Mountain Wheels: Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid, 300 sedan show enduring style
I got a back-to-back session with a couple of mechanically related members of the Chrysler family. It was my first extended drive with the hybrid version of the relatively new Chrysler Pacifica minivan, and carried on with a week behind the wheel of the 2019 edition of the not-so-new, AWD 300S sedan.
The two Ontario-assembled vehicles share the same platform, though their individual missions and looks are as different as can be. The $50,375 Pacifica, a very modern rendering of the minivans that have done so much business for Chrysler over the years, is actually a pretty cool vehicle. And the addition of an entirely-hybridized, Atkinson cycle version of the 3.6-liter V-6 also found in the 300, plus a compact battery pack, allows the vehicle to travel up to 32 miles in all-electric mode — great if you have a short commute to do on a daily basis.
The $50,265 (as tested, about $39,000 base) 300, with its distinctive Baby Bentley outline and persona — hell, even Drake sings about that — gets a few minor updates, but its second-generation style does date back to 2011. Rumor suggests the debut an all-new product sometime later this year. Jamie Foxx has also recently signed on to be the Pacifica spokesman, I hear.
Both of my testers got an additional layer of swagger with the S-model appearance package, which added a blacked-out grille, fascia, roof rails, trim and even blackened 18-inch wheels. I called the Pacifica’s cumulative effect “hot dad eco cop car,” which is pretty accurate. The 300’s S upgrades meant LED fog lights and extra body-colored trim on the fascia, the grille and an additional body-colored spoiler; as before, the car continues to be a favorite of boisterous bruisers north of Denver, who usually black out the windows and add bigger wheels.
I loved the looks and the smooth and more car-like ride of the Pacifica, with flat cornering and a smooth ride, and none of the vulgar bounce and wobble of an SUV (though Pacifica seats eight and has more than 140 cubic feet of storage behind the second row).
Unfortunately, I got less than the full effect of the vehicle’s hybrid powertrain, as I didn’t have plug-in access during my week. The electronic readouts suggested that recharging would take two hours with a level-2 charger or about 14 hours with a wall plug.
Curiously, unlike other hybrids, I was totally unable to regenerate any of the electric-mode-only battery power as I cruised along; my guess is that in the mountains, riding the brakes would do so pretty quickly, but on flat-terrain freeway cruising, my battery level remained at zero the whole week. Even better, when I grabbed one of two giant key fobs provided, the car went into “teenage driver lockdown” mode, with limited highway speed and no ability to crank Ozzy at ear-splitting volumes. Thanks, mom. Jeez.
Pacifica’s hybridized power did mean that 77 of the 300 miles I drove were in electrified-enhanced mode, and the net effect was the 30 mpg advertised — or approximately 82 mpg equivalent overall. With a fully-charged battery and a full tank, range is said to be up to 520 miles. The battery does eat up the fold-on-floor space to hide the second-row seats, though the third row does entirely flatten.
Pacifica is still loaded with innovative features, including a remote power-sliding driver’s seat for second-row access (just don’t sit in the driver’s seat while it squeezes forward), plus twin headrest-mounted video monitors with a gazillion device inputs for those second row passengers. Some $5,000 in options included pinstriped Nappa leather seating, a great 20-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system, those video monitors, plus adaptive cruise control and enhanced lane, automatic braking and parking aids.
Meanwhile, the 300 remains a classic of Dodge/Chrysler’s deep black tub of an interior school of design, which makes it ideal if you crave a gangster-style ride. Nuanced civilians will still find lots of pleasantries, not the least of which is this model’s standard, automatic AWD setup, standard on all V-6 models — making it a true all-season family sedan, especially after a 60-inch week of snow.
Yes, the 3.6-liter does kind of grind and the eight-speed transmission can be finicky, with the dreaded knob-style gearshifter literally the only control on a very Zen-styled console — but you can crank it into sport mode (hit a tiny button hidden between the radio controls) and it hustles with the full 300 horses in a more fun fashion. You can also get a RWD edition with an old-school V-8 making 363 noisier horses.
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