When the first-generation Chrysler minivans arrived back in 1984, they revived Chrysler like a defibrillator hit from the heavens. They came on the heels of the K-cars, the success of which allowed the early payback of more than—cue Dr. Evil voice—one billion dollars in federal loans, but the front-wheel-drive minivans proved to be the cash cows Chrysler needed to keep the payroll flowing. Shepherded into production by then CEO Lee Iacocca and fellow Ford expat Hal Sperlich, more than 200,000 minivans were sold in the first year, and Iacocca never missed an opportunity to gloat publicly about the success.
Fast-forward three decades, and the company, now partnered with Fiat under the FCA banner, has lost ground in the minivan segment. Changing the name from Town & Country to Pacifica suggests FCA is looking for a fresh start, because while Mercedes-Benz and Cerberus were playing hot potato with Chrysler, the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna forged ahead and stole a lot of the minivan thunder. (Ford left the segment in 2004 and General Motors not long after; neither could ever knock Chrysler off its perch.) While FCA’s trucks, SUVs, and performance models may be profitable, the company desperately needs a class-leading vehicle that doesn’t trade on retro imagery or the pretense of an outdoorsy lifestyle to appeal to buyers. That’s where the Pacifica comes in.
We’ve already tested a 2017 Pacifica Limited, the top-tier trim that carries a decidedly top-tier base price of $43,490. Now we’ve snagged a mid-level Touring-L trim with a more family-friendly starting point of $35,490. Residing smack in the middle of the lineup, it sits above the LX and the Touring but below the Touring-L Plus and Limited trims.
Refreshingly, the Touring-L comes with many of the latest safety, comfort, and assist features as standard. Remote start, a backup camera, blind-spot and cross-path detection, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support, and three-zone automatic climate control are among the goodies included. Our test example carried just two options. The first was the eight-passenger seating option ($495), which adds a center seat to the second-row buckets; full Stow ’n Go functionality is preserved for the outside seats, while the center seat is easily removed and folds to provide an armrest/drink holder when not in use. The other add-on was the $895 Premium Audio Group (referred to as Customer Preferred package 25L in dealer-speak), which includes a 13-speaker Alpine audio system with a 506-watt amplifier, an 8.4-inch “navigation ready” touchscreen display that replaces the standard 5.0-inch unit, active noise cancellation, a third-row USB port, and GPS antenna input, among other niceties. Only the top Limited trim has standard navigation. The Touring-L Plus has it as a $695 option, and the “navigation ready” 8.4-inch Uconnect setup in our Touring-L and lesser trims requires dealer-installed equipment and/or software to enable nav. Chrysler isn’t alone in the practice of making consumers pony up for higher trim levels in order to get factory navigation as standard. Honda, for instance, requires Odyssey buyers to step up to the second-from-the-top EX-L with Navi trim (base price of $39,100 for 2016) to get the technology. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Chris Doane Automotive