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.