2017 Chrysler Pacifica Rental Review

 

Awww yeah, Bark Rental Review back in the hizzy! I’m so relieved that I don’t have to try to take decent photos. And what better way to kick it off than with the lot poison that is currently making CDJR dealers all across America sick? That’s right, today we’re talking about the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. I’ve had at least 3 different CDJR dealers in 3 different states tell me that the Pacifica is an overpriced floorplan anchor that they cannot move at any price.

“Nobody knows what the fuck a ‘Pacifica’ is,” they tell me. “I don’t know why they couldn’t just call it the Town & Country.” Then they mumble about the huge sticker price—although the Pacifica starts at around $28k, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with a Monroney under 40 large on a lot—and they ramble on about the death of the Chrysler brand (another topic for another time).

However, they’re missing one thing about the Pacifica. It’s quite good. No, better than good. It’s brilliant.

In fact, if I were to be asked to travel from coast-to-coast, Alex Roy-style, why, the Pacifica would be my very first choice. No joke. Why, you may ask? Let me count the ways.

First of all, surprisingly, this might be the best application yet of the Pentastar motor. Tuned for a so-close-to-300-it-might-as-well-be-300 287 horsepower and mated with the much-maligned 9-speed, the Pacifica is fucking fast. Fo rill. It will light up the fronts and squeal its way from naught to 60 in something that feels like just above 7 seconds. The low-end torque of the Pentastar inspired a fair bit of confidence each time I had to turn left from a dead stop into Atlanta traffic.

And while one doesn’t expect performance-style handling from a minivan, the Pacifica is not afraid of a curvaceous on-ramp or quick left turn through a yellow light. The ride is firm enough that there is minimal body roll through corners and curves, but soft enough to provide a pleasant cruising experience at other times.

Not only that, freeway driving is just straight-up simple. The power is available throughout the band, making 70-85 passing a breeze. And even though the Pacifica is a large vehicle, it drives like a much smaller one—it feels smaller than my Flex, to be certain. Visibility is excellent, both front and rear, and the side mirrors provided a clear view of surrounding vehicles.

Road noise is kept to a minimum. The Nexen tires are so quiet and yet so responsive that the best compliment I can give them is that I never thought of them once, which is unusual for me in a passenger vehicle. When I did step out of the cabin for a fuel stop, I was surprised to see that they were not Michelin/Bridgestone/BF Goodrich makes.

The driver’s seating is very good, allowing for 120 minute stints with no discomfort whatsoever. I found it easy and quick to adjust the seat to a position that worked for me.

Fuel mileage was about what I expected—a combined 20.4 MPG between Atlanta city driving and highway driving between the ATL and Columbus, Ga. Not bad for a vehicle of this size, and considering the rather heavy foot that I typically have, I expect that normal use would return something in the neighborhood of 22-23 combined.

I didn’t go full Alex Dykes and measure everything, but the cabin feels vast and spacious—even if there isn’t any more space than the competition, it feels like it’s more well organized. The 2nd row captain chairs are a vast improvement over what was found in the T&C (full disclosure—my mother-in-law has a 2005 Town & Country which I drive on occasion with the kiddos). Maneuvering to the third row does not require one to be a circus performer, either. There’s plenty of room between the captain’s chairs for one to make his way to the back of the bus.

As with all FCA reviews that I’ve done, I must repeat my utter fascination with and love for the Uconnect infotainment system. It’s simple to use, easy to read with my old eyes, and the associated sound system in the Pacifica is good enough for any but the most seasoned audiophiles to enjoy. I would like to have the option of using Apple CarPlay, but I don’t have extreme heartburn over its absence. The only drag about doing rental reviews is that I never get to use the navigation features of the cars, as every single rental agency disables them. Apple maps through the media functionality just doesn’t work as well as you’d like it to—I never found a way to get the volume of the navigation directions equal with the music.

Subjectively, I find the Pacifica to be a handsome car, superior to the Kia Sedona and on par with the Honda Odyssey. There’s a certain contour to the sides that suggests that this minivan was actually styled, rather than just produced. Certainly no man wishes for a minivan, but were I to find myself behind the wheel of a Pacifica for a week—as I did with this rental—I would have no reason to feel self-conscious about driving one (yes, I know that you’re so manly that you don’t care and you’ve been happily driving a 2003 Nissan Quest for years).

Oh, shit, I forgot to say something bad. Um. Let’s think. I didn’t like that gray color of the exterior. And the high-profile tires look a bit cheap on the smaller wheel sizes. That’s all I’ve got.

Overall, the Pacifica gets a solid 4.5/5 rating for me. I have no quantifiable reason for this rating. It just feels right. Much like the Pacifica itself. And the good news is that Chrysler has started throwing cash on the hood—at the time of this review, $2,250 plus 0% over 60 months is available on all new Pacificas.

