Many years ago my brother declared the minivan responsible for the emasculation of the American male. His argument was so persuasive that he got a guest spot on National Public Radio’s popular show Car Talk. From that pulpit he described the van’s insidious role in propelling men down the boulevard of broken dreams.
The poor minivan, a bread box on wheels, carrying the anchors of domestic life-kids, groceries, dogs and mulch. Your dreams of climbing Everest, of a show at the AGO, the star turn on Broadway, they all withered with the lumpy van parked in the driveway.
More body blows came with the birth of the SUV. In a Ford Explorer you were bound for heli-skiing or canoeing on the Nahanni River, in the minivan the trip was to the dump and the drive-thru.
It’s all balderdash of course. The minivan stuck around, boring as common sense but practical as a mule. Now in 2017 we can even say there’s a buzz about the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
Astute observers of autos will remember that in 2004 Chrysler made a CUV called the Pacifica. It was ahead of its time, and I guess just puzzled people, so Chrysler abandoned it in 2008. But doesn’t the Pacifica come surfing back as a minivan, winning awards and turning heads.
After some sketching and test tubing, the Pacifica emerges with new body sculpting that removes the flat nosed front end characteristic of so many minivans. It’s as if the designers grafted the front of a car onto the blocky body of van. Sleek meets square and it works.
I test-drove the 8-passenger Chrysler Pacifica Limited for a week. Though the Pacifica starts at $38,495, the top-of-the-line Limited’s base price is $52,995. The equipment list is vast at the Limited level, and my test vehicle included about $6,000 in options, bringing the total price to $62,770.
Shiny trinkets like an expansive sunroof, video screens for the backseat passengers, and central vac should never sway a buyer from the key question. Do you like to drive it? I liked driving the Pacifica.
All Pacifica models have the same V6 engine producing 287 horsepower and a 9-speed automatic transmission. There’s enough power for all driving situations, the 9-speed auto saves on gas, with a claimed consumption of 10.9/L/100 km, and the engine is quiet. The Pacifica doesn’t drive at all like oafish van. Steering is crisp, and the handling assured. It drives like a car. Visibility is excellent in all directions, better than an SUV, and the driving position relaxing. I could see driving cross-country in the Pacifica. The upscale interior is winning awards.
Sensibility abounds. From just about anywhere in the car, there’s a button nearby to open the sliding doors for the passenger area. Stow ’n Go seats are a Chrysler minivan trademark, with both the second and third row seats folding into the floor, but any seat storage operation you need to make is assisted so weight-lifter strength isn’t needed. In the back, the big sunroof and sizeable side windows contribute to an airy cabin. A kicking motion opens the side doors or lift gate.
If you have parking anxiety, the optional parallel and perpendicular parking assistant guides the van into place and the 360-degree camera view watches for blind spots.