I’ll admit I feel a little bad ragging upon Chrysler, which barely seems to be hanging on. The once-iconic marque is now reduced to selling two cars, the absolute minimum possible number that allows the use of the plural form of the word “car.” One of those cars is the Chrysler 300, which is being discontinued next year, and last had a significant update a dozen years ago, and even then it wasn’t really that much of a change, with the LD platform it’s based on being pretty damn close to the old LX platform from 2005. The 300 is a handsome old grandpa. But I want to talk about the Pacifica, their minivan, which I like, but which seems to have gotten a really unfortunate facelift. Is this punching down? I’m not even sure anymore.
I feel like even the text that comes up when you Google Chrysler is sad, because it’s overly generous with the plurals. It’s not Cars and Minivans, it’s a car and a minivan, singular, though there is a hybrid version of that minivan. Chrysler is really the Chryslerian Remnant at this point.
Here’s the thing about the Pacifica: I like the Pacifica! I think it’s a pretty fantastic minivan. I drove one back when it came out in 2017, and found it to be absolutely practical and appealing. And one of the things I liked best about it was the elegant front-end treatment.
I mean, look at it: it doesn’t feel like everything else out there. It emphasizes the width of the vehicle and it combines the lights and grille into a coherent whole with those swooping chrome strips that figure-8 around the grille and lights, and that same motif is repeated in the lower air intake and foglamp area.
I think the hybrid version worked the best because the grille mesh itself consisted of horizontal slats that echoed the shapes of the surrounding loops, and the whole thing feels elegant and flowing and cohesive. There’s even a touch of Art Nouveau in there, which is very uncommon to see even hinted at in a modern car. It’s a great look, and I’m sorry I haven’t noted my admiration for it more emphatically before.
The look seems to have grown from the ill-fated second-generation Chrysler 200’s front-end treatment:
Say what you will about the 200, if you can even be bothered to come up with any words to say about it, but it had a handsome face! This was a good look!
Unfortunately, around 2021 Chrysler decided that the Pacifica needed an update. As you can see, I haven’t exactly had my finger on the pulse of Chrysler goings-on. Instead of doing anything, you know, good, they changed the front end to look like this:
Way, to go, Chrysler. You just made 50% of the vehicles you have for sale worse looking, and, even worse, more boring. This front end gives the whole van a sour, displeased look, like it just smelled something foul or watched you walk out in jorts and Crocs and is not having it. It looks like a jerk now. Gone is the elegance and unusual grace of the previous front end, and in its place is this sourpuss punim.
In fact, it feels like a step backwards for Chrysler design; if the earlier, pre-facelift Pacifica borrowed from the second-generation Chrysler 200, this update seems to look like the first-gen one from 2011, with the separate, oblong-ish grille and wide lamps:
It’s just worse. Chrysler took the best part of their Pacifca and flushed it down the crapper. Chrysler may be a shell of what it once was, but they still need to hear this. Consider it tough love, or whatever. I think the brand has a chance for re-birth and renewed relevance, possibly with a new electric Airflow that’s a re-bodied version of the Citroën Ë-C4, but they’re not going to make it unless honest people like us sit them down and tell them the hard truths like this: they fucked up the Pacifica’s face.
[Ed note: While I see Jason’s point, and agree that the Pacifica is a great vehicle, the redesign doesn’t bother me. It looks a little more upscale and less early 2010s to me. – MH]
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