Savvy drivers already know that the unheralded minivan is in fact one of the most useful and versatile additions to any family, whether you've got 2yo twins, tween sports fanatics, or a teenager who's constantly asking for a ride to the mall with a half-dozen of their best friends. Yes, Sports Utility Vehicles offer much of the same benefit, but the interior layout of the two vehicles is dramatically different: Pop out a middle seat from the minivan and it's suddenly quite expansive with plenty of space for pets to sprawl out. You can't really do that in an SUV, however, nor can you easily pop out seats to gain additional cargo space.
My personal history with minivans includes a Chrysler Town & Country and a Toyota Sienna, and I've had a chance to evaluate the Chrysler Pacifica minivan (the successor to the Town & Country) a couple of times over the years. Every time I've been impressed and really liked the design, comfort, and amenities. This time it was a 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD S that the company loaned me for a week, and with good timing: I had to get some big, awkward window screens to the repair shop. With the interior space, transportation was an absolute breeze. The Pacifica was in Velvet Red Pearl with a Black interior:
Check out a used car lot and you'll find that car manufacturers have really stepped up their color game, particularly with red. I expect it's a new approach to painting, but like many other red cars (I'm particularly fond of Mazda red) the Pacifica was beautiful with the sun gleaming on its highly polished surfaces. If you're familiar with the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica, however, you'll find that there aren't many significant updates for the 2023 model year. This means the lineup is comprised of the Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle. I really like that last name because where do they go from that point? Outer Space? Galactic?
Down at the bottom of the lineup, the Touring model with few amenities starts at $38K and the Pinnacle has a base MSRP of $54,780. While there's so much to like about the Pacifica, affordability is most definitely not one of its strong points. Fold down that third row of seats (which is done with a button push. No hassle, even the kids can manage the task) and there's soooo much room:
The third row passengers get their controls, charging ports, and cup holders too:
You may never end up in the back seat but it's good to know that your kids have places to safely stow their Frappuccinos and charge their all-important smartphones. And while we're in the back area, here are the buttons and controls that allow you to manage the seats without any huffing and puffing:
Surprisingly, there wasn't a 110V power outlet, but the 12V DC above can work with a simple adapter you can buy (maybe $25 on Amazon) to solve the problem. The other buttons seem a strange place to adjust the third row seat angles, but remember they're redundant with the controls intended for the passengers themselves. Chrysler's been selling these Pacificas for a long time, there aren't many amenities that aren't beautifully implemented.
Thankfully, Chrysler doesn't double down on the controls and switches, so the dashboard is not overwhelming for the driver. And did I mention that there's a "kidcam" feature where you can peek at what's happening in the last row on the infotainment system? Nice, because if you're going to yell "do I need to pull over?!" then it's good to know that something's going on, right?
The Pacifica Limited also includes lots of parking smarts and other safety features, some of which show up along the top row of the climate control area:
I'm not a huge fan of the gear knob, but with an automatic - and this minivan was outfitted with a 9-speed transmission - once you move into the correct gear, it's not like you need to pay any further attention to your driving gear. Speaking of which, the engine is a 3.6L V6 24-valve VVT with start/stop technology. The latter confused one of my passengers at a particularly long stoplight, causing them to ask if the car had died. It hadn't, it was just (ostensibly) saving a little bit of gas at each stop.
I did find the overhead controls a bit odd, however:
What I hadn't seen before was that the left front controller opened up the sunroof, while the right controller was how you closed it back up again. A curious design choice versus having both controls on the very same unit. Nothing that takes too long to figure out, but it's good to know if you rent a Pacifica.
No surprise, the main gauge display is colorful and futuristic:
The 2023 Pacifica is rated for 17/25 and I saw about 22.5mpg with a week of casual driving. The drive experience was quite nice too, with a decent amount of oomph. Perhaps surprisingly, the Pacifica is also rated with a 3,600-pound towing capacity, though Chrysler does not recommend towing if you have the plug-in hybrid edition. Plenty enough for a jetski or a small teardrop trailer, but with the seats down, there's plenty of room in the van itself for a couple of adults to unroll a stashed mattress and car camp in a safe spot.
Not much else to share. I really enjoyed driving the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Limited and though I never encountered any bad weather, definitely endorse the AWD and traction control options. If you're curious, the "S" Appearance package basically upgrades all of the subtle details: Black exterior mirrors. vehicle-color door handles, black interior accents, anodized ink badging, the black front grille, the rear fascia, and the all-important "S" logo on the bucket seats. A much more expensive option was the second-row "theater family group", which adds flip-up screens for the second-row passengers, the automatic seat stowage feature discussed earlier, the upgraded 760-watt Harmon-Kardon speaker system (with subwoofer!), and a Blu-Ray player and, somewhere, a 115V power outlet.
All in all, the Pacifica remains my favorite choice for a luxury minivan. If you like the design and interior flexibility over an SUV, it's hard to beat this mainstay of the Chrysler lineup. My personal preference is the PHEV plug-in hybrid, but there's a lot to like about this solid entrant into the Best Family Car competition, and if you do have twin 2-year old kids, well, good luck to you! Now about that price...
2023 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD S Appearance minivan with 3.6L V6 24V VVT engine and 9-speed automatic transmission. MSRP: $50,650. Options included: Premium Paint, Safety Sphere, S Appearance Package, Uconnect Theater Family Group, Trailer-Tow Group with 3,600 pound rating. AS DRIVEN: $59,520.
Disclosure: Chrysler loaned me the Pacifica for a week in return for this candid writeup. Thanks, Chrysler!