I respect a car enthusiast who can be wholly content with their current fleet. I respect it, but I cannot do it. My eye is inveterately wandering. I already wrote up all the arguments I made to my family to trade our trusty Subaru Forester for a Ford Maverick. After more than a week with a Pacifica Hybrid, I’ve been persuaded to get a van.
Before I was Publisher of The Autopian I was a producer at a production company called TangentVector, which makes a lot of the car stuff you see these days (shout out “Win the Weekend“). I spent a lot of time on the road and sampled just about every rental vehicle out there. Given a choice, we pretty much always rented Pacificas (or Caravans or Voyagers). I’ve driven the vans across deserts, over mountains, and through cities.
Of the 100 or so vehicles I’ve driven on race tracks, a solid third of those are probably Mopar minivans (Indy, COTA, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock, Daytona, Sebring, Pikes Peak, to name a few). They get the job done.
Here are all the successful (and less successful) arguments I made to try and persuade the family to swap our Forester for the Pacifica.
Full disclosure: Chrysler gave me the minivan and a tank of gas. They let me put 1,700 miles on it; that was nice of them)
Argument One: It’s More Efficient
At its core, the Pacifica Hybrid is a FWD plug-in hybrid minivan that features a 3.6-liter V6 and a 16 kWh lithium ion battery. Compare that to the 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated flat-four in my Subaru Forester. The Pacifica Hybrid can travel an EPA estimated 32 miles on nothing but battery power (assuming you’re a little light on the throttle). My Forester can go zero miles on pure electric mode because, well, it doesn’t have one.
Driving the Pacific Hybrid around town for my normal commute (city driving), I found the Pacifica mostly stayed in electric-only mode. For the type of commute I have, I think I could keep it in electric mode most of the time. This is quite cool.
But what about when you need to go longer distances? I drove the Pacifica to Michigan and back with family and toys in the back and returned an average 31.5 MPG, with 250 miles driven in EV mode. If I were more diligent with the charging I’m sure I could have done better, but with regenerative braking I typically had enough EV mode to get me where I needed to go when exiting the highway. Even better, when fully charged you can cover an estimated 520 miles on a single tank. That’s a lot of miles.
My Forester is EPA rated at 24 MPG city/31 MPG highway, but fully laden I’m lucky to average 30 MPG on the same trip. Of course, my Forester was much cheaper and is also all-wheel drive.
How well did this argument do? 9/10
Argument Two: It’s Cushy As Hell
To paraphrase the great Lee Iacocca: If there’s a better luxury car for $58,067, buy it. Because I’m a fancy autojournalist, I definitely requested the Gucciest version, with the little quilted pillows, suede headliners, and 20 Harmon Kardon speakers. The Pinnacle is the premium trim and has almost every option box ticked. The one extra detail spec’d on this particular car was the $495 Fathom Blue Pearl exterior paint. I highly recommend this option and, frankly, this is the most paint for the least money I think I’ve ever seen on a car.
Both front seats are quilted Nappa leather (Nappa is known for its leather!) in a lovely, rich orange color. They’re also heated and ventilated. The center console features a big 10.1-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. There are screens with individual Amazon Fire TVs built in for both rear passengers in the captains chairs. The dual-pane panoramic sunroof goes on for days.
My Forester was a great deal. I’m not gonna lie. We got the Premium version for $25,000 and it included heated seats and a sunroof. It’s all the car we really need. There’s no CarPlay, but otherwise it’s fine. With a small child I might prefer cloth because I hate having to worry about taking care of leather. Bette’s old enough, though, so she’s less spill prone and big enough for the good life.
How well did this argument do? 2/10
Argument Three: It’s Better For Our (Imagined) Current Lifestyle
We have one kid and no pets and therefore the Subaru Forester is exactly right-sized for us. When we go on road trips there’s plenty of room for everything we need. When we go camping it can get a little tight, but there’s always enough space.
But look how much more room we’d have with this! There’s no parent math when it’s time to take Bette and her friends to an event (“Jimmy goes in your car, Esther goes with me, uhhh I guess I’ll ride with Franklin”), we can just always have everyone come with us! When I drive my parents around someone always has to squeeze in next to my daughter’s carseat. No more!
