The growth of crossovers and SUVs didn’t happen overnight. No, rather once consumers began to understand the benefits of these tall, utilitarian vehicles, they began to demand them. For some automakers, crossovers are even outselling cars.
We’ve recently enjoyed the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, this time in L-Plus trim, and during our time with it, the Pacifica and sold us on the idea that, yes indeed, it is a better choice than most crossovers.
Minivans have never been the cool choice, no matter how hard some manufacturers have tried, but this Pacifica makes a clear argument against SUVs in favour of this attractive people and cargo hauler.
If you’re carrying family and other little critters, safety is unquestionably one of your top concerns and the Pacifica’s got you covered. It’s an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Top Pick+ for 2017, where they rated it with good crashworthiness across the board. In terms of passenger safety, there are enough airbags to fly the darned thing if you could fill them with helium, but that’s another story.
Safety systems are one thing, but the best way to avoid a crash is with a competent handling vehicle, and this is where Pacifica has most crossovers beat. You see, with a lower, more car-like centre of gravity, the Pacifica’s got a real advantage. It turns and brakes with confidence. In fact, when the Pacifica was introduced last year, we enjoyed it on some of Orange County’s finest roads and we came away impressed with its handling.
Pacifica’s got every mid-sized crossover beat in terms of visibility. With plenty of windows, few obstructions, and an ideal seating position, you almost don’t need the parking assists (but they’re quite helpful in tight parking spots). The tall seating position puts your eyes up high so you can see the road, with traffic in your way or otherwise.
Whether you’re a minivan or crossover shopper, chances are you’re hauling kids and those kids are busy with all sorts of activities. Pacifica’s latest Stow ‘n Go seating is painlessly easy to lower seats into the floor or raise them back into position. The interior is so well resolved that if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t think that the second and third row seats are actually stowed in the floor. You’re not going to find this sort of seating in any crossover.
From time to time, you’re also carrying cargo and with the minion seats stowed, the interior resembles a warehouse, not a minivan. During our latest test, we filled and filled and filled the Pacifica with cargo. With low liftover and step in heights, as well as the automatic doors and lift gate, access to the interior is infinitely easier than an SUV.
We’re fans of FCA’s design group and they knocked the styling of the Pacifica right out of the park. Its tough to make a two box design attractive, but they managed to pull it off here. Even the interior is gorgeous and behind the wheel you feel as if you’re sitting in a luxury sedan rather than a minivan.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and you’ve got a perfect seating position with lots of adjustability. Again, visibility from the very important driver’s perch is top notch.
Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment is a marvel of simplicity and ease of use. Other manufacturers should take notes because there’s no learning curve required. At the moment, though, it has to score a B+ in the Pacifica because Apple Car Play and Android Auto hasn’t yet arrived, but is promised soon.
Another thing is that the more time you spend with a Pacifica, the more features you discover. There is near endless utility and the latest bits we discovered were the dedicated umbrella trays for the driver and front seat passenger. There’s no need to toss your wet umbrella under your feet or in the back seat. Rather, fold it down and place it in the perfectly shaped tray on the outboard side of your seat. Clever stuff.
During this test, the Pacifica returned 14.3 litres per 100km in mixed driving, which is better than most other minivans and crossovers have performed in similar conditions.
There are few downsides to the Pacifica, but the key one, at least the important one when considering crossovers, is that Chrysler doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive option. Still, not many CUV drivers venture off road, and for traction in that part of the year when white stuff falls from the sky, a Pacifica fitted with a decent set of winter tires is near unstoppable.
Since its introduction, the Pacifica’s been the class of the segment, but more importantly, it out-utilitys any sport utility. Think about that carefully before you buy your next family hauler.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus
Base Price: $46,995
As Tested: $51,115, plus $1,795 freight and PDI and Canada’s nonsensical $100 aircon tax
Notable Options: Advanced SafetyTec group, $1995; 18-inch wheels and tires with touring suspension, $795; Uconnect with nav, $700; Hands-free sliding doors and lift gate, $495
Drivetrain: 3.6-litre V6 engine, 287 horsepower, 262 pounds of torque, 9-speed manual transmission, front wheel drive
Performance: 14.3 litres per 100 km in mixed driving
VVUZZ Recommended: Class of the segment. Buy this before a crossover.
Images courtesy of FCA Automobiles.