It was only about two hours into my test of the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica AWD, and already I was impressed.
Most of my favourite features wrapped up in one of my favourite bodystyles, with the added bonus of four-wheel traction – it’s hard to get much better. Not that the Pacifica is perfect, but it’s aging well in spite of its few inherent flaws.
As I often do before I find out the asking prices of the vehicles I test, I tried to guess how much Chrysler could be charging for this mobile sanctuary of sensibility and style. There was a sense of value here – this despite the leather upholstery and back-seat entertainment system, not to mention the smooth and supple ride.
I thought to myself as I drove about 350 km from where this minivan was manufactured in Windsor, Ont., that about $45,000 to $47,000 felt right. I was only off by about the cost of a pricey kitchen appliance package.
Look, we’ve reached a point where $62,000 isn’t an outrageous amount to pay for a family hauler – and not just because of rampant inflation. It’s not so much the asking price of this particular Pacifica that stands out, then, but its place in the lineup.
Including the Grand Caravan that represents the point of entry to Chrysler’s minivan lineup, this Pacifica Touring-L trim falls right in the middle. That puts this all-wheel-drive version’s starting price of $55,295 – plus a non-negotiable freight charge of $2,095 – at the high end of the three-row spectrum. Now add options like the entertainment package ($3,795) and a few appearance upgrades, and suddenly you’re looking at an asking price of $62,375 before tax.
For reference, that’s about $5,000 more than a range-topping Hyundai Palisade sport utility, or about the same as a fully-loaded Toyota Sienna that features a gas-electric powertrain, just to name a couple competitors. And don’t forget that there are two more Pacifica trims to choose from that can easily exceed the $70,000 mark with options.
It’s not as if this one is missing much in terms of amenities, although there are perhaps a couple desirable items that aren’t included in the asking price. For starters, there’s no sunroof, with a panoramic unit available through the options list ($1,695). The front seats aren’t ventilated, either; to get those, expect to pay for the most expensive Pacifica Pinnacle. But just about everything else imaginable is here, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, proximity locks, a power tailgate and sliding doors, and a 10.1-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
Adding the optional entertainment system includes a pair of seat-back screens, plus a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot, streaming with services like Netflix, a Blu-ray player, and heated second-row seats, while the speaker count also jumps from six to 13. There’s also a handful of USB ports throughout the cabin for charging devices, plus a 115-volt household outlet, and even a built-in vacuum.
The sliding rear doors of this (or any other) minivan are among its finest features. That they’re powered and can be opened at the press of a button – or the kick of a foot, thanks to the entertainment package – makes loading little ones (or letting them do it for themselves) that much easier.
Likewise, the power tailgate is a nice touch – albeit an expected one these days – that takes the hassle out of the task when hands are otherwise occupied. If there was one shortcoming it would be the lack of programmable height-adjustability, which can make indoor parking a nuisance. Beyond that, both rows of rear seats stow in the floor when not in use, with a maximum 3,979 L in that configuration, plus enough width to stash a standard sheet of plywood inside.
Stashing just the rearmost row yields a still-impressive 2,478 L – about the same as the sizable Kia Telluride with all its back seats folded – while there’s 915 L with it upright thanks to the deep well in which it sits when not in use. Best of all, the back seats (yes, every one of them) is genuinely usable, if needed, with ample room for my 6-foot-3 frame to fit in the third row in relative comfort.
Something the Pacifica doesn’t do as well as the Telluride of other SUVs like it is tow, with a maximum capacity of 1,633 kg (3,600 lb). Up top, the Touring-L trim includes stowable crossbars for the roof, although they aren’t quite as simple as the Subaru Outback’s despite employing a similar design.
User Friendliness: 9.5/10
Beyond all the outright room inside for people and stuff, the Pacifica is packed with clever storage solutions that leave virtually no nook or cranny wasted. Drawers and cubbies galore – there are even dedicated spots for umbrellas inside the front doors, while a convex mirror near the sunglasses holder in the headliner makes it easy to keep an eye on the kids. This was a vehicle designed by parents, for parents.
On that note, the entertainment package also includes a camera that can narrow in on any one of the back seats and broadcast a live image on the infotainment display, although the resolution isn’t especially impressive. However, the rest of the interface is, with the latest software from Chrysler and its compatriot brands allowing for multiple phones to be connected at once to both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and simply toggled between, as required.
Big buttons and dials adorn the dash, with a few notable exceptions: there are no physical controls for the seat and steering wheel heat. A holdover from this automaker’s early days of touchscreen integration, those features are handled via icons on the display. The gear selector dial isn’t my favourite, either, but it’s better than the button-based systems that are becoming increasingly popular.
