Higher sticker price, lower fuel costs: The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, reviewed


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According to Ars Technica

Enlarge /The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Eric Bangeman

Last month, I had a lot of nice things to say about the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. And deservedly so: Chrysler did an excellent job in rethinking the minivan after it retired the venerable Town & Country and resurrected the Pacifica name in 2017. The vehicle has a comfortable and well-designed interior, seats that fold into the floor with a minimum of effort, distractions for the kids, and a comfortable ride. But one of the most common comments in the discussion thread was… well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words:

You asked, we listened.
Enlarge /You asked, we listened.

Shortly after the review was published, Chrysler contacted us to tell us a hybrid had just arrived in the Chicago press fleet and asked us if we wanted to drive that one as well. A week or so later, I found myself looking at another minivan parked outside my house, this one blue instead of burgundy. I hopped in, pressed the ignition button, and heard… nothing.

They generate… electricity, electricity

I covered the gas-powered Pacifica in great detail, so this review will focus primarily on the hybrid-specific bits of the minivan, with a few additional thoughts on Chrysler’s minivans thrown in.

Let’s start with the price. The Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,900 for the Touring Plus model, $6,000 more than the standard Touring Plus. The model I reviewed was the Hybrid Limited, with a base price of $44,995. Throw in a panoramic moonroof and destination charges, and my test vehicle had the Limited trim, carrying a sticker price of $48,580. That number compares favorably with the $49,665 for the fully loaded Pacifica Limited, although you miss out on a couple of options with the hybrid (see below).

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine specific to the hybrid model. Designed for greater efficiency, the engine uses the Atkinson Cycle along with an increased compression ratio to generate 260hp (194kW) on a reduced air-fuel mixture. By way of comparison, the V6 in the gas-only Pacifica pushes out 287hp (214kW). Zero-to-60 time is 7.8 seconds; the gas-only model does it in 7.3 seconds.

The hybrid bits come courtesy of a pair of electric motors and generators paired with a single-input electrically variable transmission. One motor powers the driver-assist tech and charges the batteries, while the other provides primary drive to the wheels.

Chrysler rates the hybrid at 84mpg(e); on gas only, you can expect 32mpg on combined city/highway driving. During the week I drove the car, I averaged 33.9mpg all told.

Unlike other hybrids, there’s no way for the driver to select a driving mode such as all-electric or all-gas. Chrysler would rather drivers just drive and let the vehicle handle the power source. In practice, this looks like the Pacifica hybrid relying on electric power as much as possible until the batteries are depleted. In normal city and suburban driving, I would seldom hear the gas engine fire up. On interstate highways, the gas engine would come alive to provide an acceleration boost for the electric motors. Chrysler claims a 33-mile range on electric power, but the best I could do was 28 miles. The range was almost certainly affected by the unusually chilly early-spring temperatures over Chicagoland while I had the vehicle, as highs were mostly in the 30s and lower 40s, instead of the low 50s typical at that time of year.

The Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid, shipping with a (really) long power cord that can charge from a 110-volt outlet if there is no available 220-volt power source. When you plug the car into for a recharge, you’re given an estimate of how long it will take to fill up. In my low-voltage garage, going from zero to 100 percent typically took around 13-1/2 hours. The display told me that a 220-volt source would top off the batteries in about 1-3/4 hours. There’s no fast charge option available, which is arguably not necessary for a car that offers around 380 miles of range when running on gas.

Silent—mostly—running

The interior of the Pacifica Hybrid is largely identical to that of its gas-powered sibling. There are a few major differences between the models. First, there’s no optional vacuum cleaner in the hybrid, so you’ll have to find another way to get rid of ground-up Goldfish crackers and Cheerios. Second, the second row of seats cannot be stowed into the floor due to the hybrid’s massive battery pack. The hybrid is old-school when it comes to the second-row seats: lift a latch near the bottom of the chair, tilt it back, and use your dad strength to wrestle the 60+ pound seat out of the minivan. The third row still folds down nicely. The instrument panel is different, too. Instead of a speedometer and tachometer, you have a battery meter and gas gauge. Speed is displayed on the display between the analog gauges. I’m not a fan of the layout—having analog gauges without a speedometer is strange.

The Pacifica Hybrid handles the same as the gas-powered model, but acceleration under electric power is smooth and steady. If you floor it, the gas engine will kick in and make a loud noise appropriate to the effort it’s putting out. When driving on gas alone, the hybrid felt a bit underpowered compared to its sibling, which makes sense given that it pushes out 27hp less than the petroleum sipper.

In my previous review of the Pacifica, I noted a bit of road noise on the highway and at higher speeds, and it is even more noticeable in the hybrid when cruising on battery. Given the smartly designed interior and great ergonomics of the Pacifica, it’s a shame it’s not quieter. Less noise in the cabin would be the cherry on top of the sundae.

Should you buy the hybrid over the gas model? Part of the answer depends on your style of driving. If you’re going to be using this for short school runs, errands, and maybe to drive to and from a nearby job daily, it may make sense. Chrysler claims 33 miles of battery-only range (I was about five miles shy of that in my testing), so if you’ll be driving less than that on a daily basis, pulling up to a gas pump will be a rare event. Electricity is cheaper than gas, as well. In my case, I pay 6.89¢ per kilowatt hour of electricity in suburban Chicago. With the 16KWh battery in the Pacifica Hybrid, I spent about $1.10 each time I topped off the battery in my garage—cheaper than a gallon-and-a-half of gasoline. And you’ll occasionally be able to top off the battery on someone else’s dime, like I did on a trip to a nearby Whole Foods.

The other major factor is price. There’s about a $6,000 difference between gas and hybrid in the Pacifica lineup. Buyers are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit, which survived last year’s tax law rewrite. That will drop the effective price a bit more, depending on your tax bracket and how you itemize deductions. You’re still left with a price premium over the gas model, and it will take many, many trips past gas stations to your garage’s electrical outlets to recoup your initial outlay. But hybrids are not just about avoiding gas; they’re also about avoiding emissions. If you’re behind the wheel of a Pacifica Hybrid fewer than 30 miles a day, then you’ll largely be driving a zero-emissions vehicle. And that’s a good thing.

Read more…

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This article and images were originally posted on [Ars Technica] April 2, 2018 at 10:25AM. Credit to Author and Ars Technica | ESIST.T>G>S Recommended Articles Of The Day

 

 

 

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