Pacifica: 1st plug-in hybrid minivan

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is touting the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as a “no compromise” family hauler that will arrive in dealerships early next year starting at about $35,000.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

That price for the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle includes up to $7,500 federal tax credits. Without the tax credit and other available state incentives, the minivan will start at $41,995 for the Premium trim and $44,995 for the Platinum model.

“This is the next game-changer in the marketplace” said Matt McAlear, senior manager Chrysler brand product marketing. “Just like (the traditional Pacifica) reinvented the segment, we believe this (the Hybrid) will do the same.”

The first-ever plug-in minivan gets an estimated 80 miles per gallon equivalent, including 30 miles in all-electric mode until an enhanced 3.6-liter V-6 takes over. The gas engine also kicks in under hard acceleration and other conditions.

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The entire range for the vehicle is 530 miles with the electric mode and 16.5-gallon fuel tank, the company says. The Pacifica Hybrid takes two hours to fully charge on a dedicated 240-volt charger, or 14 hours with a typical 110-volt wall outlet.

“There’s no other vehicle like this,” said Chrysler boss Tim Kuniskis, head of Fiat Chrysler-North America passenger car brands. “It’s the minivan you know, it’s the minivan you love … and now it gets 80 miles per gallon.”

Kuniskis said a driver who doesn’t plug in the vehicle will still gain the benefit of the vehicle’s hybrid technologies, including start-stop and regenerative braking, while those that do plug it in with a commute of less than 30 miles may not have to use the gas engine for weeks, if not months.

Production of the Pacifica Hybrid is expected to start later this month at the automaker’s Windsor Assembly plant. It is expected to begin arriving in dealerships early next year.

The tax-credit price of the Premium is the same as the starting price of the Touring-L edition of the regular Pacifica.

Aside from an electric plug door and slightly tweaked exterior, including horizontal-lined front grilles, the Pacifica Hybrid is nearly identical to the traditional Pacifica.

On the interior, differences are mainly in the vehicle’s digital instrument cluster and 8.4-inch infotainment screen. The vehicle also does not feature the automaker’s signature “Stow ’n Go” seating in the second row, as the minivan’s batteries are stored where the seats would fold into the floor.

“All in all it was really a location that really offered no compromises,” said Kevin Mets, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid chief engineer, adding the seats fold flat or can be removed. “It was the right thing to do for the vehicle.”

John Gibson, FCA global chief engineer of electrified powertrains, said engineers spent four years or so developing the all-new powertrain, including the in-house developed electrically variable transmission. “We always want to be an innovator in the minivan segment,” Gibson said.

Since going on sale in April, Fiat Chrysler has sold more than 43,300 regular Pacifica minivans in the United States. Officials declined to estimate how much of the vehicle’s volume the company expects to be of the plug-in hybrid, which it is referring to as a Hybrid.

It’s a hybrid, plus electric range,” McAlear said. “If you bought this tomorrow and never plugged it in, it would work like a hybrid … And that’s why we really say it’s no compromises.”