2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Review and Test Drive
An efficient space shuttle for daily living.
The Pacifica Hybrid supplies an EPA-estimated 32 miles of electric driving range before its 3.6-liter V6 engine fires up to continue the journey. Using a standard household-style electrical outlet on our front porch, I kept the van charged up, and during a week of more than 200 miles of driving, we covered most of them using nothing but battery power and burned only a quarter of a tank of gas.
Road trips are well within a Pacifica's wheelhouse, too. My family of four rented one for an East Coast trip a few years ago. It provided more than enough room to keep everyone comfortable and happy. Again, that gas-only rental Pacifica wasn't exciting, but it was satisfying to use for its purpose.
Minivans have been moving families for 40 years now, and the Pacifica is a generational descendant of the Plymouth Voyager, which went into production at the end of 1983. Back then, the minivan concept was revolutionary, but by the 1990s, people in the U.S. were falling in love with SUVs instead.
Long an innovator in the segment, Chrysler is the only automaker to offer a plug-in hybrid minivan, and the company claims the Pacifica Hybrid may be eligible for not only the full $7,500 in federal income tax credits but also other state and local incentives.
That's good, because the base price tops $52,000, including the destination charge to ship the minivan from the Windsor, Ontario, factory in Canada that builds it to your local dealership. You can get the 2023 Pacifica Hybrid in Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle trim, with the Pinnacle wearing a window sticker of more than $61,000.
For this Pacifica Hybrid review, I test-drove the Pinnacle in Southern California. The only option was Fathom Blue Pearl paint, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $62,085, including the $1,595 destination charge. Chrysler provided the vehicle for this Pacifica review.
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: The Design
At first glance, you'd probably never guess how expensive the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle is. The fanciest thing about its exterior is the polished chrome wheels, which aren't compelling. However, open any of the doors, and the interior's caramel-colored quilted Nappa leather seats, complete with second-row pillows, convey the Pinnacle model's luxury positioning.
The Pinnacle comes fully loaded with that leather, a panoramic glass sunroof, a rear-seat entertainment system with Amazon Fire TV compatibility, and a robust collection of infotainment and safety technologies. The interior layout is clean without losing quick access to primary functions through buttons and knobs, and storage for front and second-row occupants is remarkably generous.
Chrysler equips the Pinnacle with standard eight-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel. In addition to making it easy to find a comfortable position, the front chairs offer good comfort. Outward visibility is excellent, too, but from the driver's seat, the Pacifica feels more like a minivan than some rivals I've driven.
In standard specification, the Pacifica has Stow 'n Go second-row seats that collapse into the floor for storage. In the Pacifica Hybrid, the seat storage bins house the battery pack, so this version of the minivan has standard second-row seats. They are a blessing in disguise, proving more comfortable because they feel wider, don't have an extreme bottom cushion angle, and can slide forward and back. These are all compromises with the Stow 'n Go seats.
Most adults will likely fit into the third-row seat without any trouble. Larger people may struggle to get back there, but the seat is supportive and plenty of legroom exists. The test vehicle also had third-row side window shades. However, like those in the second row, they don't cover all the window glass, so bright light can still shine past the shades and into shorter passengers' eyes.
As you might expect, in addition to carrying passengers, the Pacifica Hybrid is adept at hauling cargo. Behind the third-row seat, the minivan has a deep well accommodating full-size suitcases loaded upright. The total volume behind this seat is 32.3 cubic-feet.
You can easily collapse and fold the third-row seats into the storage well using one hand. With those stowed away, the Pacifica Hybrid carries four people and 87.5 cu-ft of cargo, providing enough space for a family road trip. If you remove the second-row seats, the Pacifica Hybrid's maximum cargo capacity is 140.5 cu-ft, more than you get with most full-size SUVs.
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: The Technology
Chrysler equips the Pacifica Hybrid with a Uconnect 5 infotainment system that benefits from regular over-the-air updates. It features a 10.1-inch touchscreen display and provides dual-phone Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connectivity. It also offers SiriusXM (SXM) 360L satellite radio and SXM Guardian connected services with access to a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. A navigation system is available as well.
Generally, I find Uconnect 5 to be a responsive system with an intuitive user interface. The voice-recognition system works well but can stumble occasionally. For example, when you request directions to the nearest hospital, the technology doesn't parse its database just for hospitals. Also, the screen size is smaller than expected, compared with other modern vehicles.
My test vehicle had wireless smartphone charging, a FamCam rear-seat camera view designed to show parents who's participating in back-seat squabbles, and a dual touchscreen rear-seat entertainment system with Amazon Fire TV connectivity.
