2018 Chrysler Pacifica Buying Advice
This is the best minivan for you if you want an excellent blend of style, comfort, and available safety features. It’s also your only option for a gas-electric hybrid minivan — and it’s a plug-in, that can travel about 30 miles using no gas at all.
Adopting a name originally worn by a Chrysler crossover SUV from 2004-2008, this minivan was all-new for model-year-2017 and gets a surprising number of updates for 2018. The gas-only lineups get a new base model that lowers the price of entry to the Pacifica family by $2,000. All trim levels get an infotainment-system upgrade, plus key safety features as standard equipment – although the most complete suite of driver assists remains exclusive to the costliest model grades.
Also for ’18, desirable amenities, such as an imbedded navigation system, 4G LTE connectivity, and upgraded audio become available on the less-expensive trim levels. And Chrysler completes the phase-in of a fuel-saving engine idle stop/start system for all gas-only models except the new entry-level trim.
For model-year ’17, Pacifica was sold alongside the Chrysler’s old-design Town & Country minivan. The T&C is gone for 2018, but the similar Dodge Grand Caravan remains available. Minivan sales continue to fall as shoppers demand crossover SUVs. The segment is down more than 20 percent through July 2017, although part of the decline is attributable to the phasing out of the Town & Country and the Nissan Quest.
Even in this dwindling market, Grand Caravan and Pacifica are the top two sellers, respectively, accounting for more than 50 percent share. They’re also the only minivans to see any sales growth in 2017. Pacifica’s 2018 updates should help it retain its sales leadership in the face of a freshened Toyota Sienna and all-new Honda Odyssey.
Should you buy a 2018 or wait for the ’19?
Buy the 2018. It boasts worthwhile improvements over the 2017, and Chrysler isn’t likely to do much to the ’19 model, except raise prices. Pacifica’s next significant update won’t come before model-year 2020 or ‘21, with freshened styling and perhaps some new features.
For 2018, the gas-only Pacifica lineup adds the new entry-level L model and continues LX, Touring Plus, Touring L, Touring L Plus, and Limited trims. The Hybrid line again begins with the Touring Plus grade, and renames last year’s Premium and Platinum designations the Touring L and Limited. Newly standard for every ’18 Pacifica are the contents of the previous SafetyTec Group option, which includes rear-obstacle detection and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert. Also standard across the board is Chrysler’s new Uconnect 4 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto support.
Styling: Tweaks to some of the most popular trim levels bolster Pacifica’s already impressive visual presence. Touring Plus models have new wheels and body-color mirrors. Touring L versions get a chrome roof rack. Copper Pearl Coat and Ocean Blue Metallic are new color choices. We believe this is the best-looking minivan ever. Its swept-back lines and clean proportions help it appear more modern than the dated Toyota Sienna and less fussy than the redesigned 2018 Odyssey, which doesn’t look all that different from its 2011-2017 predecessor.
Pacifica’s trim-level differentiators include door handles that are black on the L, body color on the LX, and chrome on the others. Most models come with 17-inch alloy wheels; 18s are standard on the gas-powered Limited and optional on Touring Plus, Touring L, Touring L Plus, and Hybrid Limited. Optional for the gas-only Limited are 20-inch alloys.
Hybrids have a slightly different grille design and offer plug-in capability to recharge the built-in battery.
It looks cool and drives very well, but Pacifica’s interior is its greatest asset. Gas-only models seat seven or eight, Hybrids seven. All seating positions – even the third row — feature outstanding headroom and legroom. Chrysler’s exclusive Stow `n Go seating is standard on all gas-only versions except the L model. It allows the second-row buckets to fold completely into a pair of under-floor compartments, eliminating the need to remove and store them to achieve maximum cargo volume. The bins serve as covered storage when the seats are raised.
In the Hybrid, the bins are occupied by the electric motors’ onboard battery packs, so the second-row seats must be removed for max cargo volume. That’s an awkward task, and the buckets weigh 65 pounds each. As compensation, they are more padded and more comfortable than the Stow `n Go buckets.
All models offer Chrysler’s Easy Tilt Seating, which enables the second-row seats to pivot forward, creating a larger opening to access the third row. This feature works even with a child safety seat in place.
A power rear liftgate is optional on the Hybrid Touring Plus, unavailable on the L and LX, and standard otherwise. Power-sliding rear side doors are standard on all but the L and LX. Hands-free operation for the liftgate and sliding doors is standard on all Limited models and optional on the Touring L Plus.
