2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

All you need to know and more about the best minivan ever created

The Pacifica is going to be a very interesting experiment.

Let’s be honest for a moment. The Chrysler brand isn’t exactly robust when it comes to sales or models. As of last year it has become the slowest selling mainstream brand in the U.S. other than Mitsubishi, Mini, Fiat and Smart. Yes that means even Mazda outsells Chrysler. What’s more, the Japanese alt-brand has already sold nearly 50 percent more units within the first two months of 2017, so it’s not looking good for Chryco.

The problem? Chrysler has just three models in its lineup including the 200 mid-size sedan, the 300 full-size sedan, and the Pacifica minivan, although the 200 is slated for cancellation when 2017 ends and sales have dropped off considerably since this was announced. As you may have noticed none of Chrysler’s models are SUVs, and the others that will remain after 2017 fight it out in what has become a rather niche full-size sedan segment, and similarly fringe-market minivan class. Sport utilities are the industry’s growth sector right now, so if you don’t have any skin in the SUV game you don’t stand much chance of winning.

There’s some internet talk of a new crossover once again dubbed Aspen (although nothing yet substantiated), as well as additional chatter about something smaller based on the new Jeep Renegade/Fiat 500, and to be fair Chrysler’s longtime rival Buick is doing very well with its entry-level luxury Encore so a similarly sized Chrysler could work, but so far the only new model officially hinted at for future production is something along the lines of the rather whacky Portal minivan concept that debuted at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which is more of an all-electric, self-driving-capable transportation pod, and will only become available sometime after 2018 if at all. While interesting, EVs don’t noticeably help overall sales numbers and on top of this, Chrysler hardly needs two minivans. And by the way, we won’t see a new 300 sedan until 2019, and even that’s only expected to be major update to the current model, similarly to how Chrysler updated the previous one in every respect except its LX platform architecture. And for all we know, the way FCA has been cancelling its car models to make way for SUVs, that 300 redesign may be its swansong.

The way I see it, the new Pacifica minivan is a Hail Mary halo pass, a last minute buzzer-beating swoosh that has to succeed in order to keep Chrysler afloat. Don’t get me wrong, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) can probably keep the brand on life support for a few more years until its next phase of new models come along and hopefully revive Walter P’s 92-year-old blue-ribbon chrome-winged namesake brand, but CEO Sergio Marchionne will want to leave a more financially sound legacy before his expected 2018 retirement, and his five-year plan, laid out in 2014, isn’t exactly experiencing the “near-perfect execution” it required starting out.

Rather than go into detail about the many costly recalls FCA has endured, the embarrassing sales numbers scandal, and the expensive disaster otherwise known as the aforementioned 200 and the already canceled Dodge Dart that share its underpinnings, and also not focusing on the Italy-centric Lancia brand that was until recently heavily tied to Chrysler’s 200, 300, Town & Country, Dodge Journey, etcetera, but is now down to one single subcompact model (although its ultra-sexy website is somewhat redeeming), I’d rather talk about FCA’s many success stories within the Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands, but besides being stuck within a seemingly lame brand (in the horse with a broken leg sense), the Pacifica deserves our attention and respect. After all, it’s easily the best minivan I’ve ever experienced.

As you likely know, the Pacifica nameplate has been around the block a few times. It first hit the show stage in 1999 as a concept luxury minivan that kind of looked like an awkwardly tall LHS sedan (if you remember that one) with an aftermarket fiberglass roof extension. It rode on the Chrysler NS minivan platform architecture that also underpinned the namesake Town & Country, now defunct Plymouth Voyager, and legendary Dodge Caravan of the era.

The first production Pacifica was a three-row mid-size crossover SUV with premium aspirations that was actually way ahead of its time and so good, for a domestic, that it had to be priced much higher than most Chrysler buyers were willing to pay. Still, it sold reasonable well, reaching 92,363 units in 2004, 85,557 deliveries in 2005, 78,243 in 2006, and 53,947 in 2007 before being canceled, which was a real shame.

