Last year, we had the opportunity to live the (mini) van life for a year, with a loan from Chrysler. Even better, ours was going to be a plug-in hybrid. We took delivery of an Ocean Blue 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited late last summer, and it quickly became more than a simple mode of transportation. The plug-in Pacifica was a much-beloved member of the Autoblog family, so much so that one editor considered buying it at the end of our loan.
The end of that loan has, indeed, come, but not before this thing ferried editors, video producers and their families, friends, dogs and a whole lot of their belongings over a considerable portion of the country. It spent a lot of time in the wild woods of Northern Michigan, took a road trip through the Northeast and a vacation to Florida. It braved the cold in Buffalo, New York, on Nokian winter tires. The heated steering wheel didn’t quite keep us warm, but we didn’t mind so much, with this quiet van’s peaceful manner. We didn’t drive this Pacifica Hybrid out West, but West Coast Editor James Riswick got one in Oregon to find out what it was like, and we told Big Blue all about it. We worried a bit when she went in for a recall, and were proud of how the Pacifica stood up to a rival.
In all, we put close to 26,000 miles on the Pacifica Hybrid — roughly 9,000 of which were under electric power alone — before reluctantly giving it back. We’re not sure where she ended up, but there’s a good chance that giant interior still carries a part of us with it, whether it’s a stray dog hair under a carpet mat, a Cheerio wedged in a seat cushion or a fingerprint on some tucked-away surface. We loved that damn minivan. Let us tell you why, one last time.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: The Pacifica Hybrid made countless trips with me between my home in Ann Arbor and our office in Birmingham, with a fair share of 500-mile round trips to our cottage Up North. Whenever I had it, my son — who grew from a large toddler to a large pre-schooler over the course of our loan — wanted to sit inside. Sometimes, he wanted to go for quiet laps around the driveway. Others, he’d want to play the letter game on the rear-seat entertainment system, or play with the power doors. He’d pretend it was an airplane taking us to Dublin again, or a spaceship he could show off to the babysitter. It was a safe, comfortable space for him, and for me. Even my wife found the smooth, quiet acceleration and lack of body roll to be easy on her motion sickness as a passenger.
I spent many moments stuck in rush-hour traffic, caressing the teal stitching or rubbing the similarly colored Chrysler emblem on the steering wheel. I always had my Nalgene water bottle in the cupholder. Sometimes I had two. I’d enjoy the heated seats in the winter or, even better, the ventilation on the humid days of summer. With a good podcast or new album playing through the Uconnect infotainment system, I didn’t mind when I wasn’t going anywhere. The Pacifica Hybrid was just such a relaxing space to spend time.
When the loan was up, my wife and I almost bought the thing. The price was just a little too high for us to justify it, though, especially since at least four of the seven seats would be empty 95% of the time. Since then, I’ve talked to numerous parents my age who were expecting a second or third child and lamenting the fact that they were considering a minivan. After my time with the Pacifica Hybrid, it was easy to reassure them that it really isn’t so bad after all.
Production Manager Eddie Sabatini: I loved this van, inside and out. Inside it was comfortable, roomy, and let in lots of light, making it a pleasurable cabin to be in. I'll pass Pacificas on the road now and notice the pleasing lines, and I find it to be one of the few vehicles to look good in every color it's offered, though white is my least favorite.
Senior Producer Christopher McGraw: I tend to get motion sick rather easily, especially when I'm off-roading and am trying to shoot video from the passenger seat, which makes my life choice to become an automotive video producer seem strange, but that's a conversation for another time. This happened when we were shooting our midsize truck comparison up in Northern Michigan earlier this year. In that instance, I leaned up against the Pacifica and managed not to puke. I never drove the Pacifica while we had it, since I had already taken my talents to Colorado at that point, but for the few nauseated moments I spent leaning up against it, it served as a nice backrest.
RIP McGraw. pic.twitter.com/5rduBIt8kB— John Snyder (@jbeltzsnyder) May 7, 2019
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: I didn't grow to love the Pacifica Hybrid quite like the rest of my colleagues, but I have great respect for it. As cliché as it is, it rides like a cloud. The cabin is attractive and airy. It's a breeze to get in and out. And that powertrain is so perfect for this kind of application. It offers significant fuel economy benefits, doesn't impact cargo space and is quieter and more refined than the purely gas-powered model. Oh, and the Pacifica is about the best-looking van, with the possible exception of the Kia Sedona.
But as you may know, my preference for cars leans to those that encourage me to drive a little harder and a little faster. The Pacifica doesn't do that. It's clearly designed for comfort, and comfort alone, as evidenced by the squishy suspension and light steering. For those reasons, I would prefer something like the zippier-feeling Odyssey. But if you, like most minivan buyers, don't need something that raises your heart rate, the Pacifica Hybrid is a brilliant van that's well worth your attention.
Assistant Editor, Zac Palmer: I don’t have any kids to fill up the spacious three rows in our long-term Pacifica Hybrid, but if I did, they’d be thrilled. If a car full of 20-somethings like myself are enamored of the interior of a van (and all my friends were), the little ones would be, too. Of all the vans out there for sale, I came away thinking this is the coolest. And no, vans aren’t cool, but neither is an emotionless three-row crossover.
The competitive advantage of the plug-in hybrid setup in our Pacifica sounds like an absolute game changer for suburban family living, too. After a year, I’m convinced it is. You can drop the kids off at school (assuming you have kids), drive to work, plug in, then do the same in reverse and never pay for a drop of fuel. No other car on sale today can give you the amount of utility and freedom from gasoline that the Pacifica Hybrid can, and that's a big deal. There’s no need to have a second vehicle for those marathon road trips, either, as everybody and all their things will fit, while you get 30 mpg. Try that in a Suburban. Chrysler got this van right, and nobody has a proper answer for it yet — sometimes, the concept really is as good as it sounds on paper.