Forget what you know about minivans.
Forget being sure that the Odyssey or Sienna were top of their class for quality, luxury and comfort.
They are not.
Both Odyssey and Sienna are firmly outclassed by the new Chrysler Pacifica. To an extent that is shocking!
This fact is clear in the first block of a Pacifica test drive: the van drives like a luxury car, is quieter than some luxury cars, and has tech to shade any other family machine on the market.
We have 50 photos, an HD drive review and section headings of Exterior, Interior, performance and Pricing to prove our case.
Will we succeed?
Let’s find out!
HD Drive Video
The Pacifica is a huge leap up in van style and curb appeal. Beating the aging previous-gen Chrysler vans on the style front was never going to be a big challenge. But the rounded and flowing lines of Pacifica also make Sienna and Odyssey feel like they’ve been on the market for a decade already.
Which, to be honest, they have been in both cases – aside from some slight tweaks to Odyssey and top Siennas for 2014 and 2015, respectively. Both major rivals just look like 2009 models to most eyes.
The new Kia Sedona is the only other minivan rival to speak of these days. But its design is also generic to a fault: nothing exciting in its smooth, anonymous form.
Pacifica Limited starts its organic design feel right from the nose, where its intersecting flow of chrome bumper details makes even a boring bumper look fresh and interesting.
The flow and smooth feel continues up the slim grille and its rounded lower edge making a subtle smile of a face. The LED daytime running lights along the bottom of the projector-HID lowbeams is bright and modern: helping safety by being so visible to other cars. These LEDs are executed very nicely: they are bright and form a clear, continuous line of white light.
With the lights on, you lose a bit of the chic LED DRL style but have tons of actual light. LED fogs round out the impressive lighting package up front.
To the sides, the Pacifica Limited and its 20-inch alloys have a dashing silhouette. Oversized fenders are rounded and smooth semi-circles of body panel bulge. Clean lines along the bodysides are premium and classy in their look. Most impressive is the glasshouse: the continuous line of dark-tinted side glass runs from bow to stearn of the Pacifica, unbroken by odd kinks or dips like Odyssey or Sedona. Nor is it simply forgettable like Sienna Limited. Nor is it “trying too hard” to be cool – a la the Sienna SE.
Around back, similarly premium and rounded designs for the tailgate, its integrated aero spoiler and LED-edged brake lights.
In total, the Pacifica is clean and modern across all its trim levels. Even without the LEDs and big wheels of the Limited trim level – this is clearly a next-gen van design that makes its rivals look outmoded from all sides.
The cabin of the Pacifica sets the right tone from the moment the doors thunk shut with a super-premium and solid Thunk. I guess those quadruple door seals are paying dividends even while parked!?
Inside this isolation chamber, you can barely hear the outside world. The usual back-seat passengers will take care of that lack of noise, though! How is it so quiet? Well, the Pacifica Limited is terrifically insulated and hushes all wind noise even at 80-mph. Only slight tire rumble from the 20-inch alloys and their 245/50/R20 tires. Active Noise Cancellation is a cabin element that surely helps – and only Odyssey also offers this in the segment. Odyssey never feels this refined, though.
The engine purrs like a kitty on full throttle and never has any harshness. The entire experience of Pacifica on the road is next-gen luxury first, minivan second.
Silence a worry? You could always fire up the built-in vacuum to make some white noise and clean up the lux carpets and leathers of the Limited model. Power third row folding is a snap, while the second row stow’n’go is still genius for how flexible it makes the cabin. Added bonus? You have two HUGE storage bins in the floor recepticles when the second row capatians chairs are up. Deeply practical for toys/coolers/soft luggage bags and more.
The thoughtfulness of all the Pacifica’s technology is also intensely impressive. Example? Stow’n’go needs the front seats to be scooted forward sometimes (depending on driver position). Solution? Chrysler has a special button on the back of the seats – down low – where your eyes will find it when doing stow’n’go. This button moves seat forward automatically to where it the folding seats can do their thing. When done, press the same button and your seat returns to its previous spot. So easy and helpful! This has a name, too: “Stow ‘n Assist.”
