Pedro Arrais review: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid goes easy on gas

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With the addition of an electric motor, Chrysler has created the 2019 Pacifica Hybrid, the world’s only plug-in electric vehicle that is also a minivan.

Chrysler has a long history with the minvan. Others have come and gone over the years, but your local Chrysler dealership is still the go-to place if you are looking to carry the maximum number of occupants.

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The reason Chrysler has always been on the forefront of minivan sales is that it has always been innovative, such as second row seats that are able to fold up and disappear under the floor with one simple motion. So it comes as no surprise that the company chose to use the Pacifica as the basis for electrification.

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is available in three trim levels, starting at $50,695 for the Touring Plus. There is also the Touring L and the Limited, at $56,195, which I drove.

Like all Pacificas, the hybrid starts off with a 3.6-litre V-6 gas engine. But instead of the Otto-cycle (the one that is in most conventional vehicles), it gets the more fuel-efficient Atkinson-cycle engine.

Most manufacturers don’t use Atkinson-cycle engines because they produce less power, but in a hybrid it is desirable, as the electric motor usually makes up for the deficit.

The Pacifica Hybrid also ditches the regular minivan’s nine-speed automatic in favour of an electric continuously variable transmission.

All Pacifica Hybrids are front-wheel drive.

Chrysler could have stopped there, but instead chose to go one step further — equipping the vehicle with a 16-kWh battery and making it a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

With a Level 2 charger, the 6.6-kWh onboard charger fills the battery in about two hours. With a household charger, it takes about 13 hours.

Fully charged, you can expect approximately 53 km of all-electric driving based on a 2.6 litres equivalent per 100 km fuel economy rating for city driving. Along with the gas tank, you get a total of 911 kilometres of total driving range, according to Chrysler, based on gas consumption of 7.3 L/100 km in the city and 7.2 L/100 km on the highway.

Once all the juice is used up, it reverts to being a gasoline-electric hybrid, automatically switching between gas or electricity. Even if the battery pack is fully depleted while on the road, the vehicle will keep recharging the battery through regenerative braking.

Once it builds up enough juice, it will revert back to EV mode again.

You get 261 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque with both the gasoline and electric motors — more than enough to move seven passengers and their cargo with ease.

Keep in mind that, unlike most SUVs, a minivan’s third-row seating is more than suitable for adults. Cargo capacity is between 915 and 3,979 litres, which is best in class.

Some convenience is sacrificed. The second row of seats — which typically fold into the floor — are fixed, as the space has been used to house the vehicle’s batteries. The third-row seats still fold flat.

In the city, the Pacifica is serene due to a absence of sound when operating on electricity. Depending on the load, the electric motor is used whenever possible and the gas engine cuts in when called upon.

All the Hybrid models are quite plush, as they sit at the top of the model hierarchy. The Limited model comes with niceties such as Nappa leather seats with heating and ventilation, power everything, a 8.4-inch infotainment system with navigation and a 506-watt sound system.

The second-row occupants even get a 10-inch seatback-mounted screen (with touchpad remotes and wireless headphones) for all their own games or movies.

A tri-pane panoramic sunroof that spans the Pacifica’s body length is an option.

The Pacifica Hybrid lends itself to long-distance driving, with a soft ride and a commanding driving position. The steering is light and accurate.

At between $50,000 and $60,000, the Pacifica Hybrid is certainly not cheap. While it is not suitable for those looking for the ultimate in fuel economy, it is certainly worth considering if you are in the market.

The savings in fuel over the years of ownership, depending on how far you drive, is one factor. But in B.C., the Hybrid also is eligible for a provincial incentive of $5,000 with a cash purchase, or up to $3,335 off on a two-year lease.

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