Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A Week With The 33 Mile Plug-In Minivan

3 weeks ago by David Lardner 55

The Chrsyler Pacifca Hybrid officially arrived on Earth Day 2017 (April 22nd, 2017)

There are no two ways about it. It’s a massive PHEV

Last week, I was thrilled to finally get my hands on the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid after waiting what seemed to be an eternity. After all, this is the vehicle that brings the possibility of driving electric to the American family’s favorite mode of transportation. This PHEV is important for that reason. It’s also important because, if it’s not done right, it could turn a lot of buyers into EV foes.

I first laid eyes on this variant at the New York International Auto Show well over a year ago and I figured I’d have access to an example sooner rather than later. It turned out to be later, but, that’s a good thing, right? Hopefully that means that the good folks at FCA were working hard to make sure that it’s perfect.

One week of urban usage

Chrysler has decided “e-Hybrid” is the best terminology to sell the 33 mile plug-in minivan

Over the last year, I’ve logged lots of mileage in the standard Pacifica as my standard go-to rental when my wife’s Focus Electric or my BMW i3 aren’t up to the task.

These miles have mostly been on the highway where it’s proven itself as a fantastic cruiser that’s comfortable and, at least at speed, reasonably efficient. Around town, however, is a different story. Examples I’ve driven have averaged anywhere from 16-18 miles per gallon in city driving. And, that’s where these vehicles spend a majority of their time. So, I spent this week with the plug-in variant mainly focused on how well it handled day-to-day commuting and car pool functions. That means lots of surface street driving.

How did it do? Quite well actually.

The single most important feature of the Pacifica Hybrid is that if it’s charged regularly and driven in a reasonably sane manner, it’s possible that the average minivan driver will reduce their daily gasoline consumption by as much as two gallons. That’s significant and will gain in significance if the price of fuel rises.

Another important feature is that this finally brings a sincere reduction in tailpipe emissions to the minivan. Eliminating up to 33 miles of internal combustion emissions is significant.

No shortage of creature-comforts in the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

So, what strengths and weakness were apparent after a weeks seat-time?

Pros

You’ve got lots of power. My first observation about this minivan is that, as PHEVs go, it’s remarkably easy to keep the ICE off. It takes a pretty heavy foot to get the engine to fire up. That means that it’s possible to keep up with traffic without dipping into the gasoline supply.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid’s 6.6 kW charging ability is quite fast compared to other PHEV offerings in the US

It charges quickly. With a 6.6 kWh onboard charger, it’s really simple to keep the battery topped off. And, it’s easy to visually check the progress with a series of 5 blue lights on the dash that progressively come on as the charge level increases.

Stealth mode. At first, the driving experience is surreal because one naturally expects the cacophony of sounds one normally gets from a vehicle of this type. In EV mode, the tires are clearly the biggest noise generator.

Range. The 16 kWh battery gives the Pacifica a really usable EV range. It’s easy to exceed the EPA rated 33 mile battery-only range. Without resorting to any extraordinary measures, it was possible to get  up to 38 miles of range before slipping into hybrid mode. And, that range can be monitored from an easy to read display.

Speaking of range, once that big battery is expended, at a combined 32 miles per gallon, there’s an additional 528 miles that can be covered.

Lots of room inside, and an optional moonroof!

There’s room and utility and luxury. The interior is stunning. The range topping Platinum tester came with beautiful light gray (almost white) Nappa Leather power seats that are both heated and ventilated. And, the seating comfort in the first and second rows is excellent with the third row still being a great place for kids. Speaking of kids, I’d opt for the black leather as the gray seems as if it would be rather prone to stains.

Other luxuries include a heated steering wheel, a massive panoramic sunroof with a smaller unit over the third row, and a 7 inch TFT touchscreen with Chrysler’s Uconnect system that incorporates and excellent sound system. Speaking of entertainment, there are two fold-up flat screen monitors with wireless headphones and remote controls for the second row.

The 16 kWh battery takes up the area traditionally reserved for the 2nd row’s under floor “Stow N Go” storage compartment

Cons

You lose second row Stow and Go. That 16 kWh battery had to go somewhere and that somewhere is right where the second row folds into the floor on the traditional Pacifica. Is this a big deal? Only if you regularly use your minivan to haul sheets of plywood. Otherwise, if passenger comfort is top priority, this setup is actually a benefit because the second row no longer needs to fold and the non-folding seat is infinitely more comfortable. Pro or Con? It’s entirely based on how you use your minivan

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid’s estimation for electric range lives up to the tag “Guess O Meter”

Unknown reliability. This is a new drivetrain and it’s hard to gauge how well it will hold up. Chrysler’s minivans have, at least from a historical perspective, had troublesome transmissions. This model does away with their traditional transmission and replaces it with the eFlite EVT Transmission. Hopefully this unit will perform well.

