2017 Pacifica Hybrid: Haul The Family Around Without Any Gas

One of the most perennially popular, and our 2016 family vehicle of the year is now also available in a plug in hybrid version. So, take everything we loved about the regular version, and add 33-mile electric-only range and you’ve got a family vehicle that is also clean and green. If you’re willing to trade off a little cargo space to house the batteries, this is about the most versatile vehicle with electric-only capability.

The way the hybrid system works on the Pacifica is that the electric motor is attached directly to the planetary gear drives in the transmission – so it’s basically acting directly in line with the engine power. Instead of other systems that have the motor drive the rear wheels, this one can basically take load directly off the gasoline engine as you drive, so even if you’ve exhausted the battery, the engine’s efficiency is fantastic. Around the city it returns an impressive rating of 82MPGe, or 32mpg on gasoline only. And it’s got plenty of power too, with the V6 engine making 220hp, and two synchronous DC motors making 114 and 84hp each.

The system is complex, but it’s pretty seamless to drive – the motor power is more than sufficient on it’s own, and when the gas engine kicks in, it reduces the electric motor power to make the output seem more even. You don’t want a jeckyll and hyde driving dynamics wise, so they have done a good job balancing it out.

As we mentioned, there’s a cost in lack of storage and cargo space. No longer do the rear seats stow all the way beneath the floor, since that’s where the battery lives. So you lose the storage cavities below, and there’s less cargo space when you do fold the seats down.

No longer do the rear seats stow all the way beneath the floor, since that’s where the battery lives. So you lose the storage cavities below, and there’s less cargo space when you do fold the seats down. Clearly, though, there’s still a ton of room in this people-mover. Everywhere you look there’s a power outlet, entertainment system or storage compartment. You can tell they have been refining this design for over 30 years now, everything is in it’s right place.

The electric-only range of 33-miles means that if you’re out running errands in the morning, you can charge up before afternoon runs. For a homemaker on the go, this is a great option and will save you money on gas. It also qualifies for the large electric vehicle federal tax credit, so expect to save $7k when you buy it as well. Starting at $43k (our test van topped out at around $47k), that tax credit makes a huge difference. When it’s pushing $50k, it feels expensive for a minivan. But after the credit, this is a great value.

Of course with all that drivetrain technology, you’d expect a lot of other tech as well – there’s a great infotainment system, and our test vehicle had the rear-seat screens with built in apps, games and DVD players. Each rear seat can play a different source, and each has a set of wireless headphones. It’s up to you how to explain to your kids in the back row that they don’t get to watch anything!

It’s now becoming clear that electrified vehicles are becoming the future, and while lots of prognosticators pegged full-EV to be the direction, I certainly find these hybrids more usable, especially in our charger-deficient market. Being able to keep going after you’ve spent all your electrons means that you don’t have to be anxious about range, and if your schedule changes, your car can adapt. This wave of plug-in hybrids really does feel sustainable, from both an environmental and a usability perspective. Get one, install a fast-charger in your garage and start saving.

By Jason Saini


Special thanks to FCA Group for providing the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid for review



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