CARS.COM — Cars.com’s editors love the Chrysler Pacifica minivan more than a mom given an hour of alone time. After impressing my kindergartner and me during a drive event last year, it then took top honors at Cars.com’s Ultimate Minivan Challenge 2016 and then won even bigger, earning our Best of 2017 award. Its classy styling, comfortable road manners and loads of features look great on paper, but how do they measure up in the real world?
Related: We Bought a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica
I took the Pacifica on a road trip with my husband and “Wreck-It Ralph”-style three kids to see how it holds up after a long weekend of grubby fingers, rush-hour traffic and piles of family gear.
The Pacifica can be configured with seven or eight seats and our test van has a second-row bench for eight-passenger capacity. With three young kids, I frequently play car-seat Tetris, and the Pacifica’s seat flexibility makes this a bit easier. I removed the second row’s middle seat for easier access to the third row. Back there are two sets of lower Latch anchors and two top tether anchors for car-seat installation. I installed my first-grader’s booster and my 2-year-old’s rear-facing convertible in the second row, and put my other 2-year old in the third row. Thankfully, everybody had enough room.
Behind the third row, there’s 32.3 cubic feet of space. We fit a portable crib, an air mattress and several bags — with room to spare. The Pacifica’s third row folds easily in a 60/40 split, opening up 87.5 cubic feet of space for bulkier items.
In the second and third rows, the pop-up sunshades made nap time go a bit more smoothly, but the ultimate key to road-trip smoothness was the Uconnect Theater rear entertainment system, standard on our Touring L Plus model van. The second row’s dual 10-inch touchscreens feature built-in apps that kept my first-grader engaged for hours …. yes, hours. There were a few hitches, however.
First, the second-row seats don’t slide forward or back because of the Stow ‘n Go seating system. Initially, my tiny 6-year-old couldn’t reach the touchscreen. We solved this by moving the front passenger seat back and angling the screen toward her. Second — and more frustratingly — the system wouldn’t work. After a lengthy call to customer support, we rebooted the system and got one of the two screens to load. The second screen remained dark — until it sporadically started working about an hour into our drive home; the issue remains a mystery, but the system has worked flawlessly since.
The Pacifica didn’t quite pass the grubby fingers test, however. After just one road trip, the Uconnect Theater’s touchscreens had more fingerprint smudges than a school bus’s windows. On the other hand, our cabin’s black and alloy leather-trimmed seats were easy to wipe down and camouflaged snack mishaps.
The van is filled with goodies that make even the most painful road trip a bit easier — and not just for kids. The heated steering wheel was my go-to favorite, followed by the one-touch sliding doors. With the press of a button on the outside door handles, the sliding door opens — a lifesaver when your arms are full of stuff, or kids.
In the first row, the center console is enormous and full of functionality thanks to plenty of built-in cubbies, cupholders and sliding partitions. It easily managed my hangry family’s snack stash as well as several drinks and some miscellaneous clutter.
We left Cars.com’s downtown Chicago headquarters at 4 p.m. on a Friday, which can also be called gridlock o’clock. Despite our snail-like exodus from the city, the Pacifica’s overall mileage was respectable. During our 392-mile trip, the van averaged 23.8 mpg, in line with its EPA-estimated 18/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined rating. It’s rated similarly to two-wheel-drive versions of the Toyota Sienna (19/27/22), and higher than the Kia Sedona (18/24/20).
Overall, the Pacifica delivered — mysterious tech glitch notwithstanding. It out-styles, out-drives and just plain out-wows the rest of the class. There’s plenty to keep Mom, Dad and all the kids happy, which makes it a family road-trip all-star … even with the traffic.