Progress in the minivan segment normally moves slowly. Innovations such as the onboard vacuum and foldaway seats shake up the segment every now and again, but the status quo has not been seriously challenged in many years. That changes with the introduction of the Chrysler Pacifica, which takes a giant leap for minivan-kind.
One common complaint about minivans is the lackluster driving experience. Minivans are usually floaty, flexy things that flop over in turns, but the Pacifica actually isn’t bad in the twisties. At our Car of the Year program, associate editor Scott Evans said the Pacifica “handles quite well on the winding road.” Not only did he find it excellent for a minivan, but he also thought was better than some of the cars there. He went on to say the chassis was well-controlled and confident and that the van goes around corners surprisingly well. That’s a common theme as you flip through the notes from Car of the Year; many editors were surprised by the Pacifica’s handling performance.
We’ve liked the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in other Fiat Chrysler products, and with its 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, the engine is a good match for the Pacifica. The Pentastar is now backed by the automaker’s nine-speed automatic, and although that gearbox has had issues in the past, it’s much better here despite not being perfect. The transmission is constantly shifting and will occasionally shunt as it hustles through its many gears. The jolts are quick and not very jarring, however, and the payoff is acceleration that’s reasonably quick for such a heavy vehicle. Our Pacifica Touring scooted to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, which is nearly 1 second quicker than the last loaded 2017 Pacifica Limited we tested, and that one weighed 239 pounds more. Curiously, the Touring wasn’t as quick around the figure eight, taking 27.5 seconds to complete the course compared to the Limited’s 27.3 seconds. That’s still quicker than the rest of the class. It handily beats the Toyota Sienna SE (28.8 seconds), Honda Odyssey Elite (28.7 seconds), Nissan Quest LE (28.9 seconds), and the Kia Sedona SXL (28.0 seconds).
Read more on the Chrysler Pacifica from 2017 Car of the Year testing