Even with the fancy captains chairs this baby has 165 cubic feet of interior volume. There are apartments in New York that are smaller than that!
We also like to do road trips all the time and the Forester is fine. It’s fine. The Pacifica, purely as a way to chug miles, is completely unparalleled. You can take everything you need in it, it’s front-wheel drive and tracks super straight on interstates, and has a low center of gravity that keeps it well planted for curvier roads. The combined 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque aren’t earth-shattering. It’s slower than the Forester. You won’t care.
It’s heavy, of course. We drove straight into a blizzard and the combination of the 5,010-lb curb weight and the mediocre OEM all-season tires meant that it was slipping and sliding on slushy roads. The Forester is obviously superior here.
How well did this argument do? 3/10 – My wife’s view is that we should have the least amount of car we need and, honestly, I probably agree with her.
Argument Four: Minivans Are Cool
Minivans are cool again. For about 20 years, minivans were so ubiquitous and so deeply associated with a sort of middle class bourgeois lifestyle that they became somewhat undesirable. To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra: Minivans are so popular that no one buys them anymore.
Crossovers and SUVs have overtaken the minivan in the same way the minivan usurped the station wagon. Guess what? The stigma is off. Just get a van. They’re useful! They’re counter-culture! From a purely packaging standpoint they are extremely efficient. David drove one around Europe and it made him the most popular person on the continent.
If I had a choice between a super nice seven-passenger luxury SUV (let’s say an Alpina XB7) and a Pinnacle Hybrid, I’d take the Pinnacle any day. Hell, I’d take the base Touring L. It’s comfortable. It’s efficient. You don’t have to worry about scratching those giant wheels.
The time for the minivan is now.
How well did this argument do? 1/10
Unfortunately, a combination of cost (even the base hybrid Touring L is $49,323 delivered) and practicality (we don’t currently have a place to charge it) are keeping this one a pipe dream. If another kid were on the way or our income suddenly changed I think I’d probably be able to make a better argument.
I’d still highly recommend this particular vehicle, in any trim and with any drivetrain, as superior to your average three-row crossover or SUV. The quite good Kia Telluride is probably the vehicle most competitive with the Pacifica Hybrid, as weird as that sounds, and I get why people buy the Kia. The Telluride is a handsome vehicle. For the price, it’s hard to beat (a nicely loaded SX-Prestige X Pro is only $54,350 delivered).
But why even have the third row? It’s useful-ish, but nowhere near as useful as the Pacifica. The Telluride is also way less efficient and, while slightly shorter, can’t offer the utility of the Pacifica around town.
We’ll probably stick with the Forester a little longer because it’s paid off and just works.
Every Argument I Made To Trade Our Crossover For A Ford Maverick
For Just Two Years You Could Buy A Practical Mazda Sedan That Hit 60 MPH In Under 6 Seconds: Holy Grails
The 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited Was The Trackhawk Of The 1990s: Holy Grails
For Just A Single Year You Could Buy A Manual VW Wagon With GTI Power: Holy Grails
The Ford Focus Kona Mountain Bike Edition Has To Be The Only Car Recalled For A Bicycle Problem
Absolutely swallows cargo, great seating, tons of room, comfortable, tons of space, sliding doors never ding anyone, invisible to cops, good gas mileage, ok pickup, absolutely drive/handle like hot garbage.
I covet them, and love to rent them, but will likely never buy one. Especially at that price 😀
Ha! That’s damn near the exact spec that’s floating around the Texas press fleet. I was surprised with the cushyness of it, too. I think the wow-factor of the diamond-stitched peanut butter leather interior might’ve convinced Mom’s neighbor to have a look at it, at least. Two screens in the back and I could put on “Beavis and Butthead” to retroactively spite my parents…as a mid-30s burnout, but STILL. Minivans are, indeed, pimpin’ now.
The real stunner for me was the color, though. Goshdarnit, that’s a proper mid-’90s dark metallic teal that’s straight off of nearly every early Explorer ever sold. It’s spectacular. I’m also a cloth person, and I’d want something inside that doesn’t sear my thighs as much in our WHY AM I ALREADY IN SHORTS IN FEBRUARY RIGHT AFTER A DAMN ICE STORM ever-worsening hellscape, but my gosh, anyone who doesn’t get that dark teal on the outside is 100% doing it wrong.
me: bring back teal
Ask Your Doctor About Stellantis: yeah, we can do that
(I will also go on *at length* about the goodness of Ferrari’s ’90s-vibes-all-day Abu Dhabi blue if given the opportunity. Frickin’ a, hand it to ’em, that whole company knows how to do the good colors.)
