A 1994 Chrysler all-wheel-drive minivan transported my parents, their friends, and my friends for almost 10 years.
For a young immigrant family new to Canada, the Town & Country was ideal, ferrying lumber for the backyard fence, skis for the weekend, or us kids on field trips.
Fortunately, my parents were spared from any of the common transmission woes, and the all-wheel-drive system performed flawlessly even towards the end of the vehicle’s life.
Minivan travel today
Chrysler invented the minivan category over 30 years ago, setting the standard in the segment ever since the debut of its models. Today, the second-coming of the Pacifica enters a category dominated by import sales leaders such as the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey.
At that time, side impact crash protection that exceeded government standards, as well as a standard passenger side airbag was enough to made headlines.
With the Pacifica Limited, you truly get top-of-the-line luxury features that were only found on $100,000+ luxury brand name cars as little as 5 years ago.
As you might expect the new van is much better than the previous generation 2016 Town & Country, and offered in seven and eight passenger configurations. Yet, the handy Stow ‘n Go fold-into-the-floor second row seats are still available.
My test vehicle also came equipped with the S Appearance package. A worthwhile option for only $995, which includes blacked out front grille trip, body coloured door handles and mirrors, as well as Nappa leather front ventilated seats.
This hybrid has a 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery stored below the floor, which means that the plug-in hybrid does forgo the handy Stow ‘n Go Seats.
Power-wise, my non-hybrid model was equipped with the 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Around town, the Pacifica feels tight and more sound. Considering the amount of gadgets on-board, I didn’t hear any squeaks or rattles that would spoil the otherwise supple ride. What a huge difference compared to the minivan of my youth.
When the seats are upright, the under floor bins are the perfect place to stash stuff out of sight.
The old seats were thinly padded, which allowed them to stow easily, but weren’t great to sit on for long rides.
You still have to do that in the Pacifica, but now it’s easier thanks to a one-touch button on the B-pillar. Very clever!
Lastly, and perhaps most helpful for families with small children, the Easy Tilt seats slide and lift when an empty forward-facing child-safety seat is installed, creating another walkway to the second row.
Let’s talk interior technology and connectivity. Even though Chrysler’s UConnect head unit has been around for a while, it is arguably one of the most fully-featured and easy-to-use touchscreen infotainment systems available.
When subscribed, owners can even use a smartphone app to remotely unlock/lock the vehicle’s doors, start its engine, or locate it on a map.
While rear seat entertainment systems have been made somewhat obsolete by tablets, my Pacifica’s optional UConnect Theatre group package includes a bigger 220 amp alternator, a 115 volt aux power outlet for game consoles, as well as 3-channel wireless headphones and dual 10-inch front seatback touchscreens with video USB and HDMI ports.
Is it worth $2,595, which is much more than a couple of iPad Pros? It’s hard to beat the integrated nature of a polished onboard entertainment system and UConnect theatre adds new wrinkles such as the ability to tether a smartphone for internet access, and provides a series of fun built-in-games for the kids such as the “Are We There Yet” game, which uses GPS.
Other more “living-room-on-wheels” features include a very clever optional built-in “Stow-n-Vac” vacuum. Powered by Ridgid, the vacuum is in the second row and provides easy access to all corners, although it’s only designed to tackle dry messes.
Like Honda’s system in the Odyssey, the vacuum is only available on the top trim models. It should also be noted that the built-in vac occupies the space that can otherwise be devoted to an optional mini-spare tire.
On a more fun and handy note, the Pacifica is also the first minivan available with motion-activated power sliding doors. If parents’ hands are full, they just have to kick a foot underneath the door for it to slide open automagically.
This feature is also fitted to the power tailgate for the same convenient reasons.
The traditional door control buttons still exist in the first row, on the van’s interior B-pillar, as well as a new handle-touch button on the outside of the minivan.
While performance expectations for minivans are typically low, the non-hybrid Pacifica’s 287-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine does a good job of getting up the vehicle up to speed given its bulk.
While it’s not the quickest minivan on the market, it feels plenty peppy around town.
It has a very smooth and quiet ride, and even at highway speed, wind, road, and engine noise are minimal. Around turns you’ll definitely feel the vehicle’s size, but it doesn’t wobble along like its Town & Country predecessor.
Acing its crashworthiness testing would be enough, but the Pacifica adds to its safety standing by offering every conceivable driver-assistance feature available today, and some are standard, including standard blindspot monitoring, standard rear automated emergency braking, and standard rear parking sensors.
My top of the range Limited S model also included the $1,995 Advanced SafeyTec Group, which included a plethora of active safety features including a handy 360 surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop and go intelligence and collision mitigation, parking sensors all around, lane keeping assist, as well as a self-parking system.
The new Pacifica debuted at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit wearing the sleek curves and stylish face of the redesigned Chrysler 200 and packing loads of features — and a few surprises — like a segment-first hybrid powertrain.
Particularly when equipped with the S-appearance package, the vehicle’s styling and features will wow families, likely catching the eye of even the most minivan-averse.
The 2019 Pacifica carries on Chrysler’s minivan tradition and adds to the legacy with great looks, performance, and technology. That makes one of the best in the segment.