The Guess O Meter is wildly inaccurate. The best way to keep abreast of state of charge is with the battery percentage readout on the dash. The range readout tends to fluctuate wildly…in a similar manner to the way the Ford Focus Electric did before the first software update. At one point, at 0 miles range, it stayed in EV mode for an additional 4 miles at freeway speeds. Other times, it indicated 23 miles, then 15 and then 18 all within one city block.

Feelings. There are so many feelings.

During my week with the Pacifica Hybrid, I was hit with a ton of feelings.  Among them were “Wow, this thing is huge”, “So easy to drive”, and “How do I convince my wife that we really need a minivan?” (we don’t). It’s really that impressive.

To many watchers, this minivan is a game changer. It’s a vehicle that can handle a large family and all their accouterments. And, it’s got some seriously green creds.

Not your typical plug-in interior.

What stands out about the Pacifica Hybrid is this: For a soccer parent who runs errands that are sandwiched between morning and afternoon carpool duties, it’s possible to see a serious reduction in gasoline usage.

In fact, with access to Level 2 charging during idle moments, it’s possible to almost eliminate gasoline usage on daily basis. That’s a huge accomplishment. And, when that soccer parent eventually does need to refill, they won’t have missed using the gas pump and paying for gasoline. That means the next time they’re car shopping, they’ll be looking for something similar or better when it comes to EV capabilities. In this regard, this PHEV is a gateway drug.

It’s also much better than the standard Pacifica because it’s smoother, quieter and so much more efficient once it starts using gasoline. Once the EV range is depleted, a combined 32 miles per gallon is pretty impressive for such a large vehicle. Removing the much unloved traditional Chrysler transmission only sweetens the package. And, as a hybrid, it’s powerful and the ICE regularly shuts down and lets the electric motor do the hard work for a mile or two.

Then there’s pricing. Yes, this is not a cheap minivan by anyone’s standards. The range topping Pacifica Hybrid Platinum I tested came in at $47,885. However, it does qualify for the $7500 Federal Tax credit before any state incentives. And, if you can find one at the base price of $41,995, the tax credit makes it a serious bargain.

Chrysler has begun something big. Provided that reliability is at least comparable to the standard Pacifica, gaining so much in the way of efficiency and green credentials and combining them with a nice tax credit means that the competition has some serious work to do to catch up.

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55 responses to "Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A Week With The 33 Mile Plug-In Minivan"

  1. jelloslug says:

    I think this minivan has the potential to be a big hit. One hiccup in gas prices and Chrysler won’t be able to make enough of them.

  2. blakem says:

    The other serious Con not mentioned is that there is no option for 8 seats. This really is unacceptable given that having an optional 8th seat has become the standard for other minivans. It would have been so easy to add, its not like they just simply don’t have the room (1st gen Volt, I’m thinking of you). Hopefully they’ll correct this mistake for the next model year. If there was an 8 seat option, I would have ordered one.

    1. You have a very large Family? Or, do you Car Pool a lot? Maybe, you have a lot of friends that travel with you a lot?

      Isn’t an 8 Seat Vehicle a Bus?

    2. Johnny Johnson says:

      Pacifica is 8 seat optioned. I have one.

      1. SopFu says:

        The hybrid does not have the option. If Someone wants 8 seats, they need to get a standard Pacifica.

  3. fotomoto says:

    The Stow-and-Go “con” isn’t clear and implies you can’t carry large loads like plywood when, in fact, you can by simply taking out the removable second row seats. I had two vans with removable 2nd row and never had an issue with removing them. Trips carrying large loads were always planned.

    Losing the rear 3rd row stow-n-go would have been a MUCH bigger deal in real world terms.

  4. DangerHV says:

    Looked at Chrysler website. They have 4 Pacifica models between $38,295 and $44,995 before options. 2 ICE, 2 PHEV. (+4 less expensive ICE models also shown) These are the highest priced models in their line-up.
    I don’t know how many high end Pacifica’s they sell now, but it looks like a large % of those buyers will opt for the PHEV, especially after the tax credit is considered. Hopefully the sales force will be properly educated.