I was on the California press trip and was very impressed, as the Pacifica was an excellent near-luxury crossover SUV that only got better with each passing year thanks to an upgraded drivetrain and regular refinements. I liked it so much, in fact, that while spending a week in the fully loaded press model I brought it over to show my mom, who incidentally had been a GM buyer her entire life. She was driving a Buick Somerset at the time and needed a larger vehicle, but all Buick could offer her was the Rendezvous – enough said. As you might expect after seeing a Rendezvous (and Pontiac Aztek) she was thoroughly impressed by the Pacifica too, and therefore bought her first Chrysler. In fact, she bought that very same press car after it was decommissioned, and it’s still serving my stepsister faithfully today. Of course, Chrysler PR gave my mom a fabulous deal or it wouldn’t have happened, because the retail MSRP of that model was more than $40k, which would’ve been too much for my mom to pay for a car, and frankly was a lot to ask for any domestic CUV in the mid-’00s. Base models didn’t cost that much, but nevertheless they weren’t being pushed out the door like today’s Grand Caravan, so a well optioned Pacifica SUV was quite a stretch for most families, hence its low sales and inevitable cancellation.

17 chrysler pacifica limited Rearview

Fast-forward an eventful decade, and Chrysler is asking a much more reasonable $28,595 plus freight and dealer fees for its new Pacifica, although it’s back to being a minivan instead of a crossover SUV. That might seem strange considering the world’s current love affair with sport utilities and comparative lack of interest in most minivans, stranger still when factoring in that Chrysler doesn’t offer a single SUV, crossover or otherwise as noted earlier, but it is what it is. The top-tier Pacifica Limited before you is priced at $42,495 before options, which comes close to the old Pacifica crossover’s upper limit, yet most Americans have less expendable income now than we did 10 years ago. Like I said in the beginning, the Pacifica is going to be a very interesting experiment.

Of course, we didn’t have such low financing rates in 2004, which gives the new Pacifica a strong advantage. Last year we had our best year of minivan sales in quite a while, with 553,131 units down the road compared to 460,154 in 2010. Not a bad time to be bringing a new minivan to market, I suppose. Number one in the industry is Toyota with its Sienna at 127,791 units, while the now classic Dodge Grand Caravan is second with 127,678 sales. Third is Honda’s Odyssey at 120,846 deliveries, while the Pacifica immediately shot up into fourth place with 62,366 unit sales despite only being introduced in April. The now discontinued Chrysler Town & Country came in fifth with 59,071 (heavily discounted) sales, whereas Kia’s Sedona followed in sixth with 44,264 deliveries, Nissan’s oddball Quest dragging its tail in last place due to just 11,115 sold (which actually represents a gain over the past two years).

And how’s the Pacifica doing so far this year? Within the first two months of 2017 the Pacifica shot up into third place with 15,712 sales, the only two vehicles ahead being the “I won’t go down without a fight” Grand Caravan at a shocking 24,452 units (no doubt considerably discounted) and the Sienna at 16,250. That makes it only 538 units ahead of the Pacifica. That Pacifica appears to be replacing the Odyssey as a frontrunner says a lot about this new van’s many attributes, the Japanese rival having sold just 13,300 units over the same two months. For clarity’s sake, fifth is now held by the Sedona with 3,649 sales over the same period, and sixth by the Quest with 3,250, these last two moving up because T&C sales are trickling to a halt with a mere 246 sold through January and February.

Part of the Pacifica’s success story is its value proposition. As noted you can buy a base Pacifica LX for just $28,595 and this Limited version for $42,495, which actually undercuts its aforementioned competitors that are priced at $29,750 to $46,170 for the Sienna and $29,850 to $45,325 for the Odyssey. The Sedona actually deserves attention for more than just its $26,900 base and $41,900 fully loaded pricing, but nevertheless it’s a Kia so sales are naturally low (sorry Kia, but that’s just reality).

