CARS.COM — Minivans are known for their people- and stuff-hauling chops, not their fuel efficiency. Opting for one forces families to choose convenience over gas mileage — but not with the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. The segment's first plug-in hybrid minivan is EPA-rated to get 33 miles of electric-only range and 32 mpg in combined city/highway driving as a hybrid. How do those numbers compare to the gas model's? We took a Pacifica Hybrid and a regular gas-powered Pacifica on a 122-mile drive loop to find out.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid model gets power from a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack for a combined rating of 260 horsepower. The regular model uses a similar 3.6-liter V-6 and is good for 287 hp and an EPA rating of 18/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. After plugging in the Pacifica, we got a full charge after two hours on a 220-volt charger and hit the road. During our drive of Chicago-area stop-and-go traffic as well as higher-speed highway driving, the Pacifica Hybrid went 32.3 miles on electric power and returned overall mileage of 28.8 mpg compared with the regular model's 24.9 mpg. To get this number, Chrysler uses a calculation that factors in the gas fuel economy as well as the electric energy used and converts it to miles per gallon.
Unlike other plug-ins, there's no way to select an electric vehicle mode in the Pacifica. It automatically uses the available electric range and then defaults to engine power. The V-6 engages as needed to do things like power the air conditioning or provide a little extra oomph when accelerating hard. When the electric range is gone, there are still some mpg benefits to be had, however.
Out of the 122 miles, 74.8 of those miles in the hybrid vehicle were boosted by electric assist. Even though we depleted the range after 32 miles, in stop-and-go traffic, the EV is able to recoup, save and then use a little of its energy through its regenerative braking system.
During our test, the fuel-efficient Pacifica Hybrid used 2.6 gallons of gas, significantly less than the regular model's 5.4 gallons. Without factoring electricity used, the Pacifica Hybrid returned 47.4 mpg after depleting its electric-only range. How much did it cost in electricity to charge it? The Pacifica uses a 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack, but Kevin Mets, Pacifica Hybrid chief engineer, told us that it never fully depletes and you'll only be able to charge about 12 kwh. Chicago-area households pay an average of 0.15 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity; multiply that by the 12-kwh battery capacity and it cost us about $1.80 to charge it to go 32 miles. To see your state's average electricity rates, click here.
On average, gasoline in Illinois costs $2.313 a gallon, which got us 24.9 miles in the regular Pacifica. There's a definite fuel cost savings even when charging costs are factored, but how much will the hybrid cost up front? The gasoline-powered Pacifica starts at $30,090, including destination; the hybrid model's base price is $43,090, but it offers much more standard equipment. The EPA estimates that Pacifica Hybrid drivers will save an average of $3,250 in fuel costs over five years versus owners of the regular Pacifica (based on current fuel prices). Also helping to offset the model's price premium is the fact that it qualifies for the largest current federal rebate, $7,500, as well as any additional state green car incentives.
There are a few tradeoffs, however. Because of where the hybrid's batteries sit under the floor, Stow 'n Go second-row seats aren't available. Overall, however, with the Pacifica Hybrid, families don't have to trade utility for efficiency.