    1. Tom says:

      That’s sort of the whole point. After tax credit (especially if in California) this high end leather decked out thing is effectively priced the same as run of the mill versions

  5. Dad says:

    Combine 32mpg for a mini-van? Amazing…

    1. Rob Stark says:

      I wish the Cadillac CT6 PHEV got 32 MPG combined when in hybrid mode.

  6. GreenMD says:

    Pretty positive review. I hope it sells well and opens a new market for eco friendly driving. If they can do this powertrain in a minivan, they can put it in a Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. A plug in hybrid SUV with real electric range and good gas mpg is also missing from the market.
    Kudos to using “soccer parent.”

  7. VazzedUp says:

    32mpg minivan which you can get for $30,000 in Colorado after Fed and State, expect to see this go quick.
    On a cost basis this competes with the Bolt for a family vehicle, just think about a family choosing between the two…

    1. 2EVsCO says:

      Excited to see more PHEVs! These are the training wheels the public needs!

    2. dgalvan says:

      I’m excited about this van. Lets see how accurate we can get on the cost to the consumer.

      The cheaper “premium” model has an MSRP + transportation fee of $43k.

      In Colorado, (Denver, for example) the combined sales tax is 7.65%. That means the total up-front cost for the Premium Pacifica Hybrid is $46,289.50.

      Federal tax credit of $7,500 brings that down to $38,789.5.

      In Colorado, my understanding is there is an additional $4,800 tax credit available for a 16 kWh vehicle. (that’s crazy generous!) That brings the net cost to the buyer down to $33,989.5.

      Just under $34k net cost seems pretty competitive against other new minivans.

      Note that, in Los Angeles, where the state rebate is only $1,500 and the combined sales tax is 8.75%, the net cost to a buyer of the premium trim is $37,762.

  8. WadeTyhon says:

    “And, it’s easy to visually check the progress with a series of 5 blue lights on the dash that progressively come on as the charge level increases.”

    I wish more EVs would do something like this!

  9. Ziv says:

    Nice! I like my Volt but if I had kids I would consider this vehicle. One thing that irritates me about the description is that this family wagon charges at 6.6 kW charge rate while my Volt is only capable of a pokey 3.3 kW charge rate. And even the Gen II Volt charges at a leisurely 3.6 kW rate.

    Mildly faster charging (6.6 kW) isn’t NEEDED for a PHEV-33 or EREV-53, but it would be a VERY nice option! Obviously Chrysler understands that. GM doesn’t.

    Heck, Chrysler made it standard. It is kind of irritating to get charged by the hour on charging and knowing that your car is one of the slowest charging electric cars out there. Or that you will get a measly 10 miles of additional AER when you plug in over your lunch break instead of a respectable 20 miles with a 6.6 charger.

    1. DJ says:

      Ya, I agree. I had to run a long errand at lunch today and won’t be able to fully charge before I leave again. 6.6 kW charging would easily cover it!

      With a lot of shorter trips, school in the AM, store, school in the afternoon, sports, etc. a 6.6kW charger I suspect will make a definite difference. Especially if you factor in TOU rates where you’d basically be able to drop the kids off in the morning and fully drain your battery but if you could plug in by 9AM be 100% before the usual Noon cutoff.

    2. Scott P. says:

      Owner of a PacHy here. By the time I drop the kids and go to and from work, I’ve drained the battery, but just barely. I plug it in as soon as I get home. Make dinner, feed kids, clean up. After na hour I’ve got 17 – 20 miles of EV already. If I have other errands, I’m back on EV. At the end of the first week, I’ve gone just over 400 miles. 66 of them were gas, the rest electric. It’s amazing.

  10. John says:

    I’m lost as to why they don’t strip the interior, remove the heated/ventilated seats and all the options, and sell a fleet model that’s just a shell. It would make one helluva delivery van that could keep recharging in between runs.

    1. fred says:

      +1
      Great idea. Could be a great seller. 2hr charge could work for a delivery van as well.

      1. I can see it happening, Ebay listings coming: “Brand new Pacifica Hybrid Seats for Sale! Great Deal! Other items also avalable!” As buyers decide to just strip it themselves!

    2. Rob Stark says:

      Because they only need to sell ~25k in order to enable them to sell 10s of thousands of Hellcats and 100s of thousands of Ram diesels and big block V8s in the CARB states.

