Mountain Wheels: Tech updates to Chrysler’s Pacifica minivan keep it a family favorite￼
I put exactly 800 miles and nearly 15 hours of driving in a 2022 Chrysler Pacifica minivan over the Thanksgiving holiday. That included traveling to Santa Fe over grotesque conditions on Raton Pass, and hauling through the San Luis Valley like nobody’s business.
Even with some very long drives in 80-mph crosswinds and along the lonely expanses, the not-insignificant and fully family-friendly Pacifica averaged about 27 mpg. There’s still a hybrid version, and Dodge/Chrysler is talking about an EV version on the horizon, but 27 mpg far exceeded Pacifica’s EPA rating — with all-wheel drive built in, too.
The all-wheel drive part proved extra-beneficial as my Interstate 25 route took me south through a snowed-over Trinidad, with lots of vehicles in the ditches, and a sign which mistakenly indicated chains were required for all vehicles, no matter what.
It was a disaster zone, with only single lanes open near the top due to construction, but the Ontario-made Pacifica sailed through, even with perhaps less-than-ideal all-season tires.
Credit the vehicle’s 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 and a 4,883-pound curb weight for giving it some extra solidity, both on the snow and out in the gale-force winds of northeastern New Mexico. But, again, pretty decent mileage.
Pacifica has provided families with a much improved and arguably more car-like experience than the decades of Dodge/Chrysler minivans, but a few of its components are starting to show that the van has been in production since 2016. Like, a Blu-ray Disc player, still featured in the lower stack; the vacuum cleaner is still there, as well.
There is, however, little to fault in its total utility and the lower-to-the-ground ease of loading passengers and gear, and updates to the now-2023 models such as built-in Amazon Fire TV for the seatback monitors, and an improved 10-inch Uconnect 5 navigation and infotainment system, do help keep things timely. There’s also the new ceiling FamCam, which allows those in the front to see exactly what every passenger in every seat is doing on the front navigation screen, with a zoom function just to nail that point home. Yikes.
One advantage over hybrid builds of the machine is that the second-row seats are 100% Stow ‘n Go style — though you’ll need to power-slide the front seats very far forward to fully open the in-the-floor hatches. Yank a cord and those full-sized captain’s chairs fold and entirely disappear into the floor. If your kid has extra-giant feet, you could even leave the hatch doors open.
Same thing in the back, where sides or all of a split rear seat can also be power-hidden away in the open storage bin. If you’re a lucky solo traveler like me, that means 140 cubic feet of total cargo; it’s a much smaller, though deep, 32 cubic feet if the third row seats are up, with grocery bag hooks and cargo tiedown points.
The second row is definitely the biggest spot of the vehicle, and the prized members of your family who earn those spots get movies, music and access to controls (none involved in driving the van, thankfully), with a couple of remotes. Alternately, someone can reach up on the right side ceiling of the cabin to manually adjust the rear heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls.
The dual power-sliding doors are absolutely gigantic and feature large manual shades that you can sorta reach when the doors are in their open position.
The Limited S Appearance model I drove, priced at $57,552, included almost Alfa Romeo-styled 20-inch painted aluminum wheels, shiny black interior accents and lots of darkened trim, for a quasi-ominous-looking family hauler feel. No power upgrades, but I feel that’s certainly fine with this platform.
The logo-emblazoned seating has slightly peculiar raised edges that tend to grab your rear as you get in and out, but overall it’s quite comfortable and even vaguely sporty. Pacifica itself still carries a lot of minivan feel, but it’s a far more pleasant overall experience than the old days — or most SUVs of a similar size and capacity.
Up front, the knob-controlled gear shifter remains perplexing, and the litany of new weather display modes seemed highly dependent on strong ambient Wi-Fi signals to work. I sometimes got Jackson Pollock-styled images of storm fronts and occasionally nothing at all.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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