So if you’re in the market for a minivan, I have a feeling that your local CDJR dealer will be more than motivated to help you get into one.

28 thoughts on “2017 Chrysler Pacifica Rental Review

  1. hank chinaski

    Nice review.
    I’ve become a fan of highish profile tires as the roads here decay into moonscapes. Dubs and rubber-band tires are noisy, harsh, fragile, tramlining, expensive bags of lose.

    Reply
  2. Sseigmund

    One of the most important things I want to know about a rental is how much heavy, bulky stuff can I put into the back cargo compartment. Next thing is how does said rental drive and handle with that space stuffed full to the roof? Does it have that weird dead fish electronic steering that will turn the other way when you change lanes without signaling like the Tahoe? Can you remove the back seats or are they permanent? It doesn’t look like it has much ground clearance either. $40K huh?

    Reply
  3. WhiskeyRiver

    I haven’t read a review on this vehicle anywhere. The fact that you like it is good enough to add it to my new car candidate list.

    Reply
    • Bark M Post author

      I’m surprised that you haven’t seen reviews. FCA flew journals AND THEIR FAMILIES to Disneyland for a weekend for the press launch. Suffice to say I wasn’t invited.

      Reply
  4. MrGreenMan

    That missing piece – the lost 0.5 in the rating – is because it is not sold as the Dodge Caravan.

    I am so far away from the demographic, but the dealer is absolutely right – it should be called a Town and Country.

    Can you get aftermarket wood appliqué? That styling line through the middle of the side may make that impossible.

    Reply
    • Felis Concolor

      The door handle and rocker panel style lines would make for an ideal guide to apply the Scotchcal; I can see that working very well.

      Reply
  5. BamaSkip

    Great review, Mark! I’m thinking of moving to the Pacifica from the wife’s ’12 T&C. Like the dealers, and some other commenters, I think moving to the Pacifica name was a mistake, very similar to the one Ford made years ago with the “Five Hundred” vs. the Taurus. It will slow the momentum of the sales and gets you little to no upside.

    Either way, these vehicles are under-rated and under-appreciated, for all the reasons you wrote. Lowers the potential sale price for me, so keep over-thinking things FCA!

    Reply
  6. Bigtruckseriesreview

    With all my experience with SRT and FCA, I can say that their product is better than it’s ever been in the history of Chrysler.

    #1 The Pentastar V6 is a powerful, mainstream engine conected to the 8 and 9 speeds – which are strong, mainstream automatic transmissions with virtually no issues

    #2 The interiors are strong, high quality plastic and soft vinyl/leather materials with just minor “stickon stickers” that suck in a few places (they really need to ditch that shit)

    #3 The UconectTouch 8″ is easily the best infotainment system on the market – connected to a class competitive safety nanny suite and automated parking tech.

    Overall, I’d say the Jeep SRT – while a huge money waster in terms of tires, oil and fuel costs, is the best product FCA has (better than the Hellcat).

    The Pacifica has a slightly more luxuryous feel than the Jeep because they took chances with brighter-color materials (reserved for the Jeep Overland Summit).

    FCA has a very good thing going here. I especially like the monitors for the kids to play games, but I really think they are better off providing inverters nd monitors so the user can define their entertainment: DVD player, PC, VCR, Nintendo Wii, PS4, Xbox, etc.

    It looks and feels like a giant Chrysler 200.

    I do think it would be nice if you could have an optional V8 5.7-L and AWD for this, but that’s not gonna happen. They are trying to kill the HEMI by 2020.

    Reply
  7. Bozi

    I am betting that packaging would not allow a V8 to fit in there and even if it could, do they have a FWD gearbox that could handle the torque and would anyone want a FWD-based V8 van?

    Reply
    • jz78817

      I remember when I was at DCX there was a project to try to put the LH 3.5 V6 into the RS (2001-2007) minivans. it was abandoned because it was such a tight fit serviceability would be a nightmare. the 3.3 and 3.8 were good enough because they moved the vans just fine and minivan buyers don’t give a rat’s ass where the camshaft is.

      Reply
  8. Joe Placebo

    Thank you Bark for a review of a non-sexy car. Love the rental reviews. Re closeup of the uConnect: that picture almost looks like a manufacturers beauty image with the nice reflections on the LCD! I know it’s not due to the no smoking stickers. You have taken good pictures all around.

    I have a 2006 Caravan and love it for what it is. Cheap to own and to fix and high seating position and flat floor. I’m considering my next minivan and this might be it- but only if it is 20% cheaper than an equivalent Odyssey. This car is still a Dodge, and a Honda is still a Honda.

    Reply
  9. Paul

    So is the nine speed automatic smooth in this application or still herky jerky?

