2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited: A second chance at a first impression.
Price: $50,375 as tested. The Limited started at $45,395, and added $1,795 for the panoramic sunroof. Other features noted below.
Marketer's pitch: "Winner takes all."
Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the "available plug-in hybrid model, abundance of storage bins and cubbies" but not the "awkward power-hatch button location."
Reality: Sometimes second impressions muddy things up, and other times things come into sharp, sad focus.
A second date: Mr. Driver's Seat, the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat, and two of the Sturgis Kids got to know the Pacifica Hybrid quite well a couple of years back when we drove one on a trip to Maine.
While the trip involved a vacation home with a fouled water supply leading to nausea, diarrhea, and the occasional roadside regurgitation — we still don't even want to be in the same room as lobstah rolls, sorry — the Pacifica Hybrid was a bright spot in our journey. A 500-mile all-day drive was comfortable and easy, and the fuel economy even without frequent plug-ins ran in the neighborhood of 30 mpg.
Would this time around measure up?
Family comfort (and hauling stuff): While on this occasion we were all sharing a mild cold, it started before the Pacifica arrived, so we don't blame the minivan for the Sturgis Family ills.
As before, everyone found the ride to be enjoyable, including Sturgis Kids 1.0 and 4.0 (the same set as before) and the Lovely MPS.
Cargo space is 140 cubes, about 10 smaller than a Toyota Sienna. And the batteries take away the Stow-and-Go second-row seats, but comfortable captain's chairs are a far better ride anyhow.
Cupholders aplenty will not disappoint the hydration needs of several families.
Driver's Seat: Comfortable and adjustable, the Nappa leather bucket seats with S logo (part of the $795 S Appearance package, which also blacked out the wheels, the grille, the roof rack, and added 60-series tires) looked sillier than they felt. Really — we're trying to trick out a minivan?
Fuel economy: This was the high point of the previous test. This time around, in the cold and snow, the 3.6-liter V-6 with the 6.6 kW battery averaged 27 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver's Seat round of testing. I have about a 25-mile commute, which meant the vehicle charged for only one direction, so your mileage can certainly improve.
A 10% cold-weather drop in range is about the minimum for electric vehicles, and this matched the drop from two summers ago's 30 mpg.
I also did a 54-mile round trip with no charge in the battery, and the Pacifica Hybrid averaged just over 23 mpg, about my experience in the regular Pacifica. Again not bad.
Up to speed: The Pacifica Hybrid gets to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, according to a 2017 Car and Driver test.
Even with the hybrid powertrain, acceleration is smooth and consistent.
Safety: The $995 Advanced SafetyTec Group added a 360-degree camera; forward collision; lane departure warning; park assist and ParkSense; rain-sensitive wipers; advanced brake assist; and automatic high-beam control.
Keep your speed: Shoutout to FiatChrysler for offering clear regular cruise control and adaptive cruise control switches right there on the steering wheel.
Shiftless: The EVT connecting the hybrid powertrain to the wheels ran smooth as silk as well. There are no "gears," just even torque at all levels. Passing is not a breeze but certainly feels confident. Delete any image of a putt-putt hybrid from your mind.
On the road: The Pacifica comes only in front-wheel drive, which is not most drivers' ideal anymore. But there's decent snow traction, as February's weather taught me.
The low roofline means the minivan has a real carlike feel, and handling to match. While a Sienna still feels its bulk, the Pacifica just feels light and confident. Toyota's offering does come with available all-wheel drive, though.
Play some tunes: The 20-speaker Harman Kardon stereo provided an enjoyable listening experience — I'd call it an A.
Operation of the system was fairly simple, with dials for volume and tuning, and the 8.4-inch touch screen for everything else.
FiatChrysler's fondness for volume and forward-reverse triggers on the back side of the steering wheel — priceless!
Night shift: Nighttime travel needs are accommodated as well — with many people on board, sometimes passengers need to find something, so the interior lights should be clear enough for the task but not interfere with the road. The Pacifica Hybrid's met the need.
Where it's built: Windsor, Ontario.
How it's built: Consumer Reports gives the Pacifica a predicted (un)reliability of 1 out of 5, where it's been the previous two model years.
In the end: I've been holding out hope the reliability on this would improve, but eek. I guess that's why Chrysler's website is offering them for $39,995 now. Off the list it goes.