2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus first drive review: If you can make it here…

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

What can you learn driving the 201 Chrysler Pacifica for 15 minutes at 15 miles an hour? Quite a bit, actually, depending on where those miles are. Especially when that 15 miles per hour is a top speed—much of it standing still—but only if those miles are in Manhattan in the vicinity of the Lincoln Tunnel and everything with wheels on it auditioning for a remake of Escape from New York.

Chrysler brought New York area journalists to a “studio”—one of a number of former warehouses on the West Side near the Javitts Center (as if non-New Yorkers have any idea where that is)—to brief them on the details of the Chrysler Pacifica, the new minivan that replaces the Chrysler Town & Country. The Pacifica had its formal debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year and this was our first chance to actually drive it.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus center stack

The GPS navigation system of Uconnect 8.4 NAV is easy to use, but the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus we tested set us on a course that appeared to destine us for the Lincoln Tunnel, so we self-navigated to our destination. (click to enlarge)

CarBuzzard gave you a rundown on most its major features already. It’s all new (except the powertrain, and that’s Chrysler’s acclaimed and near ubiquitous 3.6-liter V-6/nine-speed automatic transmission, in front-drive only because of the Stow n’ Go seating takes space where a driveshaft to the rear might otherwise go) and we’ll suggest you go to our first look for more information—but this second look/first drive brought up some family friendly details.

First, the seating, because you need somewhere for people to sit. Despite this being Manhattan, no straphangers allowed. And yes, the front seats are comfortable, but that’s the easy part. Unlike almost all SUVs, the third row of the Pacifica is adult worthy, and unlike some competitors, there’s room under the second row for toes. It’s a small thing, perhaps, unless they’re your toes.

Second row: Chrysler has developed a system to allow a child seat to be left still strapped in place in the second row while tipping row two forward for access to the third row. Think that doesn’t matter? Consider the alternatives, removing the child seat to allow easy access to the third row—and then having to reinstall it—or require third-row designees to clamber over the child seat and wriggle between the second row seats.

Cargo area of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

The cargo area of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus we drove is more than 30 cubic feet, even with the third row seating in place. (click to enlarge)

Speaking of between the second row seats, there’s an optional center filler seat that fits between the individual seats that can be used for the eighth passenger for a 2-3-3 seating pattern or with the seatback folded provide a center armrest and even more cupholders. Eight passengers? Perhaps, but don’t expect to go cross-country like that. In all, Chrysler says there are 234 permutations for seating configurations. We didn’t count.

Chrysler continues to be the only minivan maker with anything like the Town & Country/Grand Caravan/Pacifica Stow n’ Go. While third row seats that tumble into a well at the rear of the vehicle are common (and something started in the Honda Odyssey), Chrysler’s Stow n’ Go allows row two seats to tumble into wells in the floor. However, before the Pacifica, it required reaching around to the front seat to move it forward. This #firstworldproblem with a new button on the center doorframe the powers the front seat forward. The Stow n’ Go mechanism has been improved, too, to make it easier to stow the seat.

Because the third row raised eats up cargo room—there’s still oodles—the Chrysler Pacifica comes with a roof rack. But because the transvers rails of a conventional roof rack make wind noise and create drag, Chrysler makes the crossbars are removable. Or better said, they hide under the side rails and can be taken from their storage place via thumbscrews and moved to transverse position and thumbscrewed down for use. Why didn’t someone think of that before?

Max cargo area of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus

Maximum cargo capacity of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus is 140 cu ft. (click to enlarge)

In that vein, the Chrysler Pacifica is the only minivan so far to have kick-to-open sliding side doors as well as lift gate. Carrying baby to the minivan in the rain? Kick under the rocker panel and the door slides open. Baby gets buckled into the child seat while your derriere stays out in the rain. Still, less time.

Speaking of the kids, it’s still best to talk with them while they’re in the car. You have them as a captive audience. But for the time they’re an audience to the infotainment system, the Chrysler Pacifica minivan takes the individual theater to new heights by lowering the screen from the ceiling to the backs of the front seats. Beyond that, by going digital, each seat can not only have its own video…or the same video at different places, should one or the other fall asleep and not want to skip ahead. With Wi-Fi, video can be streamed from device to seatback screen. It helps with carsickness to not be looking at the video in one’s lap.