My teenagers ignored the onboard screens, preferring their hand-held devices. The Pinnacle's 20-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system sounds good but is a little bass heavy with all settings centered. Nevertheless, I found it supplied clarity at half volume.
In addition to the FamCam system, the test vehicle had a surround-view camera to make parking easier. ParkSense front and rear parking sensors with automatic rear stop are also handy, but because the Pacifica slammed itself to a halt each time I tried to exit my driveway, I had to turn it off. My test vehicle also had semi-autonomous parking assist for parallel and perpendicular spaces.
Chrysler equips the Pacifica Hybrid with many of the advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS) you expect to find on a modern minivan. However, it is a relatively basic package that lacks newer features such as lane-centering assist or a hands-on semi-autonomous driving system. Some people prefer that, but others could view such omissions as Chrysler falling behind.
During the evaluation of the driver-assistance systems the Pacifica does have, I learned the adaptive cruise control can brake too aggressively when other vehicles cut into the gap ahead and accelerate too slowly when traffic ahead clears from the path.
This behavior can cause aggravation to the driver in moderate traffic. However, the lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist systems worked unobtrusively when set to their medium sensitivity. I had to intervene on only one occasion.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Pacifica Hybrid gets a five-star overall crash-test rating but with four-star ratings for frontal-impact protection and rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Pacifica a Good rating in most crashworthiness assessments. Unfortunately, in a new moderate overlap frontal-impact test, the vehicle earns a Marginal rating.
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: The Drive
Chrysler equips the Pacifica Hybrid with a terrific plug-in hybrid powertrain based on a 3.6-liter V6 engine. It pairs with a dual-motor electric variable transmission (EVT) and a 16-kWh battery pack to power the Pacifica Hybrid's front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available as it is on the standard Pacifica.
A regenerative braking system helps capture energy and recharge the battery as you drive. The system does not offer driver-selected modes such as Electric, Hybrid, or E-Save. Instead, the default mode is electric only, unless the battery lacks a proper charge or the power demand requires the gasoline V6, such as when driving uphill or accelerating hard to merge onto a freeway.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pacifica Hybrid provides an estimated 32 miles of electric-only driving and 30 mpg when the gasoline V6 does all the heavy lifting. On an 80.9-mile evaluation drive, starting with a fully charged battery, the Pacifica Hybrid traveled 33.1 miles before reaching its minimum state of charge. However, the V6 engine did activate for 1.4 miles of travel, so the battery alone supplied 31.7 miles of driving.
For the 80.9 miles, the Pacifica Hybrid averaged 37.6 mpg, accumulating 48 miles of electric driving and 32.9 miles using gas. How did that happen? As you drive, the regenerative braking system captures energy and recharges the battery pack. For example, during a mountain descent, the battery recharged to 10% and immediately went to work powering the Pacifica until it again reached its minimum state of charge.
Overall, the Pacifica Hybrid's powertrain is terrific. Keep it plugged in like I did and you should accumulate most of your miles on electricity unless you're on a road trip. You can even program the vehicle to charge during off-peak hours to save money. In addition, you don't need to think about how you want to use this powertrain, deciding between electric, hybrid, or gas-engine-only operation. It just works. All you need to do is plug it in overnight and, eventually, refill the fuel tank.
Power output measures 260 horsepower, 27 fewer ponies than the standard Pacifica. However, the immediate torque from the dual-motor EVT makes up for that loss and supplies satisfying acceleration.
In addition, powertrain operation is smooth and seamless, which also describes the driving experience. Chrysler dials in plenty of compliance in the ride, but this doesn't come at the expense of handling with a hint of athleticism. With the added weight of the electric motors and battery pack low in the vehicle, the Pacifica Hybrid displays a relatively flat cornering attitude.
Better yet, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid's regenerative braking system is excellent. The pedal feels natural underfoot, and when driving in traffic, the brakes don't grab upon application or as the minivan comes to a stop.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, the smooth seamlessness baked into the Pacifica Hybrid makes it dull to drive. So, while I am impressed with the effortless efficiency of this sizable people and cargo hauler, saving money at the gas pump is the primary reward in driving one.
Is the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid a Good Minivan?
Family life can be challenging enough without introducing unnecessary expenses or added distractions. Minivans help to simplify the daily grind with a compelling blend of comfort, utility, and efficiency. Plus, their sliding side doors are terrific when you have kids and must maneuver in cramped parking lots.
There are just four minivans available in the U.S. The Chrysler Pacifica competes with the Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival, and Toyota Sienna, each model intended to offer something unique to the segment to win you over. However, the Pacifica is the only one available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, bringing the potential to save you money in the long run.
In addition, you may qualify for a $7,500 federal income tax credit, which effectively reduces the base price of the Pacifica Hybrid to the mid-$40,000s.