Seriously, Everything. All In One Package.
If you made a list of everything you wanted in a car—starting with the caveat that this car is for your crew of four or more—what would you want?
My list starts with great fuel economy because I hate going to the gas station (and not just because I’m *sometimes* running late). A third row that is easy to get in and out of, a comfortable interior, a great sound system so we can all sing along to my playlist, wireless head phones for those who need alone time, someplace to put my handbag, storage for things like phones, change and hand lotion and a price that leaves money in the budget for all the things you want to haul home with all that cargo room.
Who The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is for:
- Large families or smaller ones who need carpool space
- Drivers who regularly have second and/or third row passengers
- Buyers who hate getting gas
- Drivers who usually drive less than 30 miles per day and want to drive on all electric (the gas engine kicks in after that)
- Drivers who appreciate 30 MPG the gas-hybrid engine gets
- Buyers who need a lot of cargo space
- Drivers who spend a lot of time in the car
- Buyers who love conveniences (wifi, entertainment system, built in vacuum, anyone?)
- Buyers who will charge the car at work or at home (public charging may be tough to find)
- Buyers who will spend $42,000+ on a minivan ($47,000+ fully loaded)
- Buyers who want a federal tax credit of up to $7500 plus state incentives
- Buyers who want to qualify for HOV lane or other perks for electric car drivers
That first thing: great fuel economy — because I hate going to the gas station (did I say that already?)
The gas station isn’t always convenient. And, it’s expensive. It’s dirty, smelly and sometimes, messy. It’s cold, or hot, or windy, or humid, and usually, uncomfortable.
When Chevrolet first came out with the Volt I fell in love with the idea: charge my car at home every night (or for some lucky ducks, at work during the day) and never go to the gas station. But, the Volt seats four. Not an option for me because I’d literally never do anything but drive my kids around. We need room for each girl to bring a pal to the movies, for the dance carpool (4 girls x four days a week), or so we don’t have to take two cars to dinner when my parents visit.
Why it’s called E Hybrid: Electric + Gas + battery hybrid
Enter the Chrysler Pacifica E Hybrid: the first plug-in gas hybrid minivan, introduced this fall as a greener alternative to the popular Chrysler Pacifica minivan introduced last spring. The term “hybrid” has come to mean cars with a gas engine and a large battery that pulls some of the load, but the Pacifica hybrid goes further than that: the engineering team put together a hybrid system that attacks fuel efficiency from every angle: efficient gas engine, hybrid battery drive AND plug-in electric drive. This gives owners the option of driving on all electric (up to 30 miles on a charge) then on the gas/battery hybrid, which extends fuel efficiency by re-capturing energy created by braking, cruising and more.
The E Hybrid is priced at about $42,000 for the premium model, $45,000 for the platinum model and tops out at about $47,000 fully loaded. The E Hybrid is about a $2,000 premium over the gas version but qualifies for $7,500 in federal tax credits and may qualify for state credits too, taking a nice chunk out of the price.
Even though this is Chrysler’s first time building a drive system like this, it’s a very solid science; almost every automaker has adapted the technology.
What you need to know about how the Pacifica E Hybrid works
- Plug the Pacifica into a wall outlet to charge the battery
- It takes about 14 hours to fully charge in a standard household outlet, 2.5 hours when plugged into a 220V outlet or super charger
- The electric engine travels about 30 miles on a charge
- EVs and hybrids don’t go as far when it’s cold; heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and remote start help to increase comfort and reduce the need for cabin heat, which draws on the battery, reducing the number of miles the car can go on electric
- After the battery is depleted the gas engine takes over and does so seamlessly
- The hybrid battery system recaptures energy from braking, highway cruising and other systems to charge the battery, too
- Daily charging can mean you might only go to the gas station before heading out on longer drives
- The Pacifica is programmed to monitor the freshness of the gas in the tank and will burn off old gas (sometimes the gas engine may kick in when there’s a charge on the battery, and this is why)
- We got about 30 MPG after the battery’s charge was depleted
- The thing to look at is the range: even with no battery charge left we had more than 500 miles of range available
- The Pacifica’s battery is warrantied for 100,000 or 150,000 miles (depending on your state) and the warranty is fully transferrable if a car is resold
What it’s like as a driver
We drove the Pacifica E Hybrid through Los Angeles and up the coast to Malibu recently and I was very impressed. My drive partner Chris and I took turns at the wheel and found it to be fun and easy to drive (despite its size, it pulled U-turns like a champ); it handled nicely and accelerated confidently, both in electric and gas modes, driving more like a car than a minivan; it didn’t feel huge or unwieldy even though it’s quite sizable
Parking the Pacifica (and letting it park itself)
The one caveat to the drive experience is parking (two, really): This is a big car. During my drive I tracked down a couple of electric charging stations. The parking spots for the stations (most of which were taken, by the way) are designed for typically small electric plug ins. I could get the Pacifica into the spot but it took some maneuvering.