Mechanical: Stop/start for the gas-only models is the sole change for 2018. All Pacificas have a 3.6-liter gasoline V-6 and front-wheel drive; the Toyota Sienna remains the only minivan available with all-wheel drive. Gas-only Pacificas have 287 horsepower, 262 pound-feet of torque, and a 9-speed automatic transmission. The idle stop/start capability newly standard on all but the L model conserves fuel by automatically shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stopped (accessories keep running) and instantly restarting it when the driver releases the brake pedal.
The Hybrid’s V-6 is a modified version of the 3.6. Combined output with battery-powered electric motor is 260 net horsepower (Chrysler does not publish torque figures for the Hybrid). Like the vast majority of hybrid vehicles, it uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This performs the duties of an automatic transmission, but without stepped gear ratios.
Being a plug-in, the Pacifica Hybrid can draw an initial battery charge from a standard 110-volt household outlet or a 220-volt charging station. Charge times are 14 and 2 hours, respectively. It can travel around 30 miles on the initial charge, in near-silence and emissions free. When the initial charge is depleted, it automatically operates as a conventional hybrid, utilizing the battery, gas engine, or both as sensors determine the best mix for power and economy. In this mode, the battery pack is recharged by capturing energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting.
Even laden with passengers and cargo, both the gas-only Pacifica and the plug-in-hybrid furnish good acceleration, with no-hassle merging and passing power. Hybrids actually deliver the better overall driving experience. The electric motor’s added torque is a boon to throttle response and the gas/electric powertrain works well with the CVT. By contrast, the gas-only model’s 9-speed automatic suffers frequent dithering between gears.
The redesigned Odyssey has sharper overall road manners, but Pacifica sets the minivan benchmark for ride comfort and composure. Steering feel on all models is light but accurate, and while turns taken faster than most minivan owners ever will reveals some noseplow and more than a little body lean, we’re impressed by this van’s willingness to hustle. Here again, the Hybrid shines. With its battery pack beneath the floor and centered in the chassis, the plug-ins have a lower center of center of gravity than their gas-only counterparts and feel a bit more stable and planted when cornering. Brake feel is fine on the gas-only model, but the hybrid’s regenerative system occasionally delivers inconsistent pedal feel that takes some acclimation.
Features: The most significant change is addition of rear-obstacle detection and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert as standard on all 2018 Pacificas. These driver assists had been elements of safety-package options that ran $955-$1,995, depending on model. Nonetheless, only the most expensive Pacifica model grades are available with features that earn this minivan the industry’s most valued safety accolade. That would be Top Safety Pick+ status from the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The critical feature is autonomous emergency braking, which can automatically bring the vehicle to a stop to prevent a frontal collision.
Autonomous emergency braking is included in Pacifica’s Advanced SafetyTec Group, a $995 option exclusive to the Touring L, Touring L Plus, and Limited versions of the gas-only Pacifica and a no-cost option for the Limited edition of the Hybrid. The package also contains front- and rear-obstacle detection, automatic high-beam headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, forward-collision and lane-departure warning, and radar cruise control to maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead. Of note, these types of driver aids – including autonomous emergency braking – are standard on every version of the 2018 Sienna and on every 2018 Odyssey except the entry-level LX model.
Standard on every ’18 Pacifica, Chrysler’s new Uconnect 4 infotainment system boasts faster hardware and support for smartphone/tablet style gestures, Apple CarPlay, Google Android Auto, and built-in 4G LTE data that allows the vehicle to operate as a rolling WiFi hotspot. Unfortunately, the software is incompatible with the 2017 Pacifica, so owners of those models are left in the cold. It would have been nice to at least add CarPlay and Android Auto via a software update.
The L is rather spartanly equipped otherwise. Its only significant feature of note is a standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and optional three-zone manual climate control. We expect most shoppers to start their Pacifica search with the LX, which has Stow ‘n Go, a power driver’s seat, LED interior lighting, and three-zone manual climate control. Touring Plus adds a power rear liftgate and sliding side doors, three-zone automatic climate control, remote engine start, second-row retractable sun shades, a full-length floor console with extra storage, and satellite radio.
The Touring L adds integrated grocery-bag hooks, sun shades for the second and third seating rows, leather upholstery, and heated front seats. This trim level also offers more optional equipment than the Touring Plus. As noted, this is where availability of the Advanced SafetyTec Group begins and ordering it also brings hands-free parallel parking and a surround-view camera.
The Touring L Plus has additional power outlets, heated steering wheel, illuminated cupholders, power front-passenger seat, heated second-row seats, , 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with imbedded GPS mapping, and Uconnect Theater, which allows wireless multimedia streaming from compatible Google Android devices.
A 13-speaker Alpine-brand audio system is standard on the Touring L Plus and a an $850 option for the Touring L.
