USED: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Review: This Minivan Crushes Stereotypes

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Even the Haters Aren’t Hating This.

It came as a shock: Even the most serious car critics think the Chrysler Pacifica is an awesome car. Stunning for a group who typically can’t see beyond horsepower and performance stats. But climbing into the lustrous leather interior, finding a place to put their camera gear, a panoramic sunroof that lets in light above every head, and every tech and comfort amenity, the ‘autorati’ had to admit: this is a great car.

Who The Chrysler Pacifica is For:

  • Families—especially larger ones
  • Singles or couples who regularly haul a lot of cargo, people or pets
  • Drivers who need seating for 7 or 8 passengers and ample cargo space
  • Buyers who need flexible cargo/seating options
  • Buyers who take a lot of road trips or vacations in their cars
  • Buyers who want every top safety and tech feature
  • Buyers who appreciate a beautiful in-car environment
  • Buyers who need a car that caters to a wide range of needs—seating, entertainment, cargo and more
  • Buyers who are not put off by fuel economy that averages 18 MPG city/28 highway

What It Costs

  • LX: $28,595
  • Touring: $30,495
  • Touring L: $34,495
  • Touring L Plus: $37,895
  • Limited: $42,495
  • The fully loaded Limited model we test drove topped out at $49,275

What we (and the auto critics) liked about the Pacifica

Auto critics have come around to the idea of the family car—who doesn’t love a comfortable, practical car that can accommodate a group? Add to that: cutting edge technology, luxury details and a drive experience that doesn’t feel like you’re lugging every one of those eight seats as you try to merge into traffic, and this is a car that wins hearts everywhere.

A car that serves many purposes—whichever yours might be

We’re not surprised the Pacifica has received such praises. We live in a social world and our cars are part of that—from shuttling around family to travel, carpooling or earning extra cash driving for Uber, buyers think about more than just themselves when they buy a car. (And, as social beings, music is central to our in-car experience; here’s what we listened to on the Harman/Kardon sound system while we drove the Pacifica.) 

And that’s the magic: The Pacifica is great for Baby Boomers who make regular treks to see the grand kids, take the dogs along, transport kids to and from college or are downsizing from house to condo. It’s also great for families—with both young or older kids—who need space for their own kids plus occasional friends, grandparents, family outings, carpools and double dates.

Flexible seating that pampers everyone

Probably the most iconic thing about a minivan is the seating: comfortable, accessible, plentiful. Pacifica takes this up a notch with beautifully crafted leather seats that are human shaped and designed to cradle you. The center row captains chairs (which I love) offer many options: they each have two arm rests (that flip up so you can easily get around them), it’s easy to walk between them to get to the third row and they gracefully plié forward with the flip of a tab on the seat’s shoulder allowing access to the third row. Center row seats on the Platinum edition we test drove are heated and have access to the entertainment system, which is built into the back of the front seats.

Center row seats can be stowed in the floor (the floor flips up to access the space and the seats, with a tug of a strap, fold into the space) and when not stowing seats, the space can be used to store other things: A case of bottled water, for example, or that stash of Christmas presents you don’t want anyone to see.

Installing child car seats is super easy—maybe the best ever

Probably the thing I appreciated most about the center row seats (I didn’t try this in the third row but would guess it’s similar) was installing a child safety seat. Minivans are higher off the ground than a sedan, so lifting the seat in was fairly easy. But the magic was being able to stand and buckle it in. The latch was easy to reach and the seatbelt easily pulled across and plugged into the receptacle. Installing the seat forward and rear facing was equally as easy.

The third row: Making a graceful exit, even in a skirt and heels

I had the chance to ride in the third row quite a lot, and even  (more than a few times) got in and out of the third row in a skirt and heels. It was easy and I didn’t embarrass myself. I don’t like third rows that require you to have a certificate of yoga mastery to be able to access it. Not the case here. I could amble in and out easily. Just imagine how able a 10-year-old will be!