As much as I’d like to, using the Pacifica’s self parking technology (yes, it parks itself! You can watch me do this here) to park in an electric charging spot might defeat the purpose: the self parking feature backs the car into the space, but the built in charge cord in the station may not be long enough to reach the charge port on the front of the car.
During our drive we noticed a few interesting things:
- The electric engine is silent and when in hybrid mode it’s also nearly silent
- When in reverse a low-volume high-pitched beeping noise alerts pedestrians that you’re about to back up (I walked behind the car and could hear it clearly), something I’d never considered necessary in a car until my friend Amy was hit by a hybrid that was backing up
- The cross-traffic alert (when in reverse) lets you know if a pedestrian or vehicle is about to cross behind the car
- The surround view camera is great for parking, especially in tight urban areas
- There are lots of creative storage spots, including a drawer, a phone shelf and a pass-through under the console between the front and second row seats
- The Pacifica’s touch screen and navigation are nicely laid out and easy to use
- The engine transitions seamlessly between full electric mode and gas hybrid battery mode; we couldn’t really tell when the change happened.
- Once the battery was depleted, we reset our trip odometer to see what our MPG was on the hybrid engine; we averaged about 30 MPG
- Charging the Pacifica is better done at home than at public charging stations; most of the public charging parking spots are tiny, built for compacts, not minivans
What it’s like as a passenger: Get ready to be spoiled
Luckily, I was able to ride in the passenger seat AND the rear seats. The Pacifica’s front cabin is nicely arranged with plenty of space for our stuff; both Chris and I could put our phones on the phone shelf, plug them in to USB ports right underneath, and I could keep my handbag nearby.
There are a lot of visual cues that remind you you’re in the Pacifica E Hybrid: Teal stitching on the leather, a glowing blue Chrysler badge, the glowing blue “e” on the charge door that you’ll see every time you get into the car. It’s pretty and a reminder that you’re probably skipping the gas station on this outing.
But the second row is more fun. The Platinum edition includes an entertainment system with two flip-up high-def screens embedded in the backs of the front seats. Ports next to the screens allow you to plug in an HDMI stick (Chromecast, anyone?) and stream your favorite TV shows (the Pacifica comes wired for WiFi!), or plug in a DVD player or game box. Or, use the DVD slot up front to stream to both screens at once.
But when games or DVDs aren’t available, passengers can still be entertained; the UConnect system is pre-loaded with apps including a game of hangman and a navigation game based on the destination you’ve set.
Third row passengers are not second class citizens: they can see the screens just fine or tune in to their own devices. They also have their own sunroof (with the sunroof option) and getting in and out is super easy; center row captains seats are standard and with a flip of a tab, tilt forward in an elegant plié, similar to the way center row seats tilt forward in the Tesla X.
Cargo space so you can have it all — and bring it all home
Probably the biggest drawback to electric vehicles is that batteries take up trunk or passenger space. To accommodate the hybrid battery, Chrysler did have to make a compromise, but a very small one: The center seats do not stow in the floor as they do with other Chrysler minivans.
The center row seats (captains seats only; a three-seat bench is not available in the hybrid) are removable, however, if you really need the space. Otherwise, the cargo space is exactly the same as the gas engine Pacifica.
How the Pacifica E Hybrid and gas version compare: Convenience, cost and availability
After driving both versions back to back, it’s pretty clear that the decision would boil down to availability, convenience and price. If I lived in a state where gas is always cheap, the 19 MPG we got in the ‘conventional’ Pacifica would be no biggie. The cars are pretty much identical. However, in states where gas is expensive, or where the gas station isn’t on the way to school or work, the E Hybrid makes great sense.
The E Hybrid will hit dealers this month; expect them to be a hot item. This means while they are priced similarly to the gas version, you’ll probably see fewer deals for the E Hybrid. However, federal tax incentives could effectively lower the price by $7500 or more (and you may qualify for any other incentives too), so in the long run, the E Hybrid could end up being not just easier on the environment, but easier on your budget, too.
Our Chrysler Pacifica Playlist
One benefit of being in a large car with your crew is iPod karaoke. Here is the Spotify playlist we cranked up during our time in the Pacifica.
Disclosure: I was Chrysler’s guest for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided, but opinions, playlist and seeking out of public charging stations are all my own.