Advanced safety systems must also be manipulated through the infotainment system, but on the bright side they’re standard across the Pacifica lineup (the requisite package is a $1,495 option with the Grand Caravan). That means forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control that works in stop-and-go traffic is included, as are rear parking sensors with low-speed automatic braking and rain-sensing wipers.
Moving to this Touring-L trim brings a surround-view camera system instead of just the back-up one required by the federal government, as well as front parking sensors, and a self-parking system that works with both parallel and perpendicular spots. All the various systems worked well during testing, although the adaptive cruise had a tendency to constantly apply the brakes and throttle incrementally when following traffic instead of maintaining a consistent speed and distance.
With a tried-and-true 3.6L V6 under the hood, the Pacifica is positively sultry under steady acceleration. Officially, it generates 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque – competitive within this small segment. For instance, the Kia Carnival that was introduced last year makes 290 hp to go with the same 262 lb-ft of torque, while the recently refreshed Honda Odyssey makes 280 hp and, again, 262 lb-ft.
Driving Feel: 7/10
Paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the Pacifica feels strong when accelerating – and it even sounds good, too. The powertrain performs exactly as it should in a people-mover like this one, with extra occupants doing little to hamper momentum.
The steering has less life in it than those once-white sneakers your dad’s been wearing to mow the lawn since the ’90s, yet the chassis response is surprisingly lively and crisp. Yes, it’s tall and top-heavy, as minivans tend to be, but the Pacifica is far from sloppy. That decent body control bodes well when the time comes to make an evasive manoeuvre, with limited motion to contend with.
Fuel Economy: 6/10
Efficiency isn’t this van’s strength – for that, see its plug-in hybrid sibling – and the optional all-wheel drive system doesn’t help matters. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), it’s good for 14.1 L/100 km around town, 9.4 on the highway, and 12.0 combined, while the front-wheel-drive version is good for 12.4, 8.4, and 10.6, respectively.
In reality, it isn’t difficult to match the official numbers, and I was averaging a combined 9.7 L/100 km across the first 150 km of highway-heavy testing. However, consumption climbed quickly after some time spent in town and the idling that comes with it, and the full week finished bang-on its official rating of 12.0 L/100 km over the course of a little more than 700 km.
In fairness, those numbers are about the same as an SUV like the Telluride or Palisade might manage, while the Pacifica’s ride quality is even better. Credit the long wheelbase – at 3,089 mm (121.6 in), it’s quite a bit longer than those of the average three-row SUV – as well as outstanding suspension damping that takes the sting out of most impacts and imperfections on the road.
As is often the case in vehicles with seating for the whole family plus the in-laws, chair comfort gets progressively worse working front to back. The front seats are the most comfortable, with 12-way adjustability for the driver, while the second-row captain’s chairs are respectable, too. The rearmost row, which has space for three, features thin cushioning but isn’t terrible with this Touring-L trim’s leather upholstery.
Most noteworthy during my test week was how quickly and coldly the tri-zone automatic climate control system worked, with icy air blowing through the vents immediately on start-up. It was most appreciated during a day of filming that saw the temperature reach into the mid-40°C range with the relative humidity factored in – though that day also made the lack of ventilated seats here sorely missed.
Six years after it launched as a minivan, the Pacifica remains a spectacularly sleek and stylish machine. OK, I’m taking some liberties with the word “sleek” here, as it’s still a large vehicle; but the design team did a nice job sculpting what would be otherwise ungainly proportions into something you can be proud to park in the driveway.
This tester’s teal paint – officially dubbed Fathom Blue Pearl, for those wondering – is $395 well spent, while the so-called S Appearance package ($695) adds dark accents outside and in. Even so, the cabin strikes as more functional than fashionable.
Every time I review a minivan, I lament the fact that too few families buy them anymore. They’re practical in ways SUVs just aren’t, and the availability of all-wheel drive adds the peace of mind that’s often cited as an excuse for picking a sport utility instead.
Not much has changed this time around, and I still think more families should be opting for vans like this one – only this time, even I might think twice before pulling the trigger. Make no mistake: the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica AWD is a fantastic family hauler, but it’s just too much money, in my mind. But then if you’re fine with forking over this much cash, what you’ll get in return is something the average SUV just can’t deliver.
|Peak Horsepower||287 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Peak Torque||262 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||14.1 / 9.4 / 12.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||915 / 2,478 / 3,979 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row|
|Model Tested||2022 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L AWD|
|Price as Tested||$62,375|
$4,885 – Uconnect Family Theatre Group, $3,795; S Appearance Package, $695; Fathom Blue Pearl Paint, $395