The 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Canada’s only hybrid minivan, is a great choice for families whose parents commute to a job where they can recharge at their place of employment.
It has plenty of seating and storage room, which makes it perfect for parents who haul around soccer or hockey players with all their equipment.
The Pacifica model, which replaced the Town and Country, is built in Windsor, Ont. The hybrid version can go 53 kilometres on an electric charge, a distance the company calculated would cover the average Canadian driver’s daily commute.
It’s powered by two electric-drive motors and a gasoline engine. When you run out of electricity, the gasoline engine seamlessly takes over. But if you can recharge the battery before you need to drive again, you could do all your normal driving without having to burn any gasoline. With a 240-volt Mopar Level 2 charger installed in your home, you can recharge in as little as two hours. The standard 120-volt Level 1 cable would take up to 14 hours.
The Touring Plus version, which I drove, has a base price of $56,945. But with optional equipment, including a 20-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system ($995), a tri-pane panoramic sun roof ($1,695), aluminum wheels ($795), a destination charge ($1,895) and other odds and ends, the final cost was $62,670.
The U-Connect Theatre package puts two 10-inch video screens on the back of the two front seats, so bored youngsters can watch a DVD or use USBs or HDMI connections to watch movies or play games. One of the games available solves the problem of children continually asking “Are we there yet?” by constantly updating the program being watched with notices of how far the destination is and how much time is remaining. The units also come with wireless headphones so Mom and Dad can enjoy a conversation while the kids are engrossed.
I recently drove the Pacifica to cover the Concours d’Elegance at Cobble Beach, Ont., a distance of 400 km return, and it was a pleasure to drive along country roads. The hybrid has plenty of power and the suspension is first-rate. Visibility is very good on all sides and with the empty rear seat’s two headrests down, I could see very clearly out the back.
The Pacifica has a drag co-efficient of 0.298 and a fuel consumption rating average of 2.8 litres/100 kilometres combined. However, on my trip to Cobble Beach I had already exhausted the electric power, so I used the gasoline engine and averaged 7.3 litres/100 km.
It’s hard to give an estimate of how much an owner can save in gasoline costs due to recent differences in fuel prices, different rates for electrical power when charging overnight and driving distances. But fuel costs should be lower if most of the driving is done using electric power.
I was struck by the high-quality interior finish and upholstery. The seats were quite comfortable and the inside was roomy. The electric side doors open and close with a simple touch of a button, making entry and exit much easier. The rear seats fold down, providing extra cargo space, but not the middle row. The battery array under the floor prevents the seats from being folded in.
One unforeseen advantage of the hybrid designation is that the car can drive in the HOV lanes, even with only one driver. And a green gauge on the dashboard illuminates when the driver is driving in an efficient manner. Less efficient driving is shown by white gauges.
Like nearly all electric or hybrid vehicles, you can set an overnight charging schedule at home or a daytime charging schedule while at work.
I liked the 360-degree Surround View camera, which offers an aerial view of your vehicle and the cars parked on either side, as well as a direct rear view when backing up.
I also liked the convenience of the gear shift knob, which effortlessly changed gears with a simple partial turn.
The Pacifica’s key fob is programmable, which is a blessing for families with new or young drivers. It can put pre-set limits on driving speed and audio volume. It can also activate individual safety and security settings.
And, of course, the Pacifica comes with cruise control, which is convenient for long-distance driving.
This model has been chosen by Waymo, a Google spinoff in the U.S., for the company’s rapidly-expanding fleet of self-driving cars. The company has ordered 62,000 Pacifica Hybrid minivans to be deployed in Phoenix, Ariz., as robot taxis, according to The Verge. The vehicles will have Waymo’s self-driving hardware and software built in.
Waymo is phasing out its fleet of self-driving Lexus SUVs.
The Chrysler deal is worth at least US$1 billion and Waymo is to start taking delivery by the end of the year.
The future is already here, apparently.
But for those of us who prefer to drive our own vehicles, the Chrysler Pacific Hybrid is an excellent suburban family vehicle.
Peter Bailey is an award-winning newspaper editor and writer with more than 40 years of experience. He specializes in automotive and travel writing, and lives in Hamilton, Ont.