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Chrysler resurrects Pacifica as new corporate minivan

New features and new powertrain highlight Town & Country replacement

Chrysler Pacifica

For a couple decades, critics have been forecasting the demise of the minivan but the company that boosted the segment to success is apparently not ready to give up on it just yet, as shown by the unveiling of the Chrysler Pacifica.

The name Pacifica is not new, having previously adorned a minivan concept and also a utility vehicle, as Chrysler’s short lived venture into the crossover market with a vehicle based on the widely successful Dodge Grand Caravan.

Now, it looks ready to take the reins as Chrysler’s entry in the minivan segment, replacing not only the Town & Country in the Chrysler brand but also the venerable Dodge Grand Caravan, although that one not quite yet. The company is predicting Pacifica will revolutionize the minivan segment, touting it as offering unparalleled levels of functionality, versatility, technology and styling.

Pacifica will be arriving in showrooms in spring 2016 as the company ramps up production at the Windsor plant where Chrysler’s Magic-wagons have been made since Lee Iacocca first introduced them to the world in the fall of 1983. It is intended to become the only minivan in Chrysler’s lineup, but it looks as if the outgoing Dodge Grand Caravan will continue as long as the market still wants it.

Yes, Chrysler will market the old Dodge alongside its replacement, the new Chrysler, for the foreseeable future.

“The all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is truly a no-compromises minivan, giving customers everything they need or want,” said Timothy Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Car Brands, FCA - North America, at the Pacifica unveiling during the media preview days at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“We started from the ground up to design the most technologically advanced minivan, which offers bold styling, class-leading ride and handling, and unmatched fuel economy, with the Pacifica Hybrid delivering up to 80 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) in city driving. The all-new Chrysler Pacifica was thoughtfully designed and engineered to provide unsurpassed levels of comfort, convenience, technology and functionality, making it the perfect combination for modern families.”

Part of the minivan “revolution” which the company promises is another first for the Chrysler minivan — the segment’s first hybrid powertrain (available in the second half of 2016).

The Pacifica Hybrid (with plug-in recharge capability) uses the same 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6 as the conventional Pacifica. The difference is that the “regular” model’s engine makes 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, but the Hybrid makes just 248 and 230 respectively, making up for the power detuning with a couple electric motors that perform the duties of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The non-hybrid Pacifica uses a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The 16 kWh lithium-ion battery charges in about two hours, using a 240V charger, and is located mid-ship under the floor, which means owners lose Stow ’n Go capabilities for the middle row seats. However, the rear bench still backflips into the cargo-area floor when needed for extra cargo volume. Of note is that the middle Stow ’n Go seats can be automatically operated, with the front seats sliding forward automatically to allow the middle seats to stow themselves; pushing the button again moves the front seats back to their preset positions.

Electric-only range is pegged at about 50 km, offering a city-driving economy equivalent of just under 3.0 litres per 100 km. That’s a couple points over that of the Chevrolet Volt and slightly better than the BMW i8.

The new Pacifica is built on an all-new platform, which reportedly is the lightest and stiffest in the class. That translates into improved response and agility, with reduced body roll, noise levels in the cabin and vibration from road and engine. Improved aerodynamics from the traditional minivan brick-on-wheels design also helps reduce cabin noise while improving efficiency, while what noise does seep in is negated through standard active noise cancellation.

That aerodynamic look comes in the form of the new Chrysler face first seen on the 200 sedan, shown here with a unique grille treatment. The sleek look is further enhanced by sliding side door tracks hidden under the window line. The exterior of both versions is available in nine metallic and pearl colours, with the Hybrid also coming in a Silver Teal Pearl Coat (which also adds an exclusive interior).

Inside, the feeling of openness is created through the use of a 3-panel glass roof, with the front and middle panels acting as sunroofs while the rear panel is fixed. The interior also features front heated and ventilated seats and the Uconnect system with large instrument panel touchscreen. Rear passengers can watch movies or play video games on two 10-inch screens, and the vehicle is wired up to provide a rolling WiFi hotspot.

For people who want more audio quality than the six-speaker system offers, they can opt for a 13-speaker Alpine audio system or a premium 20-speaker Harman Kardon system

Access to the cabin and engine starting is available through keyless activation, with the keyfob also capable of being programmed to limit speed and audio volume, and blocking out certain infotainment features if a seatbelt buckle is unfastened. The transponder also grants its holder access to the rear seats and cargo area by simply waving a foot under the appropriate door (side sliders or rear hatch).

Other available features include an onboard vacuum cleaner system, surround view camera system (which uses four cameras around the vehicle to stitch together an overhead view of the vehicle to facilitate parking in tight spaces), parking assist, adaptive cruise control (which will bring the Pacific to a complete stop and hold it there until sensors allow the vehicle to go again), collision warning with automatic braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure with automatic nudging back into the lane.

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