The Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid Electric Minivan: This Ain’t Your Mama’s Minivan

Think you don't need a minivan? Take it from a native: you do. Here's why, and why the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid takes it to the next level.

The Panoramic Sunroof Makes The Entire Cabin Feel Even Roomier. Heic
The panoramic sunroof makes the entire cabin feel even roomier. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Attention SUV Owners: Minivans Rule.

I have long held the opinion of the supremacy of the humble minivan. In fact, many people make the same mistake: buying an SUV when clearly the minivan is the superior vehicle for their needs.

How do I know? My family and I recently drove more than 3,000 miles in the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Plug-in Hybrid, and I’m here to tell you: more families need to be driving a minivan.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first; yes, it is a minivan and carries a stigma of being a nerdy “mom-mobile.” SUVs have become the more popular choice for families not only because of the space they offer but also the style and ruggedness they project. However, I’m here to make the case that minivans offer more space, more luxury, and are more affordable than SUVs.

Related: Introducing the Chrysler Calm Cabin for People With Autism

How We Traveled Then And How We Travel Now.

How we traveled then and how we travel now. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Take it From a Minivan Native

I grew up in the heyday of minivans. I was born the same year Chrysler introduced the concept to the world, and they were everywhere when I was younger, for good reason. This vehicle was designed with a family in mind, and I thought they were so cool. My family never owned one, but many of my friends did, and I remember being jealous.

For our summer vacation this year, we decided to take the Great American Road Trip down Route 66; it was a no-brainer that this is were a minivan belongs, for many reasons, and we were champing at the bit to test out the new Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Plug-in Hybrid.

Related: Minivan Showdown: Toyota Sienna vs. Chrysler Pacifica vs. Honda Odyssey

Chrysler Pacifica Ehybrid Pinnacle-1

Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle Edition. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

What’s New and Exciting in the Chrysler Pacifica?

For 2023, not much has changed for the Pacifica model line. The brand continues the styling elements from the 2021 model year facelift, featuring a new front bumper with a bolder grille design and upgraded rear tail lights with a distinctive LED light bar that runs across the back hatch. The biggest news for the 2023 model year is the addition of the Calm Cabin Package for traveling with passengers on the autistic spectrum, which we also got the opportunity to test out.

Related: 10 Priceless Reasons You’ll Want to Say Yes to Your Minivan Urge

The Pacifica Packed And Ready To Roll

The Pacifica packed and ready to roll. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Embracing the Magic of a Minivan

There is a ton of space inside this minivan, which is all usable. In fact, the much larger Chevy Tahoe has less interior space than this Pacifica and is a beast when trying to park in tight spaces. The shape of this minivan means every cubic inch has been optimized for carrying people and things. The rear hatch is large and opens wide; the floor is low with a high ceiling allowing for tons of headroom or cargo. The seats fold flat into the floor, meaning you don’t have to awkwardly remove them to carry large items, but when they are upright, all three rows provide usable space for real adults.

The 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Plug-in Hybrid offers clever storage spots throughout the interior. From the large opening under the center console to the slide-out drawer on the back of the center console, passengers in the front two rows have many places to store things. The rear doors have built-in cup holders, with additional cupholders hidden in the aforementioned center console drawer.

The rear space behind the third row is deep and can store a ton of luggage, groceries, or garage sale finds before ever creeping into your rear view. That deep well of space is also the storage spot for the rear seats when they are not in use and frees up 87.5 cubic feet of space, which is more than in the popular Kia Telluride with the first and second rows folded flat.

The hallmark of this minivan is the sliding rear doors, and let me tell you, as a mother of a five-year-old, they are a godsend. Not only can my son open and close the doors himself, but these doors don’t risk hitting another vehicle in the parking lot and make for a large opening to help secure him into his child safety seat. The floor is also low enough that he can climb in easily without having to jump or pull himself up like he has had to do in some popular SUVs. In fact, the low floors also worked well for my mother, who could get in and out easily even after having knee surgery. Chrysler gives owners plenty of ways to open and close the doors too, including the key fob, door handles, and interior buttons on the B-pillar and the front overhead console.

Our Little Guy Gets A Front Row Seat In The Pacifica

Our little guy gets a front row seat in the Pacifica. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Kids Love Minivans Too!

