000; top it out for less than $43,000. We’re scheduled to spend some time with the 2017 Pacifica at the end of September, and we look forward to experiencing it first-hand then.

Pacificas lined up and ready to explore Alexandria, Va.

Pacificas lined up and ready to explore Alexandria, Va.

WAPA Board Members, Sofyan Bey of Redline Reviews and Melanie Batenchuk of Be Car Chic go for a test drive.

WAPA Board Members, Sofyan Bey of Redline Reviews and Melanie Batenchuk of Be Car Chic go for a test drive.

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.