As good as these three competitive vans are, if the Pacifica didn’t exist I’d still recommend the Grand Caravan for two reasons, it’s cheap (especially when factoring in discounts) and it comes with FCA’s beyond-words brilliant Stow ‘n Go second-row seating system. Let’s face it. We don’t buy minivans for style. It’s nice if they look good, as is certainly the case with the new Pacifica, as well as the Sienna and Sedona (some seem to like the Odyssey too), but that’s not the key reason for stepping up. Rather, we choose minivans for their unparalleled passenger and load carrying capabilities. FCA’s Stow ‘n Go allows the flexibility of dropping the kids off at school or a game, going straight to the hardware store for a full load of 4×8 building supplies, dropping all the cargo off at home, and then heading back to get the kids, while never having to pull heavy and awkward seats out of the back and laboriously carry them into the garage for storage. Truly, nothing comes close to the Grand Caravan or this Pacifica, and I wouldn’t even consider buying another van for this reason alone. When you have a job to do you first need to buy the right tool, then you can concern yourself about style, performance, reliability, safety, or any other possible detractor.

As far as useful tools go, the Pacifica looks very good “for a minivan.” You knew that caveat was coming, but let’s be reasonable, there’s only so much you can do with a one-box design. Van makers have truly stretched the style envelope in recent years, with minivans looking better than ever, and Chrysler deserves credit for creating a family hauler you can feel proud to be seen in.

17 chrysler pacifica limited Overalldashboard

As for drivability, it won’t leave you cold when the need for speed arises. This is due to the only noticeable carryover item on the entire vehicle (other than Stow ‘n Go), Chryco’s superb 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that’s good for 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque in its new state of tune, which is four horsepower and two lb-ft greater than when available in last year’s Town & Country. Of equal importance is a new nine-speed automatic transmission, a minivan first that increases forward gears by three over the outgoing model, and is controlled via an innovative space-saving rotary E-shift dial similar to the Ram pickup, while the front wheels continue to do the driving (of note, the Sienna comes with AWD).

Claimed fuel economy is an impressive 19 mpg city, 28 highway and 22 combined (for best in class highway mileage, incidentally), compared to 17, 25 and 20 respectively for last year’s Town & Country, plus straight-line performance has improved as well.

While we’re talking fuel economy and minivan firsts, Chrysler recently unveiled its new Pacifica Hybrid that actually uses plug-in technology, a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery, and an innovative electrically variable transmission featuring two electric motors that are both capable of turning the drive wheels for a zero-emissions full-EV range of up to 33 miles plus a total hybrid driving range of 566 miles, not to mention a claimed fuel economy rating of 84 MPGe or 32 mpg combined city/highway. This one really whets my PHEV appetite as I’m a big fan of plug-ins, but I’m experiencing some cognitive dissonance on this subject as the bins below the floor that normally house the second-row Stow ‘n Go seats when heading to that building supplies store (or hauling furniture, etc) are fully packed with batteries, therefore negating my BIG reason for owning an FCA minivan, or any minivan for that matter. I guess I’ll be sticking with conventional power.

Of course, I’ll give the Pacifica Hybrid a fair review when one ends up in my garage as not everyone lives by my personal priorities (hardly), but until then it’s difficult not to be a fan of the aforementioned Pentastar V6. This engine is as good as anything from Europe’s premium brands, from near motionless NVH levels at idle to its sonorous growl at full throttle. And yes the Pacifica is wonderfully quiet, a challenge in a vehicle type that mimics a large drum; Chrysler stuffing every hollow space with sound insulation, sealing every aperture nice and tight, adding high-end engine and suspension mounts to minimize ugly audible and kinetic intrusions, and then ironing out any of the former imperfections electronically via active noise cancellation. The result is a luxury experience befitting a Lexus, or rather the Mercedes-sourced Chrysler LX-based 300 (LX being FCA’s full-size sedan platform architecture that should not to be confused with a Chrysler base trim level).

Full disclosure requires me to tell you I was driving a fully loaded Pacifica Limited model (the photos will give it away too), which means it’s made to a higher standard than the base LX, with gorgeous leather-like contrast stitched soft-touch dash detailing and door panel portions, plus other impressive premium metallic trims, piano black lacquers, and leathers. It didn’t boast fabric-wrapped pillars, an odd exclusion considering its near premium target market, while the lower dash, including the glove box lid, and the door panels are rudimentary matte-finish hard textured plastic. Still, it’s nicer than all competitors in this respect, with most of the touch points near front occupants extremely luxurious, and the no-cost Deep Mocha color scheme a visual delight.