Tucker, my son, had plenty to keep him entertained in the backseat of the Pacifica on our 3,000-mile drive as well. Thanks to Chrysler’s partnership with Amazon FireTV, he had all the streaming services he is used to at home (including Disney+) at the push of a button or a touch of the screen. Dual rear screens mean the rear passengers can watch separate shows or mirror the same show on both screens. Both rear screens can be controlled or locked from the front 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen running Chrysler’s Uconnect® 5 system, which itself is easy to learn and one of the best I have tested. The front screen can also mirror what is being displayed on the rear screens while the vehicle is not in motion.

Visibility of the rear screens is slightly limited for third-row passengers due to the placement of the monitors on the backs of the front seats. However, rear-seat passengers are not left out as onboard Wi-Fi aides in the entertainment department. It not only allows streaming to the rear screens but also additional devices. As a remote employee, the Wi-Fi also allowed me to work on the road while my husband drove. I had zero issues connecting to Google Meet throughout the entire trip, even in the small towns along Route 66.

While speaking of passengers, it was easy to watch all five rear seats thanks to the FamCam™ rear camera system. It utilizes a ceiling-mounted camera between the second and third rows of seats to display all the activity happening behind the driver clearly on the front infotainment screen. A user-selectable view allows a closeup shot of individual seats as well. The camera placement meant we were staring at the back of Tucker’s head, but I could easily see what he was doing without having to turn around or take my eyes off the road. This camera placement would work excellent for rear-facing car seats, as well, as it allows a full view of the child without using mirrors. The camera system also works at night, just like a bedroom monitor.

A View Of The Front Cabin In The Chrysler Pacifica Ehybrid Pinnacle

A view of the front cabin in the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Smooth Sailing in the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle

Driving the Pacifica was a dream. It rides so smoothly, especially when compared with the clunky large SUVs that are so prevalent here in Texas. It is low to the ground, and the weight of the hybrid batteries means it doesn’t roll in corners. Maneuverability was also superior to those large, truck-based SUVs, making it very simple to park anywhere I needed with ease, and the 360º cameras were there to help if needed.

Power was good and allowed for easy passing or quick enough acceleration for the many highway onramps we encountered on our trip. The electric motor’s instant power made the Plug-in Hybrid feel fast off the line, and the operation of the hybrid system was hardly noticeable when the engine fired up. The Plug-in Hybrid is only available as a front-wheel drive model, though, so for those in climates that typically see a lot of snow and need extra traction, I suggest going with an AWD gasoline-powered Pacifica.

Long highway stretches were what this van was made for. It ate up mile after mile of roadway without asking much in return. With a full tank of gas and a full charge, I saw over 520 miles of range. My family needed to stop for a pit stop before the Pacifica needed refueling.

Our Workaround For Plugging In The Chrysler Pacifica Ehybrid. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Our workaround for plugging in the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Plugging in the Chrysler Pacifica – For the Win

Being a plug-in hybrid, the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market, meant that we could plug it into any household plug we found using the Chrysler-supplied charge cord, but charging from empty took 12+ hours with this method. For a daily use family car, this is ideal. You can recharge it entirely over night and use the 32 mile range for all your errands. If you need to charge it faster, stop at a public level 2 charge station and it will charge up while you eat lunch.

However, charging is not necessary because once the battery is depleted down to 1%, the Pacifica operates just like a typical hybrid, switching between electric and gas power as needed and regenerating electricity when slowing down. The boost of the electric motor improved our fuel economy; I saw just over 29 MPG total between gas and electricity use in our 3,000 miles of driving, just below the EPA-estimate of 30 MPG, a nice bump from the 22 MPG the gas-only version is estimated to get.

There are two ways to use the hybrid system: Drive and Low. Drive will use up the power stored in the battery as much as possible before signaling the 3.6L Pentastar V6 to turn on. When the brake is pressed, the Pacifica captures some of that energy back for future use down the road.

Driving in Low mode, one turn past Drive on the rotary dial gear selector engages maximum regeneration. This means that when you lift your foot off the accelerator, the Plug-in Hybrid system will begin to slow you down and transfer that energy back to the battery. Low mode is great for stop-and-go traffic, but not so great on long highway stretches. This does make the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid a great minivan for commuting, using those 32 miles of electric power before gas is needed. This is something a non-plug-in hybrid can’t claim.

