Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Category

Minivans

2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige MPV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With apologies to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who never experienced the 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Just don’t call me a minivan.

That pejorative never passes the lips of Kia’s advertising people or resides anywhere in the brand’s press releases. Nope. The new Carnival is an MPV, for multi-purpose vehicle. 

Obviously, that’s because the powers at South Korea’s Kia likely are convinced that a minivan description amounts to the kiss of low sales, if not death, for their new creation. Never mind that any objective assessment, reiterated here, enshrines minivans as the most useful passenger vehicles on the planet.

But Kia would like to convince everyone that the Carnival is an extension of their own Telluride, which now is the hottest crossover sport utility vehicle on the market. In fact, it is designed to resemble that crossover, though few people will be fooled.

Crossover SUVs threaten to overwhelm the vehicle market in the United States, if not the world. An example is Lincoln, Ford’s luxury brand, which has abandoned traditional sedans in favor of its four crossovers: Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator. Other manufacturers are in the queue.

Over in the minivan corral, the numbers are few: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager — all worthy competitors. You also can count smaller passenger vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Metris, Ram Pro-Master City and Nissan NV200. In 2020, minivans accounted for less than 2% of vehicle sales in the United States.

Kia entered the minivan skirmish in 2002 with the Sedona, which was called the “Carnival” in other world markets. It lasted into 2021 and now has been replaced in the U.S. by the all-new 2022 Carnival.

In the top-line version tested for this review, the Carnival is a fully rendered MPV with such amenities as second-row recliner seats and built-in entertainment screens. It has reasonably comfortable (especially for smaller humans) third-row seats that flip-fold both forward and backward into the floor to increase cargo space.

It’s a big vehicle, with 168 cubic feet of space for passengers and 40 cubic feet for cargo behind the third row, which expands to 87 cubic feet with the third row folded. At 16 feet 11 inches long, it’s only four inches longer than the Telluride. But it looks and feels much bigger, with 208 cubic feet of total interior volume compared to the Telluride’s 188. The Carnival also is 278 pounds heavier.

But it’s anything but porky. Its suspension system and tires deliver a smooth and quiet ride, and the handling is crisp and balanced with responsive steering. Of course, you don’t want to fling it around curves as if it were a Mazda MX-5 Miata or Audi RS-3. 

The Carnival is powered by a 290-hp V6 engine with gasoline direct injection that makes 262 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force. Power is delivered to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is not yet available.

Even with a curb weight of 4,760 pounds, the Carnival can be punched to 60 mph in about seven seconds, according to independent tests. It also can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

The EPA rates the Carnival’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/26/22 mpg. There are no hybrid versions yet, which would enhance fuel economy. All of the new Toyota Sienna versions feature hybrid power trains, and the Chrysler Pacifica offers a plug-in hybrid.

There are five versions, or trim levels, of the Carnival: the LX, with a starting price of $33,275, including the destination charge; LXS, $35,275; EX, $38,775; SX, $42,275, and the tested SX Prestige, $47,275. 

2022 Carnival

The SX Prestige was so luxurious and well equipped, including a panoramic sunroof with dual front and rear openings, that it listed only one option: Astra Blue Paint at $495, which brought the as-tested price to  $47,770. Standard equipment covered a full suite of safety and driver assist technology. One notable: Safe Exit Assist, which sounds a warning and locks a rear door after a stop if the system detects a vehicle approaching from the rear.

The Carnival also features blind spot cameras that switch on with the directional signals and replace the speedometer and tachometer; forward collision avoidance; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance; lane-keeping and lane-following assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go.

Specifications

  • Model: 2022 Kia Carnival SX Prestige four-door multi-purpose vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6, gasoline direct injection; 290 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/ cargo volume: 168/40 cubic feet (87).
  • Weight: 4,760 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,275.
  • Price as tested: $47,770.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Kia

2021 Toyota Sienna XSE: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Despite the ridicule it endures, the minivan still is the most practical personal passenger vehicle on the planet. Now, with the 2021 Toyota Sienna, there’s one less argument against it.

For the first time with any minivan, all Sienna models are hybrids. So with their other attributes, they deliver impressive fuel economy along with their ginormous 206 cubic feet of passenger and cargo space, about the same as in two Nissan Versa sedans together.

The EPA city/highway/combined numbers for the tested Sienna XSE with front-wheel drive are 36/36/36 mpg. It’s 1 mpg less combined with the available all-wheel drive.