The multi-adjustable driver’s seat with two-position memory was extremely comfortable too, and included three-way heating and cooling, while the seats in the rear were more comfortable than previous Stow ‘n Go perches, plus folded into the floor in a cleaner, more concise process; Chrysler even includes stylish mesh tabs to do so that look as if they’re right out of a designer clothing store. To access the third row just pull the lever on the seat’s backside and the entire mechanism tips up and forward without changing the backrest angle on iota, this allowing a child safety seat to be left in place while doing so – very clever. Third passengers will also rejoice in having their own separate glass sunroof, the massive panoramic sunroof covering the front two rows. Also of note, ventilation from front to rear is exceptionally good, while visibility won’t leave anyone feeling claustrophobic. And probably most important, regular sized adults should be quite comfortable in this rearmost position too. At least my five-foot-eight medium build frame was at ease, with plenty of room to spare.

Additionally, all of the interior switchgear is near perfect in execution. The myriad buttons on the steering wheel spokes are as good or better than those on premium brands, while the steering wheel they’re attached to is spectacular, with black outer leather, a brown leather inner center section, and a satin silver ring around the middle. I can’t imagine how much it would’ve cost to create this thing, but it wouldn’t be out of place in a Bentley. Even the Pacifica Limited’s key fob is as nice as anything in the industry, while the left turn signal and right wiper control steering wheel stalks are easily the highest quality in the class. What’s more, there’s zero-tolerance spacing between the center stack’s various buttons, these some of the tightest I’ve ever experienced with absolutely no sloppy wiggle from side to side and ideal damping. Chrysler’s aforementioned rotating gear selector and pushbutton electromechanical parking brake are nice premium touches too, while a handy console hovers overhead with a lined sunglasses holder, and again its plastics quality is above and beyond everything else in the minivan segment.

17 chrysler pacifica limited Centerstackofelectronics

Likewise the gauges are stunning, with a blue background, bright backlit increments, and chrome metallic detailing, while the multi-info display at center is large and fully featured. Larger still, the infotainment system over on the center stack is filled with rich colors, deep contrast, and attractive graphics. Yes, Chrysler’s Uconnect interface has matured, this iteration much more sophisticated than the almost cartoon-like graphics of previous systems. It’s fully functional and very quick too, while the optional 360-degree parking camera helps augment the Pacifica’s inherently good all-round visibility, and the navigation system is highly legible and absolutely precise. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard with Uconnect 8.4, allowing seamless connectivity with most smartphones. Believe me, Chrysler held nothing back with the Pacifica’s top-line infotainment system or its cabin on the whole, which is why it earned one of WardsAuto’s 10 best interiors; some of the other winners including Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo.

Of note, when the Pacifica arrived in Canada last year it only came in upper trims (which probably hurt its sales), the base model then furnished in $43,995 Touring-L trim, with a mid-range version dubbed Touring-L Plus in between, and this Limited model topping it off. Chrysler has since seen the error of its ways (yes, thoughts of dramatically less expensive later model decontented Pacifica crossovers are dancing in my head right now) and

A total of five Pacifica trims exist, starting with previously noted LX, which is followed by the Touring, the Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and this Limited. As stated earlier, the LX starts at $28,595 and comes with standard halogen headlamps, incandescent taillights, 17-inch alloys (that really look nice), heatable powered side mirrors, powered front- and second-row windows, an electromechanical parking brake, sunvisors with illuminated vanity mirrors, overhead ambient surround lighting with LED courtesy lamps, a 3.5-inch multi-information display in the gauge cluster, tri-zone manual temperature control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming audio, FCA’s Uconnect 5.0 infotainment with a smallish five-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, six-speaker audio, an aux jack (but no USB), dual 12-volt auxiliary power outlets, a floor tray and center console, a tilt and telescoping multifunction urethane steering wheel, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, cloth upholstery, a Stow ‘n Go Assist driver’s seat that automatically pulls the driver’s seat forward to make room for the second-row to fold below the floor, Stow ‘n Go second and third-row seats, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features including dual front knee blocker airbags, capless fuel filler, active grille shutters to improve high-speed aerodynamics, and more. As you can see there are very few upscale features in standard trim, but it’s priced accordingly.