I also appreciated third row head room and leg room, and that it was easy to hear the conversation from the front seat (Chrysler has worked on this with cabin quieting technology and speakers and microphones designed to enhance conversation). A sunroof above the third row made it feel even airier, and if it gets too sunny, there’s a screen you can pull closed to cover it, as well as window screens that pull up over the side windows. It was comfortable for two of us, but would have been a squeeze for three on more than a short ride.

The third row seats stow into the floor (a cargo well is created behind the third row when the seats are up) with the push of a button in the Limited edition or the pull of a couple of straps (numbered and super easy to do) in the other models (I tried both and honestly, the strap method was just as easy and maybe faster).

Behind the third row: Enough room for road trip luggage (or a mobile mud room)

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Even when fully loaded with passengers we could stop and buy dining room chairs. Now THAT’s capability. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The week we drove the Pacifica illustrated for me the art of possibility. Tooling around town checking things off the Thanksgiving list required a stop to pick up dining chairs for dinner. Even though I had five passengers in the car, I could stack the chairs easily in the 32 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Had we been traveling for the holiday, we could have easily fit 5 or 6 suitcases (yes!) and a few other things, too, leaving plenty of room for passengers, snacks and electronics. I’ve had friends who swear by their minivans for this behind-the-third-row space because they can leave sports gear, coolers or other items there; it becomes their mobile mud room, and they can still stack other things (groceries, furniture, luggage) on top.

Now, for the awesome: A place to put your handbag and tons of storage 

If you have a handbag you know the conundrum: where do you put it? Pacifica has a great answer: Right next to you in the center console. The center space between driver and passenger has been completely rethought with a handbag storage tray, four phone charging ports (3 USB, one 12 volt) a storage drawer, a center console, cup holder and a phone cubby. I cant’ say how much I loved this space. It should be standard on every car. Every single one.

Even though my handbag is a bit oversized for this spot, it fit fine. I set it at an angle and it never turned over or had an issue (not the same story when I put it on the floor of the second row; one sharp turn later and its entire contents were bouncing off the walls of the car!). The storage tray has short walls on either side that allowed my handbag to nestle in and hold it securely. I loved how I could access things like my lip-gloss or phone charge cord while idling at a traffic light—no rummaging around blindly (and dangerously).

I also loved these other front seat storage options:

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Reconsidered, refined entertainment options—and learning games!

Infotainment and entertainment systems are reaching the point of smart, intuitive and usable. That’s where the Pacifica is, and then, it goes a step further. The front seat infotainment system is nicely laid out and accessible. The touch screen’s functions are easy to see and use. Voice navigation worked well, apps were easy to find and with UConnect wifi, which  worked great (data plan is extra, though), you should be able to to stream to devices in the car, including Roku or Chromecast, which can be plugged into the HDMI port in the seat backs.

But here’s where it gets better: The UConnect Theater package comes pre-installed with apps for kids: Chrysler versions of the license plate game, hangman, bingo, even math flash cards and a game called “Are We There Yet” which tracks navigation so you don’t have to answer that question every 10 minutes.

I found the Bluetooth to be easy to pair and connect seamlessly if it’s active on your phone BEFORE you get into the car; if you turn it on while you’re in the car, it won’t be recognized. But go to Phone Settings on the touchscreen, find the paired phones list, select your phone and you’re connected (nice if you have several phones paired).

And just in case anyone in your crew is sweating over depleted phone batteries and needs to charge, there are 6 USB ports and 2 12V power ports (USBs include three in the front, two on the backs of the front seats and one in the third row; 1 12V port in the front and one in the cargo area; sadly there is not a HH plug). No device should go hungry.

No excuses for messes: A built in vacuum cleaner

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Stow-n-Vac tucked behind the second row seat on the driver’s side; a long hose pulls out to reach the entire car and a detail nozzle is tucked into the compartment just below. Photo: Scotty Reiss

This detail must have shown up in the customer research: I want my kids to clean out the car! And if I have to lug the Dyson out to the car or go to the car wash, it’s less likely to happen. But the built in vacuum makes it super easy: anyone can pull out the nozzle, hit the start button and vacuum up messes, easy peasy.

