Infotainment upgrade, mileage-boosting tech could be on tap for 2018 Chrysler Pacifica

2018 Chrysler Pacifica

2018 Chrysler Pacifica

What changes will make the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica different?

Count on new paint colors and higher sticker prices for the second model year of Chrysler’s latest minivan design. Consider the possibility of an upgraded infotainment system and the even greater chance of an engine stop/start feature for the gasoline-only model. Pacifica debuted as a 2017 model in gas-only form. It was joined during the model year by the Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in that’s America’s first gas/electric minivan.

Pacifica replaced the 2008-2016 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. It’s also the eventual replacement for the Dodge Grand Caravan, although that aged minivan remains available alongside Pacifica, at least through model-year ’17. The Pacifica name was used originally on a midsize Chrysler crossover SUV sold from 2004-2008.

Check out our 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Review and Pricing for the latest info

Despite a basic design nearly a decade old, Grand Caravan was the minivan-class sales leader through the first quarter of 2017. It’s also the lowest priced minivan, starting $5,000 below the Pacifica. The Chrysler minivan ranks third in sales, behind the Toyota Sienna. But sales in the class as a whole are down 20 percent, as buyers continue to show a preference for crossovers and SUVs. Still, automakers are demonstrating commitment to the segment, with Honda launching the all-new 2018 Odyssey and Toyota giving the ’17 Sienna fresh styling and updated features.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To see if parent company Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) upgrades it to the company’s fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system. Debuting on the 2017 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodge Challenger, the interface would continue to use Pacifica’s 8.4-inch dashboard touchscreen but would deliver higher resolution, respond to tablet-like multi-touch gestures, and support Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto.

Introduction of engine-idle stop/start would boost the gasoline-only model’s fuel efficiency in city driving. The system shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stopped and restarts it when the driver releases the brake pedal. There’s a good chance it’s coming, at least as an option. The EPA already lists fuel-economy ratings for a Pacifica with the feature, and they beat the non-stop-start engine by 1 mpg in city driving.

Expect the 2018 Pacifica model lineup to be a rerun of 2017’s. Gas-only versions should again start with the entry-level LX and ascending through Touring, Touring L, Touring L Plus, and Limited. Hybrids would again come in Premium and top-line Platinum grades.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

It might be best to wait for the ’18, for a couple of reasons. First, Uconnect 4’s improved graphics and feature set are a big advance. And 2017 models could not be upgraded via a software update. Second, it makes sense to hang tight so you can evaluate both the all-new 2018 Odyssey and the updated Sienna.

If you need a minivan now, however, the ’17 Pacifica is a terrific choice. It’s pleasant to drive, highly refined, and offers a plethora of family-friendly features at reasonable prices. The ’17 will essentially be the same vehicle as the ’18, but you’ll avoid the inevitable model-year price inflation.

Will the styling be different?

No. Having just debuted for model-year 2017, Pacifica’s styling isn’t going to change for 2018. That’s fine, because it’s easy to argue no minivan is more visually attractive. Pacifica’s sophisticated lines and available cabin appointments look and feel a cut above.

Exterior differences between the ’18 models will again run to such details as black exterior accents on LX and Touring and bright accents on the other models. Wheel sizes shouldn’t change, at 17- or 18-inch diameter, depending on model, with 20s available on the gas Limited edition. Besides hybrid badging, Hybrid models have a slightly different grille insert and their own wheel design. And in addition to the regular fuel-filler door on the left rear fender, Hybrids have a second door on the left-front fender that conceals the electric plug-in port. They also have dedicated readouts in the digital gauge cluster that display drive mode and hybrid-specific mileage data and economy-maximizing driving tips.

The interior is where any Pacifica truly shines. Gas models accommodate seven or eight passengers, Hybrids seven. Every seat offers exceptional comfort. Gas-only models come standard with FCA’s industry-exclusive Stow ‘n Go second-row seating (shared with the Grand Caravan). This allows the second-row buckets to fold into a pair of under-floor compartments. The bins double as covered storage when the seats are raised. The available Easy Tilt system allows the second-row seats to tip forward even with a child safety seat installed, creating a larger aperture to access the third row.

Hybrids have a different second-row seat design. It affords more padding than you get gas-only models, but these buckets don’t incorporate Stow ‘n Go capability because the lithium-ion battery pack is housed in the floor bins. Unlike those in the gas-only second row, the Hybrid’s buckets are removable (each weighs 65 pounds).

All Pacificas have ample interior storage, and Touring L, Touring L Plus, and Limited models are available with a built-in vacuum to help keep the cabin clean. The available rear video-entertainment system offers support for Blu-ray movies and can include built-in video games.

Cargo volume is ample. The 60/40 split third row seat – power operated on Limited models — folds neatly to create a flat load floor. Stow ‘n Go eliminates the necessity to remove (and store) the second-row seats. Power sliding side doors are standard. A power liftgate is unavailable on the LX, optional on the Touring, and standard otherwise. Handsfree operation of both the sliding doors and the liftgate is standard on the Limited and Hybrid Platinum and optional for the Touring L Plus.

Any mechanical changes?

Only if FCA equips the gas-only models with engine stop/start. Otherwise, both the gas-only and hybrid powertrains will carry over. All Pacificas are front-wheel drive (Sienna is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive). Most Pacifica buyers opt for the gas-only version. It has a 3.6-liter V-6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque and uses a 9-speed automatic transmission.

The Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in electric vehicle. It pairs a modified version of the 3.6-liter gas V-6 with a 16-kilowatt-hour battery. Total system output is 260 horsepower (FCA doesn’t specify torque), and the transmission is a continuously variable automatic (CVT). The Hybrid can travel up to 33 miles on electricity alone and obtains its initial charge by being plugged into a home or commercial outlet. It takes about 14 hours to fully charge on a standard 110-volt household outlet. The recommended 220-volt charging station reduces that time to just 2 hours. The battery is also recharged on the go via energy recaptured during braking and coasting. When the battery is depleted, it operates as a conventional hybrid, automatically tapping gas, electric, or combined power sources as sensors determine the best blend for acceleration and fuel efficiency.

All Pacificas are enjoyable to drive, with light but accurate steering and good grip in turns taken at anything short of breakneck speed. Ride comfort is especially laudable, with great bump absorption and commendable composure on broken and wavy surfaces.

Both gas and Hybrid models provide good acceleration, even with a full complement of passengers or cargo. On the downside, the 9-speed automatic isn’t the best match for the gas-only powertrain. It can frequently and unnecessarily dither between gears. The 8-speed automatic FCA uses with this engine in its rear-wheel-drive-based vehicles (Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Ram 1500, et al) works much better. The Hybrid’s regenerative braking system results in some inconsistent brake-pedal feel that takes getting used to.

Will fuel economy improve?

Very slightly, if idle stop/start is part of the equation. The EPA’s projected ratings for a gas-only Pacifica with the feature are 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. Without it, expect the ’18 gas-only Pacifica’s ratings to repeat at 18/28/22 mpg.

The 2017 Hybrid’s EPA ratings should carry over for ’18. It rates 84 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) combined city-highway, when full electric range is included. Running as a conventional hybrid, it rates 32 mpg combined. Note that the Hybrid has a 16.5-gallon fuel tank and the gas-only Pacifica a 19-gallon tank, yet the Hybrid has a range of 570 miles versus the gas-only models’ 418 miles. All ’18 Pacificas would again use regular-grade 87-octane fuel.

Will it have new features?

Uconnect 4 would likely be the only addition of note, and it likely wouldn’t be standard across the board. Otherwise, Pacifica’s feature set would carry over (see the price section below for important details on safety features).

In addition to Stow ‘n Go, 2018 Pacifica LX models would return with a power driver seat, a rearview camera, a basic infotainment system with 5-inch touchscreen display, and active noise cancellation, which utilizes several microphones in the cabin that can detect and counteract outside road and wind racket.

The ’18 Pacifica Touring model would again build on the LX with automatic headlights, power-sliding rear side doors, and satellite radio. To that, expect the ’18 Touring L versions to include blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection, leather upholstery with heated front seats, and three-zone automatic climate control.

The ’18 Touring L Plus is likely to return with rear-obstacle detection, heated second-row seats, 13-speaker Alpine-brand audio system, Chrysler’s upgraded 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment with full Uconnect services, and rear entertainment. Limiteds would again feature Nappa-brand leather upholstery, hands-free operation for the liftgate and rear-side doors, built-in vacuum, and a panoramic moonroof.

Hybrid Premium, and Platinum would return with equipment levels similar to those of the Touring L Plus, and Limited models, respectively.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll likely be a bit higher, but the LX, Touring, and Touring L models should remain among the most affordable minivans. Estimated base prices here include Chrysler’s destination fee, which was $1,095 on the 2017 Pacifica. And none takes into account the often-generous incentives that FCA applies to these vehicles.

Estimated base price for the ’18 Pacifica LS is $30,500, Most buyers, however, will likely begin at the Touring grade, which would have an estimated ‘18 base price of about $32,500. Expect the Touring L to start around $36,500, the Touring L Plus around $39,500, and the Limited around $44,500.

The 2018 Pacifica Hybrids would likely be priced from around $43,500 for the Premium and $46,500 for the Platinum. Note that the Pacifica Hybrid would be eligible for federal and state tax credits to qualified buyers. If the credits survive politically, they’d in-effect reduce the base price by $7,500 for the federal credit and by up to $5,000 in state tax credit.

Most options for the LX would come in the form of functional and dress-up accessories. The Touring’s most significant upgrade would be the $1,000 SafetyTec Group, which adds blind-spot alert and rear-obstacle detection.

Even more-advanced driver-assist features are available as part of the Advanced SafetyTec Group, which would be standard on the Hybrid Platinum and a hefty $2,000 upgrade on the Touring L Plus and Limited. This package consists of radar-based adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead; automatic high-beam headlights that dim for oncoming traffic; forward-collision warning; a 360-degree surround-view camera; and hands-free semi-autonomous parking. It also includes lane-departure warning, though no automatic lane-maintaining steering.

Vitally, the SaftyTec Group adds autonomous emergency braking designed to stop the Pacifica to avoid a frontal collision with another vehicle. For 2017, Pacificas equipped with this feature attained coveted Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The only other minivan to win that award for ’17 was the Sedona, when equipped with autonomous emergency braking. The redesigned Odyssey and revamped Sienna will be eligible for 2018.

Our pick for the best Pacifica value would be a Hybrid Premium — if you could take advantage of hybrid-vehicle tax credits, and especially if the Premium becomes available with the Advanced SafetyTec Group. Barring that, our nod goes to the Touring L Plus with Advanced Safety Tec and the $800 hands-free power liftgate and sliding rear side doors, for a sticker price of around $42,500.

When will it come out?

Release date for the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica should be in fall of 2017.

Best competitors

Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna

What change would make it better?

FCA should make its full suite of driver aids available on all grades of this minivan. Perhaps some economy of scale would enable it to do that while raising base prices less than the $2,000 cost of the Advanced SafetyTec Group. The only other knock against Pacifica is FCA’s below-average scores in owner surveys of reliability and customer satisfaction, especially when compared to Honda and Toyota.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]