Chrysler (and Dodge) are no strangers to the minivan market. The company invented this segment over 33 years ago. Now, Chrysler is back in the minivan game in a big way with the first gas-electric hybrid minivan in the United States. The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica eHybrid is a plug-in hybrid with an average electric-only range of 30 miles and 80 MPGe, according to Chrysler. The company aimed to create a no-compromise fuel-efficient family vehicle. Did they succeed? Chrysler invited me for a drive in California. I took it for a first drive review near Malibu, CA to find out.
How do you operate the Pacifica eHybrid? It’s very simple and no different from the regular (gas-powered) Pacifica minivan. You get in, push the start button, put it in Drive, and off you go. It doesn’t matter if you forgot to charge it the night before. If there is fuel in the gas tank or any charge left in the batteries, the eHybrid system works seamlessly to propel you to your next destination.
There no special buttons to push. The hybrid system is designed to use either the dual electric motors (packaged alongside the 9-speed automatic transmission) or the combined system with the specially-tuned 3.6L Pentastar V6. The only powertrain output that is specified is the 260 total system horsepower. Chrysler does not state the torque output or the individual power ratings of the engine or the motors.
When I got in, the gauge cluster (uniquely designed for the eHybrid) informed me that the 16 kWh battery was at 94%. How does this battery capacity compare to other hybrids and plug-ins? Well, the much more expensive Tesla Model X uses a 100 kWh battery. The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime has a 8.8 kWh battery. The gauge said “Ready” and I silently drove off. Judicious usage of the accelerator pedal propels the large and relatively heavy Pacifica eHybrid in EV mode with ease. Speed builds quickly and I did not feel like I needed to stomp down on the pedal to go. However, when I did stomp on it, the gasoline engine seamlessly kicked with a muted hum and got me going a bit faster. The gas V6 shuts down just as quickly as it turns on when you get out of the “gas” pedal.
I found the regenerative brakes to be some of the best in plug-in hybrids or electric cars. The braking force is smooth and the vehicle does coast well when you let go of the accelerator. The “regen” gauge shows the amount of regeneration when various braking force is applied or “Low” gear is selected on the transmission.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica eHybrid begins production in November, and should start reaching dealership in early 2017. Starting price for the Pacifica eHybrid Premium model is $41,995 (before $7,500 federal tax credit and any local state tax credits). Since the eHyrbid has a larger battery pack (16 kWh), it is eligible for all tax credits in accordance with current laws.
A well-equipped eHybrid Platinum starts at $44,995 and the price of the van I tested was just over the $47,000 mark. This is very competitive when you consider that similarly equipped non-hybrid vans from Toyota and Honda can easily reach the $47,000 mark.
Check out the first drive review video above for all the details. Did I manage to go more or less than 30 miles in all electric mode?