“If another kid were on the way…”
“…and that’s the story of you, Pacifica Hardigree!”
We have owned 6 or 7 minivans in the past. One Ford Deathstar and the rest were Chrysler products. When the kids were young (we had 3), I removed one of the bucket seats from the middle row so we could access the back row and the remaining seat in the middle row easily.
Unfortunately, when we had to replace the last minivan (a fully loaded Town and Country), my wife was tired of driving in a big old minivan all by herself and insisted on an SUV. It turns out the SUV we bought was 3″ longer than the minivan was.
I still preferred driving the minivan to the SUV.
I’m surprised you prefer cloth to leather with the kids… stuff wipes right off of leather but soaks in to cloth.
“a nicely loaded SX-Prestige X Pro is ONLY $54,350” referring to the Kia Telluride
Sorry Matt – there is NO vehicle that stickers for $55K that should be described as “ONLY”
This is madness! People with middle incomes are making $800 car payments for 8-10 years then left with a piece of crap
i don’t get the love for this minivan. I had one for a rental last year, and it was adequate at best. It was a loaded model too, with all the bells and whistles, but it was really numb when driving, and don’t get me started on the turn radius when trying to park. I always had to make a few maneuvers to get into parking spots. I’ll take our 2015 odyssey over a new pacifica any day. It’s a car that always hides it’s size and weight.
Rented a Pacifica for work a few years back for several months – and I sort of goofed on it at first, I totally loved the thing by the end – for all the reasons Matt mentioned above.
Don’t think we’ll ever buy one, as I really can’t see paying that much for a FCA product…but if Toyota made a Sienna Prime, I’d think awfully hard about it.
Minivans are indeed cool! We opted for a 2022 Sienna hybrid. We’re a family of 4, so a smaller car would certainly be fine for us, but with a minivan, the middle row is usually pushed way back so it’s like riding in a limo for the kids. Our other car is a 2022 Model Y and it’s everything the Sienna isn’t – fast and techy.
I’ve tried to convince my wife to let me sell her 2013 lx570 and buy a Sienna Xle. The lx was bought used for a great deal right before car prices went nuts and is paid off and could probably sell it for 33 to 35k. New minivan would be in the 45k range of I could find one. I think that’s quite and upgrade for 10k. Heck we’d probably make up that 10k in gas savings in a few years. She’ll have none of it. I don’t really blame her as the lx is amazing and I love it too. But minivans are so nice for the road trips and hauling the kids around. I had a late 90s Plymouth voyager minivan in my early 20s. What a great vehicle. Camping. Going out with friends. It excelled at all of it.
Vans are sooo huge in america. The Pacifica is 5.08m. I had a Renault Espace of 4.66m and as an adult I could travel in the third row. Granted, there wasn’t much space for things behind, but for that you could always buy a Grand Espace (4.86m) or use it as a 6-seater instead of 7. I don’t get why americans never had normally sized Minivans whereas you have some Mid-size SUVs smaller inside than an Espace (like the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5) and they sold well.
I agree, I wish there had been more smaller vans for sale here. I think what did it for the American market was that Chrysler was able to sell their extended-length vans so cheaply compared to everyone else. For most of the 1990s, competitors had less space, less power, or a higher price – or all 3. Or, vans that had the space and power like the Chevy Astro and Ford Aerostar weren’t as carlike, those being truck-based or RWD. Chrysler offered tons of choices including multiple V6 options, but it wasn’t hard to find a version that was a better buy even just going by the spec sheet. So, in order to beat them, everyone just tried to copy the formula, with more space and power.
Chrysler did try a short-length version of the Town & Country in the 3rd gen when it was the more luxurious option, but it didn’t really have much success. At some point later Chrysler research also showed that most people buying the short-wheelbase vans were doing so because of the price, not because they really wanted a smaller van – so they reasoned they too could just sell the long-wheelbase van for less money. As a result they dropped to just the one long version for the 5th gen in 2008, and the Dodge Journey was intended to fill in for those that did want a smaller, 3-row utility vehicle.
