- Chris Teague
The 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Is a Love Letter to the Minivan
I’m going to level with you. I love minivans, and I’m not even close to feeling ashamed about admitting that. I have two kids now and a van makes daily life so much easier, but if I’m being honest, I’ve loved them for a lot longer than my kids have been around. My best friend in high school had a Plymouth Voyager with a manual transmission that, despite our absolute best efforts, could not be killed. We gravel-drifted it, hauled wood, and drag raced anybody in the high school parking lot that looked at us sideways. That van was a willing companion for all of it. Some years later, I caught the wagon bug, which as we all know is really just a gateway drug to the world of minivans.
Skipping a couple dozen years (and then some), things in my life have changed quite a bit. My wife and I have two kids, aged three and seven, and the opportunities to flog a proper sports car (or a stick-shift van) are few and far in between. I receive a vehicle to test every week, and while some of them are very fun and very fast, I always look forward to the weeks when a minivan rolls into the Teague family driveway. There are only a few on the market, which makes them a rare treat, so imagine my excitement when a 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid showed up for testing earlier this year.
The Hybrid version of the Pacifica has been out for a few years now, and promises up to 82 MPGe and up to 30 MPG on just gasoline. Living in Maine, our charging options for the plug-in system are very limited, so my testing netted a combined fuel consumption number that landed around 27 mpg. That's not bad at all for a vehicle the size of the Pacifica, especially loaded with kids, a dog, and some weekend gear.
Chrysler has been a player in the minivan game for a very long time, and it shows. Let's talk about what makes the Pacifica so great, unless you're cursing me and hate vans. If that's the case, here's a video.
Minivans are an acquired taste, so debating the finer points of van design might seem like absolute gibberish to someone on the “outside”. That said, the Pacifica, in any of its current forms, is subjectively the best looking minivan on the market. Its lines are smooth, its shape is clean, and the whole package is uncluttered, sidestepping extra scoops or bodywork. Chrysler avoided making the van look too aggressive and didn’t even try to make it look sporty. The Pacifica is a van, and its styling doesn’t betray that identity in any way.
The story remains the same inside, where the cabin is uncluttered and feels spacious as a result. The “floating” center stack features a dial shifter and the HVAC controls mounted below a bright eight-inch screen. Every button and control is where you’d expect it to be, though I found myself reaching for the shifter dial instead of the volume knob on occasion.
I’ll say it, and I'll ignore anyone that disagrees: FCA, with Uconnect, has designed one of the best and easiest to use infotainment systems in the automotive business. Menus are easy to find and use, clear and simple to read, and the whole system works smoothly with very little lag or stuttering. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board here, and add the ability to play songs, podcasts, and other audio from a connected smartphone. The interfaces also include connected navigation options from the different flavors of smartphone, but my Pacifica Hybrid Limited tester also had navigation built in.
My Pacifica tester also came with the optional rear-seat entertainment system, which features two fold-out screens on each of the front seat backs. The folding screen is great for kids in carseats, whose feet tend to land right where the screen is in many vehicles. Folding the screen down protects it from little feet and makes things look tidy when not in use.
If there’s a big knock on the Pacifica, it’s the fact that most of its advanced safety tech is locked away in a $995 Advanced SafetyTech Group. The package includes a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, braking assist, auto high-beam headlights, forward collision warnings, park assist with both parallel and perpendicular modes, parking sensors front and back, and rain-sensing wipers. It’s true that $995 isn’t that much to pay for all of those features, but it’d be nice if more were included as standard kit.
What more can be said here that hasn’t already been said about a Tempur-Pedic bed (this is not an ad). The Pacifica is supremely comfortable, both in its ride quality and in its interior construction. The front captain’s chairs are deep and well-padded, and the Limited trim I tested came with heating for passengers in the front two rows. Built-in armrests on each chair make it easy for drivers and passengers of all heights to find a position that works for them. An example of this is my wife’s driving position. At five feet tall, she finds it difficult to reach a comfortable spot, and ends up moving both the armrests and seat forward in an attempt to find a place for her arms that allows her to reach the pedals. Vehicles that have stationary center-console armrests sometimes end up too far back for her to rest her elbow, but the built-in rests work perfectly.
It wouldn’t be a minivan review if I didn’t talk about loading kids into the back, so that’s what we’re going to do here. If that's a drag for you, go read this to cleanse your palate. The Pacifica has a low floor, a tall roof, and large side door openings that make it effortless to lift kids into their second-row booster and car seats. Children that are able to climb in themselves will be able to do so easily because of the low load floor height. Using the LATCH system in the second row is a breeze, thanks to anchor points that are protrude nicely from the padding.
It won’t be for everyone, but for those of us that value utility over all else, the Pacifica is the van to beat. Chrysler recently announced that it will be offering an all-wheel drive option for the van in the near future, which knocks Toyota off its “only van with AWD” pedestal and makes the Pacifica a true all-around family winner.
I cover autos and technology for several outlets online and in print. My goal is to bring the complex and sometimes confusing automotive world into focus for everyone. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.