The hybrid system mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 134-kW electric motor to deliver 245 net hp. They are linked to a capable continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that features what Toyota calls a “sequential shift mode,” meaning that it can be manually shifted with the console-mounted shift lever. There are no steering-wheel paddles. It doesn’t change much so most people are unlikely to bother shifting for themselves.

There are five versions, starting with the $35,635 LE model, followed by the $40,925 XLE, the tested sporty XSE at $43,175, Limited $47,875, and the top-line Platinum, $51,075. The prices are for front-drivers. Add bargain priced all-wheel drive for $740.

Like other minivans, the Sienna is long at 16 feet 9 inches. But with all-new styling enhanced on the XSE model with 20-inch wheels, it’s also graceful looking and less ponderous in its handling than a full-sized sport utility vehicle like a Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition or Toyota’s own Sequoia.

In fact, it feels like a much smaller vehicle on the road and can even be hustled through moderate curves without getting unsettled. There are various drive modes, including Eco, EV, Normal and Sport. But the differences are minor, though the Sport setting delivers a modest tightening of the steering and suspension system. It also seems to provide slightly more deceleration regenerative braking to help recharge the battery pack.

Overall, the tested Sienna XSE was a pleasant road-going companion, quiet in operation with enough power to handle any public highway situation and a bump-soaking ride no doubt enhanced by its length. Independent tests have clocked the 0-60 mph acceleration time in the seven-second range.

The XSE’s seven-passenger cabin was a welcoming space. It comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs,  providing between-seat access to the third row, where there’s plenty of head room and ample knee room as long as the second row seats are pushed forward — they have 25 inches of travel. But if you cram three passengers into the third row they’d better be children or very skinny adults.

Soft faux leather in black and embossed white covered the seats in the tested XSE, with well-bolstered sport seats up front. Second row seats cannot be stored but can be jackknifed with the pull of a lever to provide additional space for cargo. The third-row seats, divided two-thirds and one-third, can be folded almost flat with the pull of one lever and easily brought back up with the lever and a pull strap.  

Up front, the center console features built-in non-adjustable armrests at the same height as the armrests on the doors. There’s a deep bin and four cup holders, two large and two small, and a dozen other cup holders throughout the cabin. Seven USB ports are scattered around to serve passengers. Below the dash is a narrow side-to-side shelf with a wireless smart phone charging port.

The Sienna comes with Toyota’s extensive Safety Sense, including a pre-collision system with automatic emergency braking, low light pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection; lane-departure mitigation with lane-keeping assist, road edge detection and sway warning; blind spot monitoring, and dynamic radar cruise control.

Convenience items included advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone operation, WiFi, and an intuitive nine-inch center screen that controls a navigation system, premium audio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, SXM satellite radio and HD radio. There’s also a 1500-watt electric inverter. 

Other XSE equipment: Power side doors and rear lift gate; four-zone automatic climate control; second row side window sunshades; black roof rails, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror with compass, and dual upper and lockable lower glove compartments.

To prevent Mom or Dad from getting laryngitis yelling at the kids, a Driver Easy Speak microphone amplifies the driver’s voice through the rear speakers.

Specifications

  • Model: 2021 Toyota Sienna XSE seven-passenger minivan.
  • Engine/motor hybrid system: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 134 kW electric motor; combined system 245 hp.
  • Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable automatic with sequential shift control and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 9 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 167/39 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,430 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 36/36/36 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,175.
  • Price as tested: $44,625.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Toyota, Jason Fogelson

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For economical family transportation to some beach, it would be hard to choose better than the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Hybrid minivan.

How about fuel economy of 34 mpg going and coming in all traffic conditions? Chasing back and forth to supermarkets and shopping in the beach area without using any gasoline at all? That’s because this is a plug-in hybrid that can travel up to 33 miles on electric power alone.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid with the Hybrid Special Appearance Package

So: Plug it into any 120-volt socket at the beach house and it will recharge the battery in about 12 hours, or overnight. If you have access to a 240-volt charger, the charging time is two hours.
If you locally travel less than 33 miles a day, you would hardly ever have to take Pacifica Hybrid to the service station to gas up. For that, the Pacifica’s engineers have included sensors that detect when gasoline in the tank is more than 90 days old, in which case the gasoline engine runs automatically to use up any possibly tainted fuel.

The EPA rates this Hybrid at 84 mpg equivalent on gasoline-electric operation, with an overall range of 566 miles. After the battery is depleted the gasoline engine starts seamlessly.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Then there’s the convenience that you can convey seven people with 32 cubic feet left over for luggage, beach umbrellas, coolers, chairs and the like. If only four of you go, there’s 99 cubic feet of stash space behind the second row and, if just two, a whopping 141 cubic feet behind the front seats. You can practically bring your own bed and rocking chair.

The Pacifica Hybrid is an offshoot of the critically acclaimed Pacifica from the manufacturer that invented the minivan back in the mid-1980s. It used to be called the Town and Country but Chrysler resurrected the Pacifica name for the 2017 all-new model, which came in standard and hybrid versions.

The tested 2018 Limited Hybrid is essentially the same but with upgrades, including a premium Harman Kardon audio system, revised center console, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and universal garage-door opener.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

There wasn’t much to add because the Limited already was loaded with about every safety, convenience and comfort feature available on a modern automobile. That included Chrysler’s KeySense fob, which allows parents to set limits on top speed, radio channels and volume, and emergency thresholds for their younger drivers.

Other equipment, some standard and others optional: front collision mitigation; parallel and perpendicular parking assist; tri-zone automatic climate control; one-touch power side doors and tailgate; panoramic sunroof; adaptive cruise control; lane departure assist; blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert; UConnect streaming connectivity and entertainment system; SXM satellite radio, and 360-degree surround-view camera.

One curious omission: Although the owner’s manual listed memory seats and radio in the index, none could be found in the text or the vehicle itself.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

About the only other feature not found in the Hybrid Pacifica is the gasoline model’s stow ’n’ go second-row seats, which fold into the floor to expand the cargo capacity. On the Hybrid, that space is taken up by the 350-lb battery.

To make up for the loss, the Hybrid comes with plush captain’s chairs that have more padding than the thin stow ’n’ go seats. But they must be physically wrestled out of the minivan if there’s a need to maximize the cargo area. Also, the Hybrid is not available as an eight-passenger minivan with a second-row bench seat.

The gasoline-electric system delivers a total of 260 hp, enough for a vehicle that weighs nearly 5,000 pounds. Because electric motors produce maximum torque instantly when the throttle is pressed, the Pacifica Hybrid has robust acceleration off the line.

The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid features a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack (shown with cover on) that is stored under the second row floor.

Except for instrumentation needed to communicate what’s going on with the hybrid system, the new Pacifica Hybrid has all of the same features that made the 2017 original the new benchmark for minivans.

Among them: Hands-free power sliding side doors. Simply touch a button on the outside door handle and the door slides open. Touch it again and the door closes. No jerking of handles. The side doors are made of aluminum, also used in the hood and tailgate for reduced weight and better fuel economy.

Other minivan “firsts” included an electric parking brake, rotary shift knob (eliminates shift levers), 10-inch touch screens for second row passengers, and wireless connectivity for devices.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited four-door minivan.
  • Engine/motors: 3.6-liter gasoline V6 with dual transmission-mounted electric drive motors; total system 260 hp.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable gear-driven automatic.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 165/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,987 pounds.
  • EPA fuel consumption: 84 mpg equivalent gasoline-electric; 32 gasoline only.
  • Range on electric only: 33 miles.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,590.
  • Price as tested: $48,580.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Photos (c) FCA

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Honda Odyssey elevates the family minivan to a lofty level of efficiency and comfort.

Minivans are the most useful vehicles you can find for mom, pop, and the kids. More than any conveyance, they accommodate people and their stuff in customized ways while delivering entertainment and car-like performance.

Though dwindling popularity has reduced choices to only a few — the Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona and the waning Dodge Grand Caravan — they endure and likely will grow somewhat, even faced with the juggernaut of crossover sport utility vehicles.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Because all have a similar configuration, minivan competitiveness distills to features both practical and desirable, as well as finer points like serenity, security and comfort. Thus, the Pacifica, for example, touts its Stow ‘n’ Go second-row seats, which fold into the floor for extra cargo space.

The 2018 Odyssey doesn’t have that. But it arguably offers something better. It is an eight-passenger vehicle with a “Magic Slide” second row that accommodates three. A small seat in the middle can hold a rear-facing child seat and moves fore-and-aft so parents up front can check on the infant.

Outboard are two captain’s chairs that also move back and forth, and flip forward for access to the third row. But remove the center seat and the outboard seats can be effortlessly moved sideways as well, kept separate or pushed together on the right, left or in the middle for even easier access to the third row.

2018 Honda Odyssey

To keep tabs on the sprouts in back, the Odyssey incorporates “CabinWatch,” an overhead camera that focuses on the second and third rows and displays the view on the multi-purpose center screen up front. “CabinTalk,” allows the parents to interrupt whatever the children are watching and listening to, much like an airline pilot stopping the entertainment for announcements. “CabinControl,” enables control of onboard apps from a smart phone.

There’s an overhead screen that serves both the second and third rows, along with wireless headphones for the second row and jacks in the third row for wired headphones.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Other minivans incorporate dual rear seat screens so passengers can independently watch different programs or movies. Honda opted for the single screen to promote more family togetherness — which individual buyers may or may not like.

The Odyssey has an array of peace-of-mind features, including the Honda Sensing safety array with automatic braking for collision mitigation. Also: 4G-LTE WiFi Hotspot, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, content streaming to the rear entertainment system from Smart TV or wireless Android devices, walk-away automatic door locking, power hands-free tailgate, motorized side doors and sunroof, wireless smart phone charging and Honda’s pioneering onboard vacuum cleaner.

Obviously, not all of this stuff is fitted to every Odyssey. Just as obviously, Honda put its best package forward, the Odyssey Elite, at the national press introduction on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was fully optioned with a suggested delivered price of a whopping $47,610, which is encroaching on luxury-car territory.

2018 Honda Odyssey

However, there are a total of five other trim levels, starting with the base LX at $30,930, including the destination charge, so customers can pick and choose to fit budgets. Others are the EX at $34,800, EX-L (with leather upholstery and other upgrades) at $38,300, EX with navigation and rear entertainment, $40,300, and Touring at $45,450.

All Odysseys come equipped with Honda’s 280-hp V6 engine, which delivers 262 lb-ft of torque and features cylinder deactivation for highway cruising, a stop-start system and an Econ mode for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/28/22 mpg.

LX and EX models get the power to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite models have an all-new 10-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

As before, the Odyssey continues as an effortless performer with car-like handling, improved ride and fatigue-free long-distance cruising. For 2018, the experience is enhanced by a muted inside environment thanks to a host of sound-deadening materials. The main annoying sounds on a trip likely will come from the kids arguing.

Though it’s not exclusive to the Odyssey, one of the apps mimics airline screens that announce the distance and time traveled as well as what’s remaining. If the boys and girls in the Odyssey shout the traditional “Are we there yet?” just point them to the screen.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite eight-passenger minivan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 160/37 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,593 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/28/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,610.
  • Price as tested: $47,610.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Photos (c) Honda.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Minivans are the most useful vehicles on the planet, all about moving families and cargo in comfort. But the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid takes a tack toward convenience and frugality.

This new entry – the first of its kind in the minivan category – is a bit less useful than its standard gasoline engine counterpart, owing mainly to the requirements of building a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

That’s correct. The new Pacifica Hybrid is of the plug-in variety with a 16-kilowatt-hour battery that enables the nearly 5,000-pound minivan to travel up to 30 miles on pure electric power and recharge in as little as two hours.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica HybridThat’s with a 240-volt charger, which the owner would have buy separately, although the Pacifica has the built-in hardware to use it. Most standard 120-volt household outlets also work, but it takes 14 hours for a full charge from “empty.”

EPA fuel economy numbers will not be available until closer to the on-sale date, which is expected early in 2017. Chrysler estimates it will earn an 80-mpg equivalent in city driving.

To enhance the all-electric range, the Pacifica incorporates regenerative braking, which sends electric energy back into the battery pack.

Because it’s a plug-in hybrid, the new Pacifica eliminates range anxiety. On a trip, as soon as the battery is depleted, the system switches seamlessly to the gasoline engine. That results in an estimated 530-mile range. The operation is similar to that of the Chevrolet Volt, an extended range electric.

“It’s all about making your life simpler,” according to Matt McAlear, Chrysler’s senior product manager. He said that if family members kept their travel to less than 30 miles in a day, they never would have to stop at a service station to refuel. Simply plug it in overnight.

However, the engineers have thoughtfully included sensors that detect when gasoline in the tank is more than 90 days old, in which case the gasoline engine runs automatically to use up the possibly tainted fuel.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid cutawayThe 350-pound battery is stored under the second row of seats. It eliminates Chrysler’s famed stow ‘n’ go feature, which allows the second-row seats to be easily stashed under the floor.

To ease the loss, the Hybrid comes with plush captain’s chairs that have more padding than the thin stow ‘n’ go seats. But the downside is that they must be physically wrestled out of the minivan if there’s a need to maximize the cargo area. Also, the Hybrid is not available as an eight-passenger minivan with a second-row bench seat.

The Pacifica’s hybrid system uses a V6 gasoline engine in concert with two electric motors integrated into the gear-driven continuously variable automatic transmission. Some other hybrids use one electric motor as a generator while the other sends power to the wheels. On the Pacifica, a one-way clutch allows the second motor to also send power to the wheels as needed.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The gasoline-electric system delivers a total of 260 horsepower. Chrysler officials were reticent on questions of how much torque the system delivers. Torque is a measure of twisting force that translates into a strong surge of power.

Because electric motors produce maximum torque instantly when the throttle is pressed, the Pacifica Hybrid has robust acceleration off the line. It feels a bit less after the gasoline engine kicks in.

Except for instrumentation needed to communicate what’s going on with the hybrid system, the new Pacifica Hybrid has all of the same features that made the original, introduced earlier this year, the new benchmark for minivans.

Among them: First minivan with hands-free power sliding side doors. Very convenient. Simply touch a button on the outside door handle and the door slides open. Touch it again and the door closes. No jerking of handles. The side doors are made of aluminum, also used in the hood and tailgate for reduced weight and better fuel economy.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Other minivan “firsts” include an electric parking brake, unique 20-inch alloy wheels, rotary shift knob (eliminates shift levers), 10-inch touch screens for second row passengers, and wireless connectivity for devices.

The new Pacifica Hybrid doesn’t come cheap. But Chrysler emphasizes that it qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. There are two models: Premium at $43,090 and Platinum at $46,090, including the destination charge. An optional three-pane panoramic sunroof costs $1,795.

Potential buyers will have to weigh that and the loss of the stow ‘n’ go seats against the Hybrid’s considerable advantages.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum four-door minivan.
  • Engines:6-liter V6 with dual transmission-mounted electric drive motors; total system 260 hp. Torque rating not disclosed.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable gear-driven automatic.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 165/32 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,943 pounds.
  • Estimated EPA fuel consumption: combined 80 mpg equivalent.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $46,090.
  • Price as tested: $47,885.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) FCA.

 

The Minivan on KCRW

by Tod Mesirow

Chrysler is credited with inventing the modern minivan in 1983.  On November 2, 1983 the first minivan rolled off the assembly line in Windsor, Canada, across the river from Detroit.   It was reportedly a blue Plymouth Voyager with wood trim.

1984-plymouth-voyagerBut credit also goes to the United States government, and citizens, a.k.a. taxpayers.  On the verge of bankruptcy, Chrysler received $1.5 billion in Federal loans in 1980.  What did they do with it?

They built the minivan.

Hear Tod’s report on KCRW.

early-minivan

Images (c) FCA North America

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Three decades ago, Chrysler invented the minivan and triggered the doom of the big American family station wagon. Now they’re back with the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which won’t visit Armageddon on anything but should chip away at the establishment.

The design places it in the vanguard, epitomizing the state of the art. It’s short of a revolution because it’s still a minivan, a vehicle that has diminished in popularity but captivates a stalwart band of customers, though overall it is not discovering any new frontiers.

Still, the Pacifica boasts three dozen “firsts” for minivans, which arguably are the most useful passenger automobiles on the planet. A few of the “firsts” are a bit duplicative of other vehicles (like a heated steering wheel) but many do not invite argument.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica HybridAmong them: First minivan with hands-free power sliding side doors. Very cool. Simply touch a button on the outside door handle and the door slides open. Touch it again and the door closes. No jerking of handles. By the way, the side doors are made of aluminum, also used in other body areas for reduced weight and better fuel economy.

Another: First minivan with second-row Stow ‘n’ Go seats that tilt for access to the third row without the need to remove a child seat. (Some crossover SUVs also have seats like this but they’re not stow-able).

This deserves a mention. Chrysler minivans are the only ones on the market with Stow ‘n’ Go second row seats that fold easily under the floor. It’s a difficult engineering feat but in the new Pacifica the engineers actually designed the tub into which the seats fold in a way that strengthens the entire body structure, contributing to rigidity and improved handling.