Trump fans might not like that the Pacifica is built in Canada at Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario facility (Windsor Assembly), whereas the Toyota Sienna is built in Princeton, Indiana, and the Honda Odyssey in Lincoln, Alabama; for those who care, the Sedona is built in Gwangmyeong, South Korea.

Of note, all Pacifica competitors are pretty basic. Toyota’s base display audio system is an inch larger while Honda’s is three inches larger, although Kia’s Sedona is the same as the base Pacifica at five inches. I could attempt to compare every feature, although that would be a very long and arduous exercise. Suffice to say the base Pacifica’s value proposition is reasonable, but pay attention as prices rise as it becomes an even better deal.

A quick rundown of additional features making the $30,495 Touring nicer include auto on/off headlights, proximity keyless access for all doors, pushbutton ignition, dual power-sliding side doors, LED interior door handle lighting, a USB port, rear reading/courtesy lamps, and satellite radio.

Next is $34,495 Touring-L trim that adds some nice exterior trim upgrades such as body-color mirror housings and more chrome, brighter quad-halogen headlamps, fog lamps, quicker reacting LED taillights, a Stow ‘n Place roof rack, remote start, a universal garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, heatable front seats, tri-zone auto HVAC, second- and third-row sunshades, a powered liftgate, rear seatback grocery bag hooks, rear parking sensors with auto-stop, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, an alarm, and an 180-amp alternator.

At $37,895, Touring-L Plus trims adds unique 17-inch alloys, a chromed roof rack with crossbars, more insulation, an acoustic glass windshield, a heated steering wheel, a seven-inch full-color in-cluster TFT multi-info display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a full-length Super Console with illuminated front cupholders, the Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, a 13-speaker 506-watt Alpine audio upgrade, passenger-side Stow ‘n Go Assist, upgraded perforated leather upholstery, rear ambient lighting, second-row powered windows with one-touch up and down (the first row windows come standard one-touch up/down), and heated second-row seats.

17 chrysler pacifica limited Rearseat

Lastly, the Limited comes with 18-inch alloys, a sportier Touring suspension, HID headlamps, LED fog lamps, LED DRLs, chrome-capped power-folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals, courtesy lamps, reverse-tilt, and auto-dimming on the driver’s side, plus driver’s memory for the mirrors, seat and radio presets, footwell courtesy lamps and illuminated map pockets, front door searchlights, hands-free dual power sliding doors and liftgate, a power-folding third-row seat that also allows powered recline for the rearmost passengers, a soft-touch instrument panel with a premium bezel, a two-tone luxury steering wheel with a chrome accent ring, navigation with detailed mapping, a 12-way powered front-passenger seat including four-way powered lumbar adjustment, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, two-way front seat ventilation, a tri-pane panoramic sunroof, second- and third-row USB charging ports, and an integrated Stow ‘n Vac vacuum that allows for quick clean up no matter where you are. All I can say is, go for the fully loaded version if finances allow, as the Pacifica Limited is one helluvalotta van. And I haven’t even started talking driving dynamics.

One look and you’ll know how well it drives. OK, that’s not always a sure bet (remember the original Fiero?), but Chrysler backs up the Pacifica’s slippery shape with fleet feet. Along with an aerodynamic nose filled with chrome trim and LED lighting elements harmoniously crisscrossing all over each other, is an elegantly arcing profile. Highlights include a beautifully shaped shoulder line begins at the outer edge of its fog lamp bezels and wraps around the front half of each wheel cutout before traveling under the greenhouse and then canting upwards to follow the outline of the rear quarter windows and D-pillars, the subtler beltline stretching from the top edge of the front wheel, through each door handle and the gas cap before gracefully bending downward around the rear wheel cutout into the rear quarter panel.