Top safety features and autonomous self parking. YES. Self parking

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

When adaptive cruise control is engaged you get this notice on the dashboard. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Welcome to the future. You can tap a button and the Pacifica parks itself. OK, it takes a little more than that—you have to guide the car’s speed using the brake or gas, you have to follow prompts to put the car into drive or reverse, but it does all the turning and guiding. You can see me using the feature here. Way awesome.

This auto parking feature is part of a larger suite of safety technology including:

  • Adaptive cruise control: there are two cruise selections on the steering wheel; the button in the center of the cruise cluster (speedometer icon surrounded by ‘set+’ set-’ ‘Res’ and ‘Canc’) is the standard cruise setting; the three buttons below the cruise settings (speedometer icon offset by a car image, with a reduce and increase gap setting buttons) operate adaptive cruise. Set adaptive cruise and then adjust the gap, or distance between your car and the traffic ahead, and the car will come to a full stop if traffic does. When you set this option you’ll get a notification of “ACC Ready” and the speed you’ve set on the dashboard.
  • Cross traffic alert: If someone or something starts to cross behind the van while it’s in reverse, you get a visual and an audible alert.
  • Surround view camera: The size of the Pacifica makes this a great feature. Not only can you see clearly behind the minivan when backing up, but you can see all around the van, too. A selection of camera views lets you select the view you want.
  • Lane departure warning and assistance: When set, an indicator on the dashboard lets you know if you’re drifting from your lane; if you start to change lanes without signaling, the Pacifica provides a little resistance, nudging you back into your lane if you didn’t intend to drift.
  • Blind spot monitors: Standard on so many cars now but no less critical, especially in a car the size of the Pacifica: A light in the rear view mirror lets you know if there’s a vehicle in your blindspot.
2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Chrysler Pacifica’s surround view camera; notice the view options at the bottom of the touch screen Photo: Scotty Reiss

Accessibility could be a challenge for short or aging legs

During our test drive my mom and dad visited. My mom found the step up into the second row to be a big one, a consideration for drivers charged with shuttling older or toddling passengers: the ground clearance, paired with seats that aren’t right up against the door, can make getting in and out a bit more of a challenge. If this is your story, consider this when taking a test drive or consider putting a small step stool in the car (you’ll have plenty of space for that).

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Pacifica parked between two Jeeps at the mall. The auto parking feature makes tight spots like this a lot easier to manage. Photo: Scotty Reiss

As original Town & Country owners, my mom and dad were impressed with the Pacifica. They loved many of the nice touches (beautiful leather seats, arm rests on the second row captains chairs, Stow-n-Go seats, so many storage options, the awesome three-panel sun roof). But they could have predicted how the auto critics would react. That’s what a passionate, intuitive pursuit produces.

What We Loved

  • Beautiful interior including leather seats, panoramic sunroof and nicely designed dashboard and control centers
  • Built in vacuum
  • Self parking feature
  • Awesomely beautiful interior
  • Tons of storage spots
  • A tray for your handbag
  • Enough head room to stand up and install a car seat
  • Roomy, comfortable third row
  • Stow and Go seats that stow in the floor
  • Six USP ports and 2 12V charge ports 
  • Confident, capable drive experience
  • 32 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row 

What You Need to Know

  • Rotary dial gear selector is precariously close to the radio volume dial; I can’t imagine it will cause confusion but it’s something prospective buyers should take note of
  • Seats 8 with center row bench seat; 7 with center row captains chairs
  • Advanced safety feature package is an additional $1,995
  • UConnect theater package is an additional $2,795
  • No spare tire (emergency inflation kit included)
  • 3 years/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty
  • 5 years/60,000 mile power train warranty
  • 5 years/60,000 mile roadside assistance included
  • 18 MPG city/28 MPG highway (we averaged 20 MPG)
2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Monroney

Disclosure: The Pacifica was provided for this review; opinions expressed are all my own.

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss