The All-New 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

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People Movers Have Never Been So Stylish!

Big-box bores. That's how minivans are seen today, by a wide swath of Americans. Once symbols of American family life, and a rite of passage parents, they've been in reputation decline for a couple of decades.

Now before you slam the sliding door behind the idea that room for minivan innovation still exists in 2016, take a look at the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. Usefulness was never lacking in its Town & Country predecessor, but at last this remixed minivan adds design flair and an available powertrain-two things that have been sorely lacking in this segment.

In design, the Pacifica shows more than a glimmer of passion, as it adds some more visual interest to the familiar box-like profile. The sliding doors' tracks are actually hidden under the side glass for the rear quarter windows. Wheel sizes range up to 20 inches, where they really serve to emphasize the sporty stance. Hybrid models will get a different grille pattern and unique wheel designs.

And at last, someone is entering the market with a hybrid minivan. Even better, the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is more than just a hybrid; with a stout 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, it's capable of going around 30 miles only on electric power. The hybrid system itself uses two electric motors, both of which drive the van's wheels, with a new "electrically variable transmission." This combination, Chrysler claims, is good for 80 MPGe in city driving.

The rest of the model line is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6, making 287 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission and now includes engine stop-start (ESS) technology to help save fuel during stop-and-go driving. Chrysler claims that these vans have the lightest body structure in their class, so expect impressive performance and more engaging handling than in the current/outgoing vans.

Inside, the Pacifica looks to be everything you might expect in a minivan, yet it's a bit more curvaceous and sculpted, with linear elements that Chrysler says "keep the eye moving throughout the cabin." And everyone gets in on a brighter interior, thanks to a panoramic dual-panel moonroof over the front two rows and a fixed-panel one over the third row.

What would a new-generation minivan be without another even better iteration of Chrysler's always-innovative seat configurations? In the 2017 Pacifica, Chrysler is for the first time offering a Stow 'n' Go Assist feature that allows seat folding with the press of a single button, located on the inside of the vehicle's side pillar. A press of it folds the second-row seats fully into the floor, shimmying the front seat forward to allow it and back in place when complete. The second row also features an Easy Tilt feature to get to the third row easily-even when there's a child seat in the second row.

From a functionality standpoint, the Pacifica covers all the bases for combinations of people and cargo. Chrysler hasn't yet included interior space numbers or confirmed dimensions for the Pacifica, but it mentioned that it can accommodate an 8x4 sheet of plywood. Busy parents with carpool duty and multiple child-seats to swap out will appreciate how there are up to five LATCH positions in the Pacifica. And the interior promises to be very quiet, thanks to the tighter new structure and standard active noise cancellation across the model line.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is built on an all-new body structure and in addition to the expected safety feature set, it includes a new Surround View camera system, with four cameras adding up to a 360-degree bird's-eye view. A ParkView rear backup camera and blind-spot monitoring are also on the feature set, but those who have late-model luxury vehicles in the household will be happy to note that the Pacifica now includes things like parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, and a LaneSense lane departure warning system that nudges the steering to help keep you in the lane of travel when attention wanes.

Feature highlights in the 2017 Pacifica include a new Uconnect Theater rear-seat entertainment system, with 10-inch touch screens, while upper trims will get a seven-inch driver information display and 8.4-inch Uconnect touch-screen system, including navigation, voice command, and Uconnect Access information streams. And Chrysler is introducing an integrated vacuum in its minivan; the Pacifica has an available Stow 'n Vac system that's powered by Ridgid and can reach all corners of the interior.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will, as its predecessor, be built in Windsor, Ontario; the Pacifica will arrive at dealerships in spring 2016, while Pacifica Hybrid models arrive in the second half of the year.

Bengt Halvorson

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