The rear design might be the most interesting, where the upper portion of its hatch incorporates both darkened window glass and a near identical shade of black plastic that wraps around the two taillight assemblies, making them seem like one large seamless piece of glass. Even more than these styling details, it’s the van’s long, wide, low stance that makes it look fast, and of course it doesn’t hurt that an optional set of machine-finished twinned Y-shaped five-spoke 20-inch alloys on 245/50 all-seasons were added to each corner.

Chrysler combines that big contact patch with the Limited’s standard sport-tuned Touring suspension and the Pacifica’s new Compact U.S. Wide platform architecture that’s comprised of a rigid framework formed from 84-percent high-strength steel and four-percent aluminum, plus front MacPherson struts and an independent multilink rear suspension, the latter featuring an isolated cradle designed to add strength, stiffness and improve driving dynamics. We need to remember this platform also serves Fiat and Alfa Romeo vehicles, both Italian brands renowned for high-speed handling, and you can really feel the extra effort spent to keep the undercarriage light and tight when coursing the Pacifica through fast-paced corners. It really handles well. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it’s the best performer in its class. That’s saying a lot with both the Sienna SE and Odyssey Touring in the same category, but this van’s got soul. Truly, there’s an unrivaled feeling of lightness and tossable agility to the Pacifica the others don’t have, enhanced by highly responsive steering that feels more connected than the others. All the while the Pacifica delivers the compliant ride and composed demeanor Chrysler vans have long been known for, combined with the ultra-quiet cabin noted before.

You can come about those upgraded 20-inch alloys in two ways. The cheapest is a no-cost eight-passenger and 20-inch wheel combo that swaps out the second-row captain’s chairs for a long bench, or you can simply add the larger rims and rubber to the existing van for $995, as was done with my tester. A glance at the hind end of my loaner will also reveal its $995 trailer tow package, while my Pacifica also included the optional $1,995 Advanced SafetyTec Group complete with auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability, a 360-degree parking camera, advanced brake assist, forward collision warning with active braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, Park-Sense front parking sensors with stopping capability, and parallel and perpendicular self-parking assistance with auto stopping, this package making the Pacifica the only minivan to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating (the Sedona is the only other van to get IIHS honors, albeit a lesser Top Safety Pick rating).

Additional options included the $2,795 Uconnect Theater & Sound Group that included an absolutely superb sounding 20-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system featuring a 760-watt amplifier, dual 10-inch flip-up touchscreens on the backside of the front seats that were fed by a Blu-Ray/DVD player, separate panels featuring HDMI, USB, and headphone inputs, a 115-volt household-style auxiliary power outlet, three-channel video remote control, three-channel wireless headphones, and a 220-amp alternator to back it all up (alternatively you can get the video upgrade without the enhanced sound for $1,995); all of which pushed the price of my tester up to $49,675 before adding freight and fees. And that wasn’t loaded.

If you also add the $350 Mopar wireless charging pad; $195 KeySense programmable key fob; $175 Mopar Emergency Kit Group, which includes a first aid kit, reflective triangle and tool kit; the $680 Mopar Interior Protection Package that adds bright doorsills, all-weather floor mats, all-weather cargo mats, a cargo area liner, and a rear Stow ‘n Go storage bin; $150 Mopar front and rear splash guards; you’ll be paying a grand total of $51,225 before freight.

17 chrysler pacifica limited Engine

Knowing this forced me to go online to build the Kia, Toyota and Honda, so I added as many factory features as possible (which to be fair are fewer), and the most I could pay after also adding every reasonable accessory was $45,155 for the Sedona, $48,159 for the Odyssey, and $51,466 for the Sienna (without AWD), pre-freight. Is a fully loaded Pacifica really worth $6,070 more than an optioned out Sedona or $3,066 more than a jam-packed Odyssey? Certainly it’s looking pretty good next to the completely stuffed Sienna, but for me it’s the clear leader over all its competitors.

