The world’s first, and only, hybrid minivan is like frosting a cake – it completes what is already one of the most attractive vehicular packages for a large family.
The Chrysler Pacifica competes with the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna atop the minivan class. All offer similar amenities, performance, fuel economy, and features at similar prices. They have three rows of seats, with actual useable space in the third row, a powerful V6 engine, a large cargo area with seats in place and a massive one with them folded. In their top trim levels, they offer the features and luxury of a high-end luxury car. They compete at this level in the $50,000 price range.
Unlike Honda and Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) does not have a hybrid car in its varied stable. It does, however, have a hybrid minivan, the only hybrid minivan in existence. This one has been perfectly executed, as well as any of the more popular hybrid cars.
In many ways, a hybrid minivan makes perfect sense. It offers a combination of fuel efficiency, and utility. A minivan is big enough to accommodate the large battery pack required without sacrificing space for people or packages. A hybrid minivan allows the owner to minimize fuel costs. It also allows them to go greater distances with the conventional gasoline engine providing motivation.
The Pacifica hybrid can operate for almost 50 kilometres on battery power alone
The Pacifica hybrid combines Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 with a pair of electric motors and a 16.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The engine has been switched to the fuel-saving Atkinson cycle at the cost of some performance. But that is made up by the addition of the electric motors. The Pacifica hybrid can operate for almost 50 kilometres on battery power alone – in perfect conditions. In winter with the heated steering wheel and seats doing their thing, the range is about half that.
If your average daily use is within that range, you can conceivably go without needing gas forever! In the real world, you would need to top up on occasion because the internal combustion engine does kick in under heavy load and harsh acceleration. For those who use their minivan to routinely commute within 10-15 kilometres of home, there can hardly be a more economical way to do so.
Recharging the battery costs about $2
Recharging a 90% depleted battery at 15 cents/kWh (What Nova Scotia Power is charging me) will cost about $2. If you do that every night, that is only $60-$70 a month – darn cheap! The Pacifica averages about 9-litres/100 km on the road when the gas engine is in operation. This is about the same as the non-hybrid competition.
Regardless of the drivetrain, the Pacifica Hybrid is an excellent seven-seater, perhaps the best of the bunch.
Is there a downside? Several, in fact.
It takes 13 hours to charge a depleted battery from a 110-volt household plug, two from a 240-volt outlet. The battery pack is located in the middle of the vehicle, where the second row seats are normally stowed. If you need maximum cargo space, the second row seats have to be removed – just like the competition. And there is added cost. The Pacifica hybrid is several thousand dollars more expensive than a similarly equipped “normal” Pacifica. In real world conditions, you will never recoup that extra cost from fuel savings alone. Unless you live in provinces where “green” rebates bring that initial price down considerably.
If your driving habits are mostly of the short haul variety, and you wish to save the environment and some gas – the Pacifica hybrid is a great choice.
Model: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Engine: 3.6-litre, Atkinson cycle V6, two electric motors, 260 total horsepower, 235-lb.ft. of torque combined, regular fuel
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): N/A
Length: 4,519 mm
Width: 2,076 mm
Wheelbase: 2,700 mm
Weight: 2,247 kg
Price: $56,495 base, $60,085 as tested, including freight
Options on test vehicle: Tri-pane panoramic sunroof, $1,695.