  11. fred says:

    Why no towing?!

    Almost perfect car to replace our 11yr old minivan. EVs make the best tow vehicles. I don’t understand why Chrysler quietly disallowed towing.

    1. Maybe get a rear ‘Accessory Hitch’, and just add brake light wiring later?

    2. Tom says:

      In the words of Louis C.K. ‘give it a second, it’s gotta go to space!’
      Perhaps we should stop and remember this is the first attempt at PHEV in the whole company (note the mileage estimation software in the article still a work in progress). Perhaps they want to work out some kinks or at least identify them before they tell people to go towing stuff around or make a commercial version which gets beat to death.

  12. spinner says:

    It looks nice but the final convenience would be wireless charging.

    1. And since Wireless Charging is already available at least for Leaf, Volt, & Tesla, so it could reasonably make its way to this vehicle within a year or so!

      1. spinner says:

        I think those are add on pack’s but BMW now have their own wireless charging system for their PHEV but either way I think it would really help.

    2. Ziv says:

      spinner, after you have owned a plug in car for a month or two, wireless charging really doesn’t bring much to the table, and it wastes energy to boot.
      I don’t even remember plugging or unplugging my car this past week, in much the same way that I didn’t remember opening the car door every morning before I got an electric car.

      1. spinner says:

        A lot of people who own PHEV don’t plug in there was an analysis done on fleet mileage and it found that there wasn’t much difference between ICE and PHEV so for true BEV I agree you would plug in but with PHEV you could be plugging and unplugging several times a day which I think people can’t be bothered to do.

        1. Ziv says:

          I hear you. I can’t understand people who drive fleet cars and can’t be bothered to plug in a car. You have a car that is much more pleasant to drive than an ICE, but you can’t be bothered to plug it in in order to enjoy that quiet electric drive? Argh!
          LOL!

        2. Tom says:

          citation please. Everything I’ve seen shows for instance people drive more electric miles in Volt 2.0 than a Leaf owner does. Of course I offer this opinion without citation.

          1. GreenMD says:

            I’m with Tom, so here is a citation to his point. Sorry, this is only a comparison to Gen 1 Volt, which was just about even. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything about Gen 2 Volt vs Leaf 30kw.
            https://evobsession.com/chevy-volt-drivers-average-nearly-as-many-electric-miles-as-nissan-leaf-drivers/

          2. Ziv says:

            Tom, GreenMD, I can’t speak for spinner, but I remember a study or two that seemed to indicate that fleet drivers that were given a PHEV tended not to plug them in since they were re-imbursed for their gas use but not for electricity. I can’t find the studies I am talking about but did find one study that showed that longer range PHEV’s tend to be plugged in more than shorter range PHEV’s.
            Not the same thing, but it is in the same neighborhood, so to speak.

            https://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/consumer_info/advanced_clean_cars/pev_data_from_uc_davis_household_study_first_year_michael_nicholas.pdf

  13. SteveSeattle says:

    I’m impressed with the specs for such a large vehicle compared to my Gen I Volt.

    Too big for my driveway and garage though. 🙁

  14. iwatson says:

    This vehicle is priced right, has the right amount of EV range, is a proven family design (minivan) lots of room and luxurious interior. Because of all these, it has the potential to be the best-selling plug-in vehicle on the market. But it fails because of a “Con” not mentioned above. No mark-up! A Chrysler dealer told me he has never seen a vehicle offered by Chrysler with no ability to make any money on it. He candidly told me there is $ One dollar and some change profit on this vehicle. Not One Thousand dollars, not one hundred dollars, but ONE DOLLAR and some change. And no factory incentives available. As such there’s no reason for a dealer to order, stock, or sell any of these. What salesman will take time to sell you one when there’s nothing to be gained. Maybe Chrysler will take internet sales route for this vehicle.

  15. Judy Reichler says:

    I’m planning to get the Platinum without sunroof if possible.
    I probably should wait until it’s been out longer.

  16. SPOCK(9 says:

    Paint it yellow…
    and I have me a NEW Taxi

  17. offib says:

    I’m pretty impressed by the Pacifica PHEV. No surprise that Toyota and Honda were missing the balls to pull this off.

    Although, what would that fecking Sergio Marchionne say about this? Are his feelings for the PHEV different from the Fiat 500e?

