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Most Fuel-Efficient 2017 Minivans

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

The Most Fuel-Efficient 2017 Minivan is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. It’s not only the first and only gas/electric hybrid-powered minivan, it’s an ultra-frugal plug-in hybrid. As with the conventionally powered, gasoline-only Pacifica, the Hybrid is reasonably stylish outside and features a roomy, well-designed seven-passenger interior with a long list of available amenities.

All-new for model-year 2017, Pacifica replaces both the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Caravan minivans. The automaker says the Hybrid can operate on electricity alone for the first 30 miles after a full battery charge via a plug-in to a home or commercial power source. Final EPA ratings were not issued in time for this report, but Chrysler estimates the Pacifica Hybrid will deliver the equivalent of 80 mpg in city driving. (The gas-only model rates 18/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined.) As with other plug-in vehicles, fuel economy ratings will likely be less when running in hybrid mode, on both gas and electricity.

Gas Pacificas come in five trim grades but the Hybrid is available only in the top-level Touring and Limited. Hybrid pricing hadn’t been released in time for this report, but expect to pay a premium of as much as $5,000 for the Hybrid. Based on 2017 prices for gas models, that would start the Hybrid Touring around $44,000 and the Limited around $49,000 (price estimates include the $995 destination fee).

The Pacifica Hybrid’s primary source of power is a revised version of the 3.6-liter V-6 gasoline engine that’s used in the standard Pacifica and several other Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep models. Here, however, the V-6 comes augmented by a pair of electric motors and a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Chrysler says it takes around two hours to fully charge the battery pack on a 240-volt circuit; it’ll probably take at least twice that long on a standard 110-volt line.

After its initial plug-in charge is depleted, the minivan operates as a normal hybrid, leveraging the electric motors as needed and keeping the battery nominally charged via energy recovered from deceleration and braking. At that point, range is limited only by the amount of gasoline in the tank. If you have a short commute or use the vehicle primarily around-town, you may not burn much gas at all.

 

Typically, combining the output from the gasoline engine and electric motor results in higher horsepower ratings for hybrids versus their gas-only counterpart. But the Pacifica Hybrid’s net output is actually lower — at an estimated 260 horsepower – than the gas-only version’s 287 horsepower. What’s more, it weighs some 600 pounds more due to its hybrid technology, so don’t expect acceleration to match that of the gas-only Pacifica.

Also, because the battery pack is situated beneath the floor under the second row of seats, the Pacifica Hybrid models are the only ones in the line that do not include the full version of Chrysler’s “Stow ‘n Go” seating (in which the second and third rows are otherwise able to fold flat into the floor in myriad combinations). The second row captain’s chairs here are fixed, but at least they feature thicker padding for added comfort. The fold-flat capability for the third row is preserved.

Otherwise the Pacifica Hybrids can be fitted with the same exhaustive list of features as with the rest of the line, including a sophisticated rear entertainment system with built-in apps, hands-free sliding doors and liftgate, a self-parking function, and a full suite of the latest accident-avoidance safety features.

The Pacifica Hybrid will be the fuel economy leader among minivans by a wide margin. Among gas-only minivans, coming a distant second is the often overlooked but nonetheless capable Nissan Quest at 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined. Tied for third is the popular Honda Odyssey at 19/28/22 mpg.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]