    I agree it is a generally good looking vehicle, but something about rear exterior view doesn’t sit well with me.

    Overall seems like a really solid entry for the segment. At those prices may need zero percent financing extended to six years.

    Reply
  10. Ronnie Schreiber

    A good indicator of minivan popularity is what the orthodox Jewish families in my neighborhood drive. Before minivans (and fullsize Econoline type passenger vans if they have enough kids) it was fullsize GM station wagons. Chryslers were popular but many were supplanted by Toyota and Honda minivans and I’d say that these days the Odyssey is the orthodox matron’s vehicle of choice. When I go to pick up my grandson from preschool, there are lots of Odysseys. I am, however, seeing an increasing number of Pacificas.

    Reply
  11. N3TRUN

    Great review and perfect timing. I was excited to reserve one of these for our upcoming family vacation in a week but am only seeing Dodge Caravans at Enterprise and Dollar. Hertz has the Quest (didn’t realize it was still being made). Any advice who has these in stock? I’ll be flying into MCO (Orlando,FL).

    Reply
  12. MLS

    I rent cars rather frequently and have never encountered a disabled navigation system. In my experience (mainly with National), if the vehicle is equipped with navigation, it works.

    Reply
  13. Nickoo

    It’s time for the 3 spoke wheel to go. No functional reason to have that third spoke, all it does it take away potential hand positions…If you’re driving 100+ miles on the open road, it’s nice to have options.

    Reply
    • Charles

      Steering wheel stiffness matters a lot for road feedback and controllability. In FSAE our team swapped around wheels between cars, and whenever I drove I clearly preferred the all-carbon-fiber wheel we made for the 2011 car over the COTS padded steel or aluminum wheels. A stiffer wheel has less backlash and less effort wasted in winding up a spring.

      If I were allowed to design a new one from scratch I would go with a deep-dish wheel with spokes at 10, 2, and 6. This would be stiff and strong in all three planes, and allow you to drive with your hands at 9 and 3 without endangering yourself with the airbag. It would be made in two pieces from carbon fiber, bonded together to form closed sections, then wrapped with thin cloth tape.

      Reply
        • Charles

          The three spokes of the steel wheel were a little less than 1/8″ thick and had holes drilled in them taking them down to 1/4″ on either side. It was easy to feel the difference in stiffness between the CFRP and steel wheels fore-aft or in fast corners at high wheel load.

          I don’t think you have to be that sensitive to feel the difference – try driving an old car with a two-spoke and then swapping a three or four spoke wheel on.

          Reply
  14. SavageATL

    My ’06 Caravan got T-boned in an accident last March with 232,000 miles so I started shopping for a replacement.

    For the record, I’m a single guy who turned 41 this year. In terms of bang for the buck, if you are going to get one do it all vehicle, a minivan is it. Put the seats up and it’s a party bus, fold the seats down or take them out and it’s a truck, with covered, secured, and dry loading. Or you can fit a combination of people and things. I used to use it at least once a month to load large pieces of furniture, washer/dryer, 2000 lbs of dirt, impromptu road trip with the friends, etc. I really do not understand the minivan hatred. Cos you don’t look less stupid buying a Tahoe which is smaller inside, bigger outside, handles like a bouncy house, and you cannot fit adults in the third row?

    I looked at the outgoing Caravan, the Pacifica, the Sienna, and the Odyssey. The Caravan was tempting on price; the American Value Edition was something like $18. But it did feel rattly and old, but reasonably powerful. I drive about 750-1000 miles in a week so I spend enough time in a car that the price difference is acceptable.

    The Sienna was floppy and uncoordinated. It did not feel well put together and was EXPENSIVE, about 30 in the base model version.

    The Odyssey was nice, fairly athletic, well put together, and smooth. My excellent experience with the Caravan gave a Chrysler product a slight edge. Hondas have better resale value, but then I’m going to drive the car until it has no resale value . . . a lot of back and forth. The base model does not have convenient floor bins and I had problems with nudging the transmission selector out of gear when I reached to adjust the radio.

    The Pacifica was by far the best of the bunch. I liked the dial shifter, although I don’t know really what was wrong with the plain old fashioned column shifter. The cowl is a couple of inches lower than the Odyssey and competition, the 8 passenger seating option leaves a great aisle so elderly parents can go back to the third row, the 300 lb difference between old and new model made the new car much more athletic, it was quieter, rode best with fewest vibrations, and was athletic. The price though . . .Chrysler’s reputation is just not where they can sell a 28K base model minivan. It needs to undercut Honda significantly to make a dent in the market. The price thing really ended up stopping me from buying a new minivan and I decided to buy an investment condo and a 1989 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser which is getting an LS swap.

    Reply

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