Fiat Chrysler Automobiles just couldn’t let go of the market segment they created more than 30 years ago. The decline of the minivan over the past decade is due to sagging sales, but also to many manufacturers pulling out of the segment in order to concentrate on SUVs.
The next evolution of the minivan has been unveiled at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show and will be, once again, the work of Chrysler – er, FCA.
Both the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country will be replaced be a single model, which bears a new name. Actually, the name Pacifica used to be affixed to one of the first crossover utility vehicles on the market, but is now making a comeback in a somewhat different role.
The biggest innovation that the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will bring to the segment is a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The vast majority of buyers will likely choose the standard 3.6L V6 engine, which will develop 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It will be connected to the company’s nine-speed automatic transmission. An automatic start/stop system will eventually be added as well, further improving fuel economy.
To that engine, the Pacifica Hybrid will add a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an electrically variable automatic transmission that integrates two electric motors. Combined output hasn’t yet been announced, but FCA says the minivan will have a fuel efficiency rating of 80 eMPG based on EPA standards, or roughly 3.0 Le/100 km. The plug-in van will also offer an EV-only driving range of up to 50 km.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica’s styling is heavily inspired by the Chrysler 200 sedan’s look. Although it can’t hide its minivan shape, the bulging front fenders, the sleek flanks and the Z-shaped rear pillar do their best to give the impression that we’re looking at an SUV. Given the consumer’s preference for utility vehicles, this can’t hurt.
Many new features will be available in the Pacifica as well, such as a 360-degree camera system, parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warning as well as pre-collision warning with autonomous braking. A tri-pane panoramic sunroof, an integrated vacuum, a 20-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and rear-seat entertainment with dual 10-inch screens will also be offered. The current Grand Caravan and Town & Country’s Stow ‘n Go seating arrangement will be back, but improved for enhanced user-friendliness, and will include five LATCH child seat anchors.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will be on sale in the spring of 2016, followed a few months later by the Pacifica Hybrid.