CARS.COM — After years without any significant new features or styling updates, the grandmother of the minivan class was not aging well. But for 2017 the Chrysler Town & Country is reborn as the Pacifica, and the new vehicle's styling and features will wow families, likely catching the eye of even the most minivan-averse.
Related: More 2016 Detroit Auto Show Coverage
The new Pacifica debuted at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit wearing the sleek curves and stylish face of the redesigned Chrysler 200, and packing loads of features — and a few surprises — like a segment-first hybrid powertrain.
The Chrysler Town & Country came in last at the Cars.com Ultimate Minivan Challenge for its weak powertrain, lack of composure on the road and ancient multimedia system. With its new-for-2017 replacement, Chrysler promises more room, comfortable seating and plenty of innovative features tailored to families. Check out our top five favorites:
1. Revised Stow 'n Go Seats
One reason families flock to Chrysler's minivans is its segment-exclusive Stow 'n Go seats, which easily fold into underfloor bins, switching the van from people-hauler to cargo-hauler in a pinch. When the seats are upright, the bins are the perfect place to stash stuff out of sight. For 2017, Chrysler improved the already excellent system with wider, cushier seats and an enhanced folding maneuver.
Previously, you had to move the front seats forward before stowing the second-row seats. You still have to do that in the Pacifica, but now it's easier thanks to a one-touch button on the B-pillar. Also, the seats now tumble without having to first move the floormats out of the way. Lastly, and perhaps most helpful for families with small children, the Easy Tilt seats slide and lift when an empty forward-facing child-safety seat is installed, creating another walkway to the second row. Chrysler engineers also said this maneuver will work with a rear-facing car seat installed, though there's less room leftover to get into the back. We're looking forward to testing this feature in our Car Seat Check.
"The new Stow 'n Go seats have more padding, making them much more comfortable for passengers," said Jennifer Newman, managing editor/news and mom of two. "The old seats were thinly padded, which allowed them to stow easily, but they weren't great to sit on for long rides."
2. Uconnect, Uconnect Theater
The Pacifica finally ditches the old model's tiny, outdated multimedia system for an updated version of the automaker's simple Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch touch-screen.
Keeping kids entertained in the car is as easy as herding cats, and the Pacifica's answer is Uconnect Theater. The optional system allows you to stream from a tablet to the minivan's two 10-inch rear-seat entertainment screens. It also offers nine built-in games and apps; from checkers to bingo, these games can be played by one child or by both kids riding in the second row.
"Uconnect Theater seems perfectly suited to today's connected family, which is bringing more and more entertainment content into the car on smartphones and tablets," said Mike Hanley, senior editor and minivan-driving father of three young boys.
Thankfully for parents, Uconnect Theater includes two sets of wireless headphones. And parents can mute, turn off or even restrict content displayed on the screens.
3. Hands-Free Power Sliding Door, Liftgate
Chrysler improved on a minivan staple offered throughout the class: power-sliding doors. For 2017, the Pacifica's doors open several ways: the traditional buttons in the first row and on the van's B-pillar, as well as a new handle-touch button on the outside of the minivan. Newly optional is a foot-swipe activated system that opens the sliding doors and the rear cargo door. With a bag in one arm and a child in another, this feature could really come in handy for parents — though good balance is required.
4. Stow 'n Vac
The one known quality about parenting is that kids are messy. Following Honda's lead, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica has an optional in-van vacuum cleaner system. Powered by Ridgid, the vacuum is in the second row and Chrysler says the vacuum cleaner's hose provides easy access to all corners, though it can only tackle dry messes. Also like Honda's system, Stow 'n Vac will be available only on the top trim.
"The newly available integrated vacuum should make it easier to keep the cabin clean, but it's too bad many buyers won't benefit from it; the vacuum cleaner option is only offered on the top-of-the-line Limited Platinum trim level," Hanley said.
5. Plug-In Hybrid Model
Chrysler says the segment-first Pacifica Hybrid will deliver an estimated range of 30 electric-only driving miles as well as an EPA-estimated 80 miles per gallon equivalent fuel economy rating in the city. Full fuel-economy ratings haven't yet been announced. Also, a standard fuel-saving engine stop-start system will be introduced later in the model year on the non-hybrid model.
The hybrid's 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery is stored below the minivan's floor, however, leaving no room for the Stow 'n Go seats. While that feature won't work in the Pacifica Hybrid, many parents may be willing to forgo it for better fuel economy.
"For parents looking to do their part in saving the environment for their children, the Pacifica Hybrid is a welcome addition to the minivan class," Newman said.