"We’re going to buy a minivan" can conjure up all sorts of cringe-worthy feelings. Maybe you know it’s the right thing to do, but boy, does the decision bring with it a whole lot of baggage (and we don’t mean the literal type, like colossal strollers and a 12-ton diaper bag). We’ve been there, we feel your pain. But at least know that the 2019 Chrysler Pacifica makes switching to a minivan a lot easier.
You see, we lived with both the Pacifica and its plug-in hybrid version during a pair of long-term road tests, and found it to be uber-practical and great for carrying people. That’s to be expected, but its abundance of kid-friendly features kept the little ones occupied, while the handsome styling inside and out made us forget we were driving the ultimate mom-and-dad mobile. Plus, certain trim levels can be unabashedly described as a luxury van.
In other words, it’s not cringe-worthy, and it gets even better with that plug-in hybrid (more efficient, better to drive and it comes with a $7,500 tax rebate). Really, the Pacifica is a must test-drive, and although cross-shopping with other minivans is recommended, we definitely think it’s a top choice.
What’s New for 2019?
The S Appearance package debuts, slathering the Pacifica in black accents inside and out. Rarely, if ever, has a minivan looked this sinister. Features availability has expanded — most notably with the midgrade Touring Plus gaining access to accident avoidance tech and the UConnect theater package.
A 35th Anniversary Edition will also be available for order starting in Spring 2019, with deliveries starting Summer 2019.
What We Like
Un-minivan styling; classy cabin design; user-friendly tech interface; unique plug-in hybrid model; family-friendly tech and convenience features; versatile Stow ‘n Go seats
What We Don’t
Stow ‘n Go seats less comfortable than those of rivals; difficult-to-read gauges; some clunky transmission behavior; safety tech is optional
The regular Pacifica is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine (287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque) paired only to front-wheel drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission. Its estimated fuel economy is 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving. An automatic stop/start system helps you save gas, but is not available on the base L, which consequently gets 18 mpg in the city.
There is also the Pacifica plug-in hybrid model that we review separately. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you will spend an average of $950 per year on electricity and gasoline, versus $1,600 for the regular Pacifica.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Chrysler Pacifica is available in L, LX, Touring Plus, Touring L, Touring L Plus and Limited trim levels. Seven-passenger capacity is standard, including the base L’s bench seat and the Stow ‘n Go folding captain’s chairs found on all other non-hybrid trim levels. An optional second-row middle seat increases seating capacity to eight.
The base L ($26,995) comes standard with 17-in steel wheels, heated mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system, a backup camera, rear parking sensors, a reverse automatic emergency stop function, a fold-flat 60/40-split third row, a 7-in Uconnect touchscreen interface, Bluetooth, one USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker sound system.
The base LX ($29,795) adds 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a "Touring-tuned" suspension," 3-zone manual climate control, an 8-way power driver seat (4-way lumbar) and steering wheel audio controls.
The Touring Plus ($32,945) adds exterior chrome trim, fog lights, upgraded headlights, a power liftgate, power-sliding doors, remote ignition, proximity entry and push-button start, 3-zone automatic climate control, second-row sunshades, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio. Optional is the UConnect Theater package described below, which brings with it a power passenger seat and an 8.4-in touchscreen.
The Touring L ($36,295) adds roof rails, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel and third-row sunshades. Optional on this trim is the Premium Audio Group that adds a 13-speaker Alpine sound system, a third-row USB port, an 8.4-in touchscreen and a power passenger seat. A single overhead display with a DVD player is available on the LX, Touring Plus and Touring L.
The Touring L Plus ($39,395) adds an 8-way power passenger seat, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming mirror and the Premium Audio Group. Also standard on this trim, but optional on the Touring Plus and Limited is the Uconnect Theater package that adds two 10-in seatback touchscreens, Blu-Ray player, HDMI and USB video inputs, wireless headphones, a household-style outlet and wireless smartphone charging.
Besides UConnect Theater, the Limited ($44,445) adds to the Touring L Plus 18-in wheels, hands-free sliding doors, bi-HID headlamps, LED fog lamps, power-folding and driver-side auto-dimming mirrors, upgraded leather upholstery and interior trim, ventilated front seats, a power-folding third row, an integrated vacuum cleaner, a panoramic sunroof, a fixed glass panel over the third and navigation integrated into the 8.4-in touchscreen (optional on Touring trims).
There are several noteworthy packages available on all but the L and LX. The Advanced SafetyTec Group adds adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, front parking sensors, an automatic parking system, automatic wipers and automatic highbeams. The S Appearance package adds an abundance of gloss black trim, including black 18-in wheels. The Trailer-tow group includes a hitch and upgraded radiator and alternator.
A 20-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system is optional on the Touring L Plus and Limited.
Besides the expected stability control and multitude of airbags, standard equipment includes a backup camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic warning system and rear parking sensors that can trigger automatic braking. The optional Advanced SafetyTec Group includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist. These features are standard on the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna.
The government gave the Pacifica top 5-star ratings for overall, frontal and side crash protection. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its performance in various crash protection and prevention tests.