Other tech surprise/delights? The remote start will automatically engage the heated steering wheel and seats when temps drop below freezing. Automagically, it knows.
Other impressive details abound, of course. The front seats are super comfortable if not very supportive in hard corners. The second row thrones, which previously were a bit thinly-padded (in order to fold away..), are now quite comfortable and very adjustable. Great HVAC strength, rear-seat controls and airflow let everyone stay comfy without requests to the grown-ups in front.
Luxury keeps coming on the Limited: the seats are vented as well as heated, the tri-pane moonrooves are excellent, and the handsfree power sliding doors (and tailgate) are a snap to master. Just wag a foot below the bodywork and presto! 506-watt amp means the bass is always ready to thump along to Kidz Bop. The Uconnect Theater pack needs a whole section praising its built-in games, tablet-like experience and overall ease of use.
And lastly, Pacifica Limited will power your pocket electronics all day with what feels like dozens of USB ports, a three-prong 115-volt outlet and heavy-duty 220-amp alternator. Just like a cop car!
The cops might be on your tail in Pacifica Limited thanks to its incredible smooth and potent standard V6 engine, too! Except that Pacifica – like all vans – is virtually above the law when it comes to tickets. Troopers will roll their eyes more often than they’ll pull over a van, in my humble experience, even when they clock you at well above the limit!
That is handy with such good power. The 3.6-liter engine is hushed and refined perhaps 2X better than Nissan Quest or Kia Sedona motors. And easily the best versus even Sienna Limited or Odyssey Touring Elite. On-paper power in Chrysler is the best, as is the 28-mpg highway with this nine-speed automatic.
The autobox is perfectly tuned nowadays, by the way. It is always there with a downshift but also deeply effective at being in most efficient gear. Zero sense of hunting for the right ratio, or a too-busy feeling that hurt the initial applications of Chrysler’s new ZF-designed automatics.
Beyond straight-line pace, which is class-leading, the Pacifica also shows great composure under heavy braking and around corners. Ample grip means you’ll be wishing for a bit more lateral seat support before the Pacifica breaks traction around corners. Just deeply impressive in all ways, this Pacifica Limited.
The high-tech elements are never a bother, but are working away on your behalf. Things like the active grille shutters, for example. Or the adaptive cruise and dozen-strong list of parking and camera systems in the Advanced SafetyTech Group for an extra two grand.
Safety AND style with the LED lighting for fogs, DRLs, brake lights and tail running lamps. Just easier for others to always see you, no matter what. HID lowbeams and automatic highbeams are also features no other van can boast about.
What cost for all this gushing, lush praise? The Pacifica starts from about $28k and as a core vehicle, is just as good as this Pacifica Limited and its $43k base price. With the 20-inch wheels for $995, SafetyTec pack at $1995 and Uconnect Theater pack at another $1995… the total tally is $48,475 including destination.
Might seem steep, but it really is not. There are Sienna Limiteds on the road that cost $55k. Fact. The Odyssey is on a race to $50k as well once you start adding equipment.
Special incentive? Owners of Sienna and Odyssey can get a special conquest discount when they swap for Pacifica.
We love Pacifica so much that it set a high bar for the press cars that came afterward. We missed its smooth ride, silent cabin and luxury touches all around. We missed its two-tone leather steering wheel and its easy, comfy and super-practical front cabin.
We definitely missed its remote-start and automatic everything. The car is not just a feature-list, though. The core competence of the car is top-of-industry. Its features are so special mostly because the list of segment-exclusives is almost as long. No other van has this stuff. And even if they did, none was designed and engineered so thoroughly to make every family member so happy.
All this explains why Pacifica has just won North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, and about two dozen other accolades.
Doubting Thomas? Go drive this car for rolling proof. High quality, high tech and high style never before seen in a minivan.
Pacifica Limited is the 2017 Car-Revs-Daily.com Van of the Year, too.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.