Forget every SUV, crossover and wagon on the market. If you want the best machine to haul your family, buy the Chrysler Pacifica.
I know vans aren't cool anymore. I know you think you need a monster truck, but the Chrysler Pacifica is so good that it can't be ignored. As long as you can get over the corniness of a minivan, it's a brilliant buy.
The Pacifica is the spiritual successor of the old Town & Country van, but it received a top-to-bottom makeover to create a more spacious, comfortable, quiet and desirable van.
Part of that is a renewed focus on technology, starting with the available Hybrid powertrain. At $49,875 as equipped, this van wasn't cheap, but it's the only plug-in hybrid van on the market. Not only do you get 33 miles of electric-only range, but the hybrid powertrain makes driving more efficient even when you haven't had a chance to plug it in.
On a trip that saw hundreds of miles of highway driving followed by a slow crawl through traffic on the George Washington Bridge and into upper Manhattan, the Pacifica delivered a staggering 29 miles per gallon. This, despite no charge in the battery to start and a car full of people and cargo.
If you want a non-minivan that bests the Pacifica's cargo space, you have to step all the way up to a Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition Max. Those trucks start above $50,000, where this fully loaded Pacifica ends and they both will struggle to deliver 23 miles per gallon at the top end. Oh, and buying a Pacifica Hybrid gets you a $7,500 federal tax credit.
You get captains chairs in the first two rows and a bench in the back, with USB ports abound and an honest-to-God wall outlet in the second row. This Limited trim also offered heated and cooled seats up front, a Harman/Kardon stereo, three-pane panoramic sunroof, a full suite of active driving aids and a new-generation rear-seat entertainment system.
The Pacifica's rear screens are touch screens, offering apps like "Are We There Yet?" that link up with the navigation system to silence inquisitive kids. You can also use on board Wi-Fi and HDMI ports to make a mobile streaming station or — as I did — hook up an Xbox for a long trip.
Up front, you'll find the tech options just as pleasing. UConnect, Fiat Chrysler's corporate infotainment system, is a serious contender for the "best infotainment system" moniker. Material options strike a good balance between pleasant design and fit-for-minivan ruggedness. Overall, it's the most pleasant minivan interior out there.
Plus, you'll find it easy to enjoy when you realize how few outside disturbances make it past the Chrysler's defenses. It's incredibly quiet, with the smooth V-6 meshes nicely with the low-down torque of the electric powertrain, with the two swapping duties without fuss or fault. The heavy battery pack also helps to damp the already-smooth ride of the Pacifica, making it a fantastic choice for long-haul trips.
Despite all of the marketing dollars spent on advertising Chrysler's innovative "Stow 'N Go" fold-flat second row, you won't find them on the Pacifica Hybrid. The battery pack lives in the floor, so there's no room for the buckets that the seats drop into.
If your Pacifica is destined for heavy cargo usage, I'd skip the hybrid model. You also can't get the built-in vacuum cleaner that's available on traditionally powered Pacifica.
The only fault I noticed was the gear selector, a large knob that lives below the smaller volume knob. One is something you twist quickly on the highway when "Africa" by Toto comes on, one is something that should never be touched while in motion. Given that this car was obsessively engineered with impeccable attention to detail, that's a weird ergonomic miss for Chrysler.
The lowest-tier Pacifica Hybrid is the Touring Plus, which starts at $39,995. The gas-powered Touring Plus is $32,595. If you pay more than $7,500 in taxes each year, though, the real-world cost of the Hybrid is $32,495 after you take your tax credit. So for $100 less, you get more power, better efficiency and smoother city performance.
However, I recommend stepping up to the Touring L. While a power liftgate isn't worth spending up for, the L comes with leather seats. If you have enough kids to necessitate a minivan, you need seats that are easy to wipe clean. There are no more boxes to check, so the total is $41,995 or $34,495 with the tax credit factored in.
That's an absurd amount of car for under $35,000. Remember, no SUV or Crossover gets close to the Pacifica's cargo space unless you're willing to spend at least $50,000 on a gargantuan SUV that guzzles gas as it lumbers around town.
Sure, you could get another minivan, but it's hard to match what Chrysler offers. First off, the hybrid powertrain is a great way to get more power, luxury and efficiency without truly having to spend any extra money. Plus, the Pacifica is the best-looking van out there and offers a truly refined driving experience.
It may not be the coolest car, but the Chrysler Pacifica is undoubtedly the best family vehicle on sale to day.
Driving Experience: 4
Price as tested: $49,875