By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Eagle, Idaho – One of our favorite ways to get to know a car is by taking a road trip in it. Spending 20 or 30 hours behind the wheel or riding shotgun while covering 1,500 or 1,600 miles gives us a good sense of the character, strengths and performance levels of the car.
We recently needed to travel from our home in Eagle, Idaho to the Monterey Bay area in California to attend a memorial service for a good friend, who recently passed away. Coincidently we had a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited scheduled for testing during the same time period, so it worked out nicely to combine the two.
Our own daily driver is a compact-size luxury hybrid SUV. While we enjoy it, we’ve discovered it has space limitations, significant road noise, marginal performance and we don’t like the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The Pacifica, which is a product of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles company, as a comparison, was spacious with about twice the interior space including 87.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second-row seats. The performance level is strong and the CVT transmission doesn’t feel like it’s using rubber bands as the drive belt. While the Pacifica had less road noise, we did notice air noise as the wind blew over the massive optional tri-pane panoramic sunroof.
Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983 and has built more than 15 million in the 37 years since. The Pacifica version debuted as a 2017 model and changed the complexion and image of the multipurpose vehicle with dozens of innovations. It also happens to be the only hybrid minivan plus it now has an all-wheel drive option for gas-only models.
As a three-row luxury minivan, the Pacifica Limited is larger than we personally need, but it was nice to have the extra room for “things” on a road trip.
V-6 Pentastar Engine
The front-wheel drive Pacifica Hybrid’s gasoline engine is a double-overhead cam 260-hp, 3.6-liter Pentastar engine. The smooth V-6 engine has a fuel-efficient Atkinson cycle combustion system and a start/stop fuel saving system. Buff magazines list the hybrid 0 to 60 mph acceleration time at 7.8 seconds and we found that it has very respectable passing power.
The EPA rates the Pacifica Hybrid at 82 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and 30 MPG on gasoline only. Overall, on our 1,600-mile trip, we averaged 30.2 mpg driving much of the way between 75 and 85 mph. (The speed limit through Idaho and Nevada is 70 to 80 mph on most roads.)
On a fully charged battery, the plug-in Pacifica hybrid has an electric-only range of about 32 miles. When the Pacifica can’t be plugged in to a Level 2 (240-volt charger which fully charges the battery in about two hours) it’s charged by regenerative braking. While 32 miles may not seem like much, the Pacifica’s power usage gauge showed we were driving 40 or 50 miles on electric only between gas station fills. That translated to about 10 percent of the driving distance and bumped the overall fuel economy considerably.
The entry level gasoline powered 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Touring pricing starts at $35,540 including the $1,495 destination charge. (At the time of this writing a “Family Pricing for All” program that price was dropped to $33,104) The top gasoline model, the AWD Launch Edition is $41,735.
The Pacifica Hybrid Pricing starts at $41,490 for the Touring model and goes up to $47,340 with the destination charge for the Limited model. Our test vehicle with three option packages totaled $51,025 but would be lower with the current special pricing.
Advanced Safety Tec Group
We think the Advanced Safety Group ($995) is a must-have option. It includes Forward Collision Warning Plus, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Departure Warning-Plus, Surround View Camera, ParkSense front/rear park assist with stop, ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and auto high-beam headlamp control. These features make driving much more enjoyable and safer. The only feature we found missing was an auto hold system that allows you to take your foot off the brake when sitting at a stop light.
Uconnect Theater with Wireless Streaming
If you happen to be transporting children, or easily bored adults, the Theater system is a great addition too. It includes two 10-in. seatback touchscreens, 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, wireless headphones, video remote controls, HDMI inputs, third-row USB charge port, two USB ports, Blu-ray/DVD player and 220-amp alternator to keep the systems running.
Comfort and Handling
The seats in the Pacific Limited are firm and supportive, much like the European sport sedans. The Pacific minivan has a smooth ride and is well controlled on corners with little body roll. Visibility is good even with the expanse of interior space to look through to look back.
We hadn’t driven the Chrysler Pacific since in debuted in 2017. We were impressed then and are even more impressed since our road trip to California. The Hybrid adds new dimensions to the people hauler category with good fuel economy, performance and comfort, not to mention the abundance of space.
If we were in the market for a minivan, the Pacifica would be at the top of our shopping list. It looks great, is comfortable and has the features that make it fun to drive. The addition of the all-wheel drive is a big plus for shoppers living in the snow belt.