A day in the life of a parent like me in a family car like the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan could have one less to-do: the twice-a-week stop at the gas station.
One less to-do is no small ado, and this is the promise of the plug-in hybrid family vehicle: to make life easier, better.
The plug-in variant of the Pacifica, last year’s winning successor to the Town and Country, means that most driving can be sourced from a plug in the garage. And when the family needs to ship the eldest kid to college, or road-trip to that statewide performance, or simply visit the far-flung family, the adapted 3.6-liter V-6 engine provides plenty of power as it normally would to travel up to 566 miles.
The only compromise with the PHEV is there are no available second-row stow-and-go seats because the 16-kWh battery pack is in the floor.
The only criticism is the gear dial is too close to the other dials on the center console.
Around town, the Pacifica gets 33 miles of all-electric range in the quietest ride ever to be had in a minivan. This too is no small thing. The transition to engine power, under heavy throttle when fleeing the strictures of the subdivision, say, or cruising on the highway is hardly noticeable. The energy display on the wide and clear touch screen is the only clear giveaway, and that display also shows energy captured from regen braking and energy used from the climate system to better predict how much electric power will be used on a certain trip.
On one commute, starting with 33 miles of electric range, we covered 15 miles on the highway and 10 on the main streets with all the cozy heated elements. The Pacifica PHEV returned 58.6 mpg, and the gas engine was only used on 1.5 miles.
On the return commute, starting with no charge, we averaged 26.9 mpg; nearly 7 miles were on battery power due to regen braking.
If you say that the most fuel-efficient minivan ever — probably the most fuel-efficient seven-seat personal vehicle — doesn’t matter much because gas prices are low, or the 31 percent reduction in its environmental impact compared with the outgoing Town & Country doesn’t matter much because planet shmanet, then consider the personal cost of ownership.
There are many factors in calculating per-charge usage, but a conservative per-mile estimate at the average rate of electricity in the U.S. at $0.12 kwh, is 6 cents per electric mile; the average per-mile cost of a gallon of gas at a national average of $2.51 a gallon at an average fuel economy of 25.3 mpg, is 10 cents a mile. That average mpg is what only the most fuel-efficient three-row vehicles get, such as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
There’s more to the dollars and sense equation. As of now, the Pacifica PHEV qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit, so the two top trims in either Premium or Platinum will total under $40,000. Trimmed out, the Honda Odyssey Elite and Toyota Sienna Limited cost around $47,000. The top-of-the-line Platinum tester, which comes with advanced driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise and park assist, as well as seat-back video screens, is $44,995 before the federal tax credit, and before whatever state incentives there may be.
Am I gushing? I should have better self-control. Does it impugn my character that I like minivans? Fine, I’ll wave my dork flag on the besieged principles of logic and economics.
Due to its electrified powertrain and ability to sit seven comfortably, the Pacifica PHEV is not only without peer as the best family car on the market, it is an imminent forecast of the type of powertrains to slake our thirst for large, fuel-sucking vehicles. That’s something the kids can appreciate.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum at a glance
Vehicle type: Plug-in hybrid minivan
Base price: $44,995
As tested: $46,790
Mpg: 84 MPGe, or 33-miles electric range
Engine type: 3.6-liter V-6
Motor: 6.6 kW dual motor electrically variable transmission
Parting shot: Much ado about something.