Why? The pricier full-load Pacifica Limited delivers a lot more premium kit than any rival. For instance, top-line Sienna has an eight-speed automatic, 18-inch rims instead of 20s (the SE has 19s, however), power-folding side mirrors just like the Pacifica Limited, 7.0-inch infotainment rather than 8.4, 10-speaker JBL audio in place of the 20-speaker H/K system, one 16.4-inch widescreen video display instead of two separate monitors, only a four-way front passenger powered seat instead of 12, no cooled front seats and no heatable rear seats (although its lounge chairs with extendable ottomans are nice), both regular and panoramic sunroofs, although not as large and switched around with the small one up front (to make way for a hanging video screen), no powered third row seats, no vacuum, and nowhere near the level of active safety equipment.

The top-line Odyssey has a six-speed auto (yawn), 18-inch alloys instead of 20s, doesn’t include power-folding mirrors, has two infotainment displays instead of one (but neither as good as the Pacifica’s), no-name audio albeit 650 watts of it, only four-way front passenger power, no front seat coolers or rear heaters (although it has a center console cooler), no panoramic sunroof at all (just a regular one up front), 16.2-inch widescreen rear entertainment, no powered third row, and Honda invented the minivan vacuum, plus like Toyota the Odyssey only has minimal active safety gear despite Honda Sensing being available on many other models (strange considering the Odyssey was recently updated and family buyers are the most safety conscious buyers).

The totally loaded Sedona has an old-school six-speed auto, one-inch smaller alloys at 19 inches, power-folding mirrors, almost nearly as large an infotainment display at 8.0 inches, includes Infinity sound albeit only eight speakers, doesn’t have as much powered passenger adjustability (although eight-way instead of the Japanese vans’ four), houses two sunroofs overhead although the rear one isn’t anywhere near as large as the Pacifica’s panoramic one, features cooled front and heated second-row seats, only has a manual third row, has no vacuum, boasts a slew of active safety features as well as auto high beams and adaptive cruise control, and one ups all competitors with dynamic cornering headlights; and lastly, as good as the Sedona and both Japanese vans are, they’re just not quite as nicely finished inside as the Pacifica.

There’s one last criterion left unanswered, however. How does the Pacifica stack up to these rivals when it comes to available cargo space? With 32.3 cubic feet behind its third row the Pacifica offers 2.4 additional cubic feet of volume than the Odyssey albeit 1.6 cubic feet less than the Sedona, and it’s 6.8 cubic feet shy of the Sienna; with 87.5 cubic feet behind its second row the Pacifica whollops the Sedona by 9.1 cubic feet and edges past the Sienna by 0.4 cubic feet, but it’s 5.6 cubic feet short of the Odyssey; and finally at 140.5 cubic feet of total available loading space the Pacifica is 9.5 cubic feet down on the Sienna, 8.0 cubic feet off the Odyssey, and 1.5 cubic feet short of matching the Sedona’s max volume, but remember you have to struggle to remove these competitors’ cumbersome second-row seats to achieve their maximums, and I don’t know about you but that’s something I’m not willing to endure.

In the end, the Pacifica is by far my favorite minivan, with a great outward design, a superbly crafted interior, an amazing allotment of advanced features, the best safety in its class, superb driving dynamics, and the most versatility available with any vehicle from this class (except Dodge and its Grand Caravan).

It isn’t, however, the savior-SUV Chrysler needs. So what will happen to this storied brand? Will it become another Plymouth? Another Mercury? A Pontiac or an Oldsmobile? Possibly. You don’t have to go very far back in time to find a poorly managed automotive brand that finally met its maker. The fact FCA chose not to build up Chrysler’s product portfolio while interest rates have been so ridiculously low and sales records have been breaking year after year says more about their true intentions than any marketing or PR manager can possibly spin positively. And then there’s the Pacifica. A bright light that gives fans of this all-American brand hope that it’s being taken seriously.

We’ll have to wait and see. There’s still New York for a major announcement, but only a mid-size Chrysler luxury SUV arriving within 12 months would do. Until then those of us who love minivans will celebrate the Chrysler name, as this Pacifica Limited is the best van that money can buy.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press Inc.

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