When my parents bought their first minivan, my mother wanted a smaller van and at Chrysler they were looking at the short-length versions. We ended up with a Grand Voyager, but I’m not sure if it was intentional or accidental. It didn’t help that by that point you couldn’t get rear air conditioning on the short wheelbase vans too, so being in the southeast U.S. that didn’t help.
The Canadian market (which usually prefers smaller vehicles anyway) had a higher share of the short-length Chryslers I think, but enough so that GM offered the short-wheelbase version of their final vans almost exclusively in Canada and not the U.S. (except for a couple years with a base Chevy Uplander). Though Kia briefly sold the short-length Sedona/Carnival here in base form too.,
The 4.61m Mazda 5 was sold here for almost a decade. You could even get it with a manual transmission!
I talked my mother-in-law into a first-gen Pacifica Hybrid base in 2018. Besides a few Fiat/Stellantis recalls, it’s been fantastic. I agree, PHEVs are great for most people, especially my MIL. She’s now retired, and around town, she’s fully on electric. When she needs to travel away from town, having the gasoline backup to go long distances is great. Literally the best of both worlds.
I am a family of three also, with a few dogs. We take the Pacifica Hybrid to Florida every year for vacation. Gets about 28-30 mpg driving through Atlanta traffic and feels-like-an-oven southern Georgia. Peppy and comfortable on the interstate. When we get to the beach town, plug it into the condo, and use electricity around town. Easy.
Can confirm, the middle seats don’t stow, but they are removable. They are REALLY heavy. The rear seat does fold stow, but that makes this vehicle an enclosed pickup truck, as long as you cover the floor with something to protect it.
Too bad the hybrid is a V6 and not an I4. Then it would be even better. The Sienna is a 4-cylinder hybrid, and it’s a Toyota, which is much better than anything from Chrysler. In addition, the Sienna is also available with AWD.
Also, Chrysler minivans are known for shitty transmissions, even compared to the Subaru CVT 😀
The Forester has a better sunroof too!
I’d rather just see a LWB Forester with a third seat than an Outback or Ascent. Subaru should make that.
I don’t think Sienna has the folding seats either.
As a multi variate optimization problem, I see BEV minivan as the game changer.
Folding as in “Stow type” seats
In the Sienna Hybrid, you can’t remove the middle row seats at all. (well, not without a bunch of tools and time). I think the reason is the seats have airbags and are wired.
Correct. The middle row seats are not easily removable. That said, I haven’t once needed to remove them. I don’t haul things.
I have made many of these arguments to anyone who will listen. I have a 1008 Odyssey and love it still. My Passport is better in the snow, but I’ll take the van the rest of the time. Lots of room for me up front – love not having a big console digging into my leg. TONS of storage cubbies, including a spot in the front door big enough to hold a 750ml bottle of booze (unopened, of course). Add to it the huge cargo bay with a low lift height, easy driving, great visibility, etc. etc. and it is only people’s ego that stops them. My younger brother with three kids and zero coolness held off for years and finally got an Odyssey and loves it. Chrysler reliability kept me from pulling the Passport trigger. Also, the Stow and Go seats are brilliant but uncomfortable after 30 minutes or so.
My partner was dead set against a minivan before we started shopping. I told her we would buy whatever vehicle she wanted but part of any test drive she had to climb in and out of the 3rd row. We do stuff with her parents and our two kids almost every weekend so a 3rd row was mandatory. She ended up liking how the Pacifica drove as well or better than anything else we tried (including the XC90 that was her choice before we started), but the 3rd row test is what sealed the deal.
Same deal here. My wife did not want a minivan, but I insisted we test drive a Sienna along with her preferred SUVs.
I got her to change her mind thanks to our stroller. She hated breaking it down to put in the trunk of our car. For those without kids, that means taking out all the stuff that accumulates in the basket under the seat, folding it, levering it into the trunk, and then reversing at the other end of your trip. When I popped the fully operational stroller into the area behind the third row of seats, she was sold.
Depending on your lifestyle, you might want to use bikes instead of strollers 🙂