For my family the California weather, the shopping and the big swimming pool were all a hit and so was the Pacifica!

California is a popular escape during spring break; the fully packed Boeing 767 leaving Vancouver full of families was a testament to its appeal.

The reason for our family escape was not just some much needed sunshine but for the whole family to test out the all-new Chrysler Pacifica.

After spending a few days visiting friends and seeing the sights around Beverly Hills, we headed down the coast to the Newport Beach area to join many other families invited to see what all the fuss is about surrounding this new van. That’s right . . . van. The old Pacifica crossover was retired several years ago and Chrysler believes that this new Town and Country replacement is so fresh that it deserves a new name. Pacifica next to the Pacific Ocean – hey, that’s how we roll.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
2017 Chrysler Pacifica
2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Looks

Chrysler spent a lot of time showing us the sweeping curves, and flowing elements of its latest creation. At the end of the day it’s still a van, but truth be told, a good-looking one.

There really is only so much that can be done to a van. One area in which Chrysler excels and where many companies struggle, (the Honda Odyssey comes to mind) is hiding the rail for the sliding rear doors. They are almost impossible to detect, giving this Pacifica a clean, modern look.

What can’t be detected is the use of aluminum on the doors, hood and rear tailgate. In fact, magnesium is used under the rear tailgate skin to help shave 113kg of weight from this people mover. In addition, the structure under the van has been strengthened to improve rigidity, providing a solid platform to bolt all the suspension bits to.

Inside

We had it for two days to drive around southern California and see the sights from the San Diego Zoo to shopping excursions, wonderful weather and a requisite stop at In-N-Out burger for some of the best fast grub around.

As we twisted along the coastal highway or cruised the interstate freeways, the improvements to the new Pacifica became apparent.

The lighter and stronger platform helped the new suspension do its work absorbing the concrete highway joists and giving vastly improved handling. This was a target along with improved quietness inside the cabin and this too has been improved with the use of active noise cancelling technology.

After a day out enjoying the sights, the new vacuum, mounted just inside the rear sliding door was helpful cleaning up spilled popcorn.

Drive

The problem the entire minivan segment faces is its image. Often families, like mine, will choose a van begrudgingly to drive kids to school and other activities, along with the family pet.

The reality is that often families end up falling in love with the van for its ease of use and practicality. This was the case on our short trip with the Pacifica. The kids were heard saying “Mom can we get this van?” Maybe it was the enormous amount of rear legroom, huge windows, power sliding doors and comfy standard leather seats that had them won over.

I liked the 287hp from an upgraded 3.6L V6 engine and the introduction of a new 9-speed automatic transmission. This transmission has been used in other Chrysler products with mixed success but in this van it seems much more sorted out. My wife commented that the ride lacked a top-heavy feel most minivans exhibit.

Verdict

For my family the California weather, the shopping and the big swimming pool were all a hit and so was the Pacifica. The Pacifica now marks the high water mark in this class.

It is the most powerful in the segment, yet the most efficient, rated at 12.9L/100km in the city and 8.4L on the highway. The interior is stunning and it can be equipped with all kinds of new tech, including a full suite of advanced safety feature like forward collision warning and autonomous braking.

The existing Dodge Grand Caravan will continue to be built along side this new Pacifica in Windsor Ontario…for now.

The Pacifica is a premium product with the corresponding price tag. The base version starts at $43,995 and can run up to almost $53,000, a lot of money for a minivan. If you are in the market for a premium van, this one has all the latest technology, safety equipment and a vastly improved ride and handling.

It could be argued that Chrysler, the inventor of the minivan, has reinvented it again. I just need a few more weeks in the California sunshine to make up my mind.

zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

The Lowdown

Power: 3.6L V6 with 287hp
Economy: 12.9L/8.4L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $43,995-$52,995

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