So Luscious You Might Forget This Is A Minivan

The interior is luscious you might forget this is a minivan. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Driving in Style

The interior design of the Pacifica can only be described as “fancy.” In fact, I had a video work call on the road and my co-workers were shocked I was in a minivan. They weren’t expecting such an elegantly designed interior. The caramel-colored Nappa leather seats are on the firm side and are heated and ventilated in this trim.

Since the hybrid battery takes the place of the Stow-n-go seating for the second row, our Pinnacle model had similar captain chairs in the middle row and the front; however, the middle seats are not heated and ventilated like the front. The second row also did not slide as much as I have experienced in some of the competition. For instance, the Toyota Sienna’s super slide seats could put you so far back that you were touching the third row.

Sitting in the third row was perhaps more comfortable than the four captain’s chairs in the first two rows. The seat was more cushioned and gave a softer place to land. The seat bottom is not so low to the floor as some 3rd row cars, so it has a more chair-like seating position not found in many SUVs  – which often have you sitting with your knees in your face.

Both side windows also feature a manual sunshade to cover the window in direct sunlight. The sunshade is a great feature for families. The passenger’s side also features a USB-A and USB-C port for additional power, and we loved the roof-mounted A/C vents in both of the rear rows.

Related: Toyota Sienna vs. Chrysler Pacifica vs. Honda Odyssey

Designed with Your Family in Mind: the Calm Cabin Package

Another bonus of our test vehicle was the Calm Cabin Package announced just this year at the New York International Auto Show. In a partnership with the Autism Society of America, Chrysler now offers this Calm Cabin Package to help soothe passengers who are on the autism spectrum. The package includes a seat-back organizer with adjustable straps, a rechargeable cordless Bluetooth meditative light and sound therapy machine, a soft and comforting seat belt sleeve, a soft-touch pillow, and a weighted sensory blanket.

I have two nephews with Autism, so I was excited to check this package out in person. Having family members on the spectrum, I know firsthand how difficult a routine outing can be for someone with sensory sensitivity. In my limited experience with autism, I think this is a great idea on paper, but in practice, maybe it wasn’t as useful as I hoped. No two people on the Autism spectrum require the same level of care. I appreciate the wide range of comfort options available in the package that even people who aren’t on the spectrum can enjoy, though. I’m not sure I would base my buying decision solely on this addition because care is so individualized. However, I can speak from personal experience that the weighted blanket is amazing.

I would, though, consider purchasing a Chrysler based on their continued efforts to support the Autism Society of America to create an improved and inclusive driving and riding experience.

The Calm Cabin package is available through Chrysler’s online merchandise retail store, and Chrysler will work with the Autism Society to identify additional areas where the brand can support and affect change in the autism community, including by creating a personalized dealership customer experience for people with autism and their loved ones. 

Getting Into The Third Row Is Easy In The Chrysler Pacifica Ehybrid Pinnacle

Getting into the third row is easy in the Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

What’s All this Fun Going to Cost?

Pricing for a gasoline-powered Pacifica starts at $37,270 for the entry Touring model. Touring L adds leather, among other upgrades, for $41,425 and is the first trim to offer the Plug-in Hybrid as an option for a $50,795 starting price. Limited trim adds more luxurious touches inside and an upgraded center console for a starting price of $48,700 for gas-only and $55,390 for Plug-in Hybrid models. The Pinnacle trim sits at the top of the model list at $54,280 for gas-only and $60,540 for Plug-in Hybrid models.

Overall, I would gladly drive this 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle daily. Our test vehicle had a price tag of $62,085, which also undercuts a comparable Chevy Tahoe Premier trim by about $13,000.

Chrysler Pacifica Ehybrid Pinnacle

Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid Pinnacle’s command center has everything at your fingertips. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Embracing the Mom-Mobile

The minivan is the superior family vehicle that more buyers need consider. With their large interiors, fuel economy numbers – up to twice what a comparable SUV gets – and sliding doors that make loading and unloading kids simple and worry-free, it’s hard to find a more convenient vehicle for families. The minivan has been living with a bad wrap, it has never been a stigma for me, a minivan native.

And if you want to see us natives on our road trip, our full Route 66 road is on GT Garage Talk.

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I'm Holli Fourniquet; wife to Cory, mommy to 4-year old Tucker, and long time servant to our yappy chihuahua,... More about Holli Fourniquet