A cute first is the “Are we there yet?” navigation app, obviously for the kids. It operates like those screens on airliners that show you exactly where you are, and how many miles and how much time is left on your trip. It likely won’t shut up the sprouts, who will find another way to annoy the adults.

Other minor minivan “firsts,” some standard, others optional: electric parking brake, nine-speed automatic transmission, 20-inch alloy wheels, rotary shift knob (eliminates shift levers), 10-inch touch screens for second row passengers, wireless connectivity for devices, and dual-pane panoramic sunroof with fixed glass for the third row.

You could also describe the tested Pacifica Limited as a convertible. Almost anyone can quickly stow the two second-row seats, power fold the third row and the seven-passenger minivan becomes a panel truck with a flat floor and 141 cubic feet for cargo.

The Pacifica replaces the Town & Country in the scant Chrysler lineup, which includes the 200 and 300 sedans. It’s likely to get lonesome for awhile because of reports that Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat Chrysler chief, plans to bag at least the 200 in favor of new crossover SUVs, currently the hottest vehicles on the market. The Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, which is being carried over unchanged, also is a candidate for extinction.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica
2017 Chrysler Pacifica

One question involves the name, which Chrysler used from 2004 to 2008 years on a wagon-like vehicle similar to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class. That was when Chrysler was married to Mercedes, before the divorce that eventually led to the assignation with Fiat. Though that Pacifica was summarily dropped, the Chrysler folks said the name was familiar to potential buyers and carried little negative baggage.

It’s coming just in time. Sales of the Town & Country and its sibling, the Grand Caravan, dropped precipitously between 2014 and 2015 while the establishment leaders—the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey—saw decent increases.

The Pacifica delivers handsome new styling both inside and out, more resembling a luxury crossover than a traditional minivan. Interiors, especially on the tested top-line Limited model, which featured mocha leather seats and dashboard trim, would not be out of place on luxury cars with six-figure price tags.

There are five Pacifica models, starting with the $29,590 LX and topping out at $43,490 for the top-of-the-line Limited, the subject here. With options, it had a bottom line sticker of $47,150.

For its intended use as a family traveler, the Pacifica displays solid road manners. On the highway, the interior is serene and quiet with minimal intrusion of wind, mechanical or road noise. The ride is supple without being cushy, and the Pacifica tracks cleanly on the highway without inducing driver fatigue.

The competition is formidable. But the Pacifica displays all the right stuff.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica HybridSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited four-door minivan.
  • Engine:6-liter V6, 287 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 17 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 165/32 cubic feet (88, 141).
  • Weight: 4,330 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/28/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $43,490.
  • Price as tested: $47,150.

Read Jason’s take on the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. 

Photos (c) FCA North America

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Test Drive And Review

by Jason Fogelson

It’s not all sports cars and motorcycles for me. No, sometimes I get to test out the latest in minivans, too.

I actually love minivans. The first brand new car I ever bought off of a dealer’s lot was a 1984 Toyota Van. After two years at graduate school in Boston, I decided to move back to Los Angeles to start my career. I went to the local U-Haul location, and discovered that they wanted $1,300 to rent me a beat-up van for the one-way trip. Right next door, the Toyota dealer was in the middle of a big sale. I wandered the lot, and tripped across a totally stripped down Toyota Van. It was set up as a cargo van, completely empty inside except for a driver’s seat. It didn’t even have carpeting or sound insulation — just bare metal, fixed windows in back and a hole where the radio should have been. I took it for a drive, and really liked it. Best of all, I was able to buy it with $800 down, and the dealer talked me into adding one accessory: A $170 front passenger seat. That Toyota Van got me, my cat and all of my stuff across the country safely, and was my daily driver for the next several years.

I’ve transitioned from that minivan to SUVs over the years, but I still remember how much I loved the space, maneuverability and low center of gravity that characterized my Toyota Van.

GM and Ford have abandoned the minivan market over the past decade, but Chrysler has stuck with it. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country remain in the lineup, both essentially unchanged since the early 2000s. Honda’s Odyssey and Toyota’s Sienna minivans, and to a lesser extent Nissan’s Quest, have continued to push the form, and have left the GC and T&C behind in terms of refinement and technology.

Now, Chrysler has developed an all-new minivan, the Pacifica, riding on an all-new platform. It will c0-exist with the GC and T&C for a while, and then will become the sole minivan offering from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

I drove the new minivan at a launch event recently, and returned with this 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Test Drive And Review for Forbes.com.

Photo (c) FCA North America

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