Behind the Wheel
The Pacifica is much better to drive than previous Chrysler vans. If you’re used to those, you’re in for a big upgrade — it’s smoother, quieter and exponentially more refined. If, however, you’re new to the minivan thing or coming from a competitor, the Pacifica, frankly, is about what you’d expect from a modern minivan. Expect tidy handling for such a big vehicle, strong power from its V6 engine and a comfy ride that won’t make the kids sick with high seas body motions. A slow-to-react 9-speed transmission is the one noteworthy flaw.
Having said that, we would highly recommend trying out the plug-in hybrid model, which we cover more completely in a separate review. Besides saving you a ton in gas, we’ve found the added weight from its battery further improves the handling, settles the ride and smooths out acceleration.
It also comes with more comfortable second-row captain’s chairs than the Stow ‘n Go models found in most of the regular Pacifica models. Although a distinctive element that provides unmatched versatility for the Pacifica (the seats fold completely into the floor for maximum cargo space versus physically removing them), they’re still a bit thinly padded and don’t slide as much as those of rivals vans. Pros and cons, in other words.
Elsewhere in the cabin, the Pacifica is more stylish than other vans, and the increased availability of the UConnect Theater Group for 2019 means you don’t have to get a loaded trim level to gain access to popular kid-friendly/appeasing tech goodies.
Road Trip Ready
To truly put the Pacifica to the test, we took a family road trip. Not just any road trip — a 2,000 journey from Northern Wyoming to Atlanta, Georgia. We had two adults, one teen and two school-aged kids (and their stuff) packed into a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica with the S appearance package.
Our first concern was space — would there be enough space for all of our stuff with the third row seat in use? We know what you’re thinking: Couldn’t you just use half the third row seat since you only had three kids? Well, yes… and no. The two school-aged kids are girls within one year of each other in age and they wanted to take up the whole third row with its cupholders, power seat adjustments and separate USB port. In the end, it didn’t matter since there’s more than enough space behind the third row and — thanks to Stow-N-Go — under the second row seats. Even on a seven-day trip, we did not need the underfloor storage.
It’s fine to make sure the kids are comfortable but we had adult concerns too — mainly road noise. We’ve never been through this part of the country before and wanted to get off the Interstate for much of the trip. Being in a noisy car will leave the driver and passengers feeling fatigued. Autotrader executive editor Brian Moody was the driver for much of the trip and said this about the Pacifica highway ride: “As soon as we hit highway 191, I could tell right away just how quiet the Pacifica is. Both the driver, adult passenger and all the kids commented ‘this car is really quiet.’ If that’s not the perfect road trip ride, I don’t know what is.”
Something you learn on a long trip like this is how some features are more valuable than you’d first think. For example, many SUV and minivan owners love retractable sunshades on the side windows for one big reason: It keeps the sunlight out of baby’s eyes. But there’s another use we discovered. Many kids in the pre-teen and teen age ranges would rather be on their phone texting or watching YouTube videos rather than watching a movie on the in-car theater system. The Pacifica’s in-car WiFi helped here too. Keeping this in mind, those side sunshades (especially in the third row) helped to lessen the “carsick” feeling that can result from watching a small screen and seeing the outside world whiz by. By blocking the kids’ peripheral view, the “I don’t feel good” complaints were down to only three times on the whole 7-day trip.
You might also think the on-board vacuum (Limited trim) is just gimmick designed to sell vans to parents with sloppy kids. Maybe it is. But it only takes one stop in Nashville, IL and its limited lunch choices to prove otherwise. After eating a turkey sandwich with an especially flaky crust, our 12-year-old daughter used the vacuum at the next rest stop to clean up her own seating area. What a great kid. But what a cool feature too.
At the end of our trip, we covered more than 2,000 miles, drove through 8 states, stayed in 5 hotels, ate 15 burritos collectively (if you’re ever in Lincoln, NE, check out Tico’s – amazing Mexican food) and cruised to 28.5 miles per gallon.
If you take frequent road trips, the Pacifica executed brilliantly. It’s the ultimate utility vehicle, it looks good, it’s comfortable and it’s amazingly competent at soaking up long strands of American blacktop.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Honda Odyssey — The recently redesigned Odyssey has its own bag of family-friendly minivan tricks, along with an improved interior and technology. It’s a bit dull, though, even by minivan standards.
2019 Kia Sedona — The Sedona was one of our must drive vehicles of 2016. Like the Pacifica, it helps you forget you’re driving a minivan, while delivering excellent value for your money and a superior warranty.
2019 Toyota Sienna — The Sienna has gone a long time without a full redesign and it’s starting to show. Still, you get extra-comfy second-row seats, Toyota’s superior reliability and the segment’s sharpest driving experience in its SE trim level.
The Touring Plus trim level is the one to get now that the UConnect Theater package and Advanced Safety Group are available (and strongly recommended). Everything else on upper trims is just frivolities you probably won’t miss. We would, however, consider the plug-in hybrid. It may be more expensive, but it’s ultimately the better van, and crucially, is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.