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Is the minivan dead? Chrysler says NO!

By: Roger Rivero

In the North American filmography, the films abound where a trip in auto dares of the country, becomes protagonist of the plot. In the 1960s, when the bonanza made it possible to own large cars for most middle-class families, long trips with provisions for the road, restless children in the third seat, and husbands contending for deciding where to make the next stop , were part of the scenery of this great country.

The construction of the National Highway System, which began in 1956 under the Eisenhower administration, invited the automobile adventure. Almost thirty years later, in 1984, Chrysler revolutionized this world, with its first-generation minivans. Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager were the names of these handy family cars, which began plaguing the parking lots of hundreds of thousands of American homes, ready to take the large family to school, sports or a trip.

Over the years, new opponents entered the ring, and Chrysler lost ground, compared to newer and reliable products, Toyota and Honda. The rise of the Crossovers and SUVs continued to dwindle the minivan market. Last year, only 3.2% of the cars sold were of this type, a substantial decline compared to those years of glory. The 2017, possibly the worst sales in the sector since 2009, although … some light is seen at the end of the tunnel.

Part of the hope is based on products like the new 2018 Honda Odyssey or the brand new Crhysler Pacifica, which we tested this week. With this new minivan, built and designed from scratch, with new platform, more technology and functionality, Crhysler has breathed new life, retiring its line of Town & Country.

With Pacifica, Chrysler shows that there is some experience left after selling more than 11 million of this type of car in the past. The first impression is very favorable, for the luxury of the interior finish. The sunroof reaches the three rows of seats, and the ambiance of this cabin resembles that of a private Jet. Driving it does not disappoint either. It feels firm, dynamic and very silent.

It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engine and 9-speed automatic transmission with excellent fuel efficiency of 23 miles per gallon in combined handling. For the most concerned about the pocket and the environment, there is a rechargeable hybrid version like the one we tested, unique in its class, with two electric motors. The Pacific Hybrid can travel up to 33 miles on a charged battery and offers 84 miles per gallon of fuel with 566 miles range. With a 120-volt charger, the vehicle’s battery charges in about 14 hours, and in only two with a 240 volt level 2 charge. I was certainly impressed with the performance of his minivan in pure electric mode, or under combined or hybrid driving conditions.

Given all the time I spent driving on freeways in this hybrid Pacifica, I was pleased that it came with Chrysler’s adaptive cruise control, part of the advanced SafetyTec package, which also brings a 360 degree camera blind spot monitoring system. Chrysler’s adaptive cruise control does something great, automatically adjusting the power train to accelerate when the turn signal is activated. This system, which automatically matches the speeds with slower forward traffic, also leads the vehicle to a complete stop when traffic stops.

The technology is abundant, emphasizing the system of information and training Uconnect of Chrysler. This is one of my favorites, because of the speed with which it responds, and the design so functional and intuitive, characteristics that many products in the industry. For second row occupants, 10-inch screens are reserved, loaded with games and entertainment, and you can watch videos through DVD, Blu-ray or connecting to other devices. My only complaint on technology is related to the absence of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, something that Chrysler insurance will amend next year.

To future buyers, Chrysler does not bother them much, and only offers two finishes on the hybrid line, Premium and Platinum, with base prices of $ 41,995 and $ 44,995, respectively. They are not cheap prices for a minivan, but the Pacifica comes well equipped and with enough luxury. Also take into account that it is the only hybrid option for a minivan in the entire market. My recommendation would fall into the Platinum finish, adding entertainment for the passengers and more driver assistance options needed for long-haul travel.

Chrysler has created an excellent product, with ingenious solutions of charge, design and consumption. The reliability, the true “Achilles heel” of this manufacturer is suspended. I would not feel bad recommending Pacifica to a Hispanic family looking for a minivan, but it would certainly help a lot to clear the cloud of reliability if Chrysler ever decided to give its vehicles a stronger, Kia or Hyundai-style warranty .

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