    Which also brings to another question… Is this a house-built drivetrain that’ll have its costs exposed of scale of production? Or is it like the 500e where every design and mechanic part is sourced from everyone but Fiat?

  18. BS says:

    You have to be kidding me. $50K to save $5/day in gas.
    This is insane.
    There is no payoff here, you guys just keep drinking the koolaid!

    1. ModernMarvelFan says:

      “You have to be kidding me. $50K to save $5/day in gas.
      This is insane.”

      $50K with $7500 saving is only $42.5K. Compared with a similar equipped version at $40K is only $2.5K premium net.

      $5/day will recover the saving within 2 years…

      Math is really not that hard.

    2. GreenMD says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say BS has never driven electric. Plus, many people would pay the slight premium just to be more environmentally responsible.

  19. ModernMarvelFan says:

    Offer an AWD, then just shut up and take my money!

  20. goodbyegascar says:

    I was a little surprised that FCA is selling such a capable PHEV. The electric-only range is almost the same as the original Chevy Volt (and so is the price!).

    I look forward to the next generation of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid; maybe it will offer 50 miles of all-electric driving?

    1. unlucky says:

      It’s not an electric-only range though.

      http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=38491&id=37309

      See how the Volt says “38 miles electricity” and the Pacifica says “33 miles elec + gas, all elec: 0-33 miles”? The Pacifica uses gas and electricity to go the first 33 miles and then just gas for the rest. The Volt uses all electricity for the first 38 miles and then gas for the rest.

      1. DJ says:

        That really just means don’t stomp on it and you will be fine. If you stomp on it the gas engine will turn on.

        I have actually kinda wondered what that does to the engine. If you just stomp on it here and there that is kind of a lot of abrupt wear on the engine I would think. With 90% of wear happening in the first few seconds if it isn’t warmed up and lubricated I would think it could easily hurt the engine over time quicker than if it were just a regular hybrid. Maybe they have a solution though??

      2. Scott P. says:

        Pac Hy owner here. I consistently use electric only for over the 33 rated miles. Every single day. I usually get closer to 39. The gas is available, if you floor it, the engine kicks in for more oomph. I never need it, even when entering the interstate.

  21. Priusfan says:

    I am very enthusiastic about a PHEV minivan…am a longtime loyal Toyota and Honda owner. Kudos to Chrylser for being first in the US.
    A con that hasn’t been mentioned is the smaller, shallower cargo space behind the 3rd row in the pacifica compared with the Odyssey. This is somewhat significant. Also, to BS’s and Modern Marvel’s cost analysis, some states also have their own tax incentives.

  22. David S. says:

    My biggest gripe about this minivan is that it’s impossible to prevent the engine from starting in cold weather, even though the battery is fully charged. It needs an “EV-only” mode!

  23. luke says:

    no folded mirror
    no memory seat
    no easy open trunk
    no home link
    miss some many small but essential features

    1. Scott P. says:

      Has easy open rear gate and doors. Just kick foot under and it opens.

  24. famy27 says:

    We just bought this van on Monday, and we love it. We also have an i-MiEV, so this isn’t our first rodeo with a plug-in. We traded in a Sienna that got about 18 mpg, so this is a huge improvement for us. We really need a larger car, as the iMiEV is great for weekday commuting but not sufficient for weekend use and carting our kids all over.

    We’ve been waiting for the Pacifica for well over a year. When we first thought about trading in our Sienna, we had our eye on the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in, but it never materialized. Also, once we sat in a regular Outlander and compared it to the Pacifica, there was no question. The Pacifica is about 300 times more comfortable.

    I’m interested about the comment about about no mark-up, because our dealer originally told us that they were only selling at sticker and that there were no rebates or incentives. We would have to pay sticker price. However, I had an internet quote from another dealer to take $2000 off. They ended up agreeing to take the $2000 off, so I was quite pleased. The only disappointment for me was no 0% financing on the hybrid. We got a low rate, but 0 would have been better.

    To the poster who said it uses gasoline in the under 33-mile range, that hasn’t been our experience. I didn’t even know what the gas engine sounded like until yesterday afternoon. I took the kids to the amusement park (over a 30-mile drive), and I couldn’t figure out what the noise was until I realized the engine had kicked on.

    I’m happy to answer any questions if anyone has.

    1. David S. says:

      Congrats!

    2. Scott P. says:

      Congrats, I have one was well, going on our 3rd week now. Love it

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