At the top of the range is the Limited, which has hands-free power liftgate and side doors, HID headlights, power panoramic sunroof (on seven-seat models only), upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, power-folding third-row seat, and a built-in vacuum cleaner. Note that Uconnect Theater is optional on this model, rather than standard.
Hybrid models largely mirror their conventional counterparts for standard and optional equipment. The Limited Hybrid includes the suite of advanced driver-assistance features but does not have a power-folding third-row seat or integrated vacuum.
The 2018 Pacifica lineup has an entry point $2,000 lower than for 2017, thanks to addition of the L trim, but carryover models are about $300-$800 more expensive than their 2017 counterparts. Base prices in this review include Chrysler’s $1,095 destination fee, which is unchanged from 2017.
In the gas-only line, the 2018 Pacifica L has a base price of $28,090 and the LX starts at $30,890. The Touring Plus is priced from $33,690 and the Touring L from $36,590. Base prices are $39,790 for the Touring L Plus and $44,790 for the Limited.
In the Hybrid lineup, base prices are $41,090 for the Touring Plus, $43,090 for the Touring L, and $46,090 for the Limited.
The only options of note for the L are three-zone climate control ($445) and a pad for wireless cell phone charging ($350). LX models offer upgraded wheels ($795), rear DVD entertainment ($995), eight-passenger seating ($495). Available on the Touring Plus are a trailer towing package that increases towing capacity to 3,600 pounds ($995) and 18-inch wheels ($895).
Touring L versions offer the Alpine audio system ($895) and the Advanced SafetyTec Group ($995). Among the options for the Touring L Plus are hands-free operation for the sliding side doors and power liftgate ($795), Harman/Kardon-brand audio system ($695), and panoramic sunroof ($1,595). Note that the panoramic roof is not available if you opt for eight-passenger seating.
On the Limited, you can upgrade to eight-passenger seating and 20-inch wheels for no charge. It’s also possible to remove the built-in vacuum, but you don’t receive a credit for this, so we don’t know why anyone would want to do that. Uconnect Theater is a $1,995 and includes a Blu-ray disc player. This package can be ordered with the Harman/Kardon sound system for a total price of $2,690.
Built-in GPS navigation ($695) and power liftgate ($495) are options on the Hybrid Touring Plus. The Advanced SafetyTec Group is not offered on the Hybrid Touring Plus and Touring L; it’s a no-cost option on the Hybrid Limited. Uconnect Theater is also offered at no charge on the Limited Hybrid.
Our pick for the best 2018 Pacifica value is the Touring L with the Advanced SafetyTec Group, Alpine audio system, and wireless cell-phone charging pad, for a bottom-line sticker price of $38,830.
EPA ratings for the 2018 Pacifica are right up with the best in minivan class – with the unique-in-the-segment Hybrid the most fuel-efficient minivan you can buy. The Pacifica L rates 18/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. Boasting the engine idle stop/start function, all other gas-only Pacifica models rate 19/28/22 mpg.
Running on its initial electrical charge, the ’18 Pacifica Hybrid rates 84 mpg-e city-highway combined. This “miles per gallon equivalent” rating is the EPA’s calculation of electric power’s ability to drive a vehicle as if it were using gasoline. Running as a conventional hybrid, the Pacifica Hybrid rates 32 mpg city-highway combined. Note that Hybrids have a 16.5-gallon fuel tank while conventional models have a 19-gallon tank. Even so, Chrysler claims a driving range of 570 miles for the hybrid and 418 for the gas-only models. All Pacificas use regular-grade 87-octane fuel.
Any significant styling and content updates for the Pacifica are unlikely before model-year 2020. At that point, however, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may be a very different company. The company’s Ferrari, Jeep, and Ram truck divisions remain profitable, but Dodge, Chrysler, and Fiat are floundering. Further, the upscale Alfa Romeo brand is having trouble getting off the ground due to product delays and significant quality/reliability issues. It’s possible that the company’s profit centers may be sold to other automakers while the failing ones are shuttered entirely, which may mean the end of two more iconic American brands.
We don’t want to discourage you from considering the Pacifica because it is a very good minivan, but we would be lying if we didn’t say that there is a bit of risk involved.
The 2018 Pacifica is better than the…
Dodge Grand Caravan, which shares Pacifica’s Stow `n Go seating at a lower price, but this vehicle utilizes a basic design that is nearly a decade old and it feels every bit its age. Kia Sedona, which lacks Pacifica’s flexible passenger and cargo accommodations and doesn’t ride or handle as well. Toyota Sienna, which is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive, but unwieldy handling and a somewhat crude drivetrain make it feel a few steps behind the refined Chrysler.
The 2018 Pacifica is not as good as the…
Honda Odyssey, which offers the most car-like driving experience in the class with its European-inspired ride quality, excellent steering, and refined drivetrain.