On the Road in the 2024 Chrysler Pacifica Plug-In Hybrid

What is the most efficient way to move the maximum number of people with minimal fuel consumption? The 2024 Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid electric minivan makes a strong case for that claim.

The Pacifica is posh and it is not an inexpensive proposition, at $64,205, but it will move seven people and their luggage while delivering impressive fuel efficiency. Remember that the sting of the purchase price is softened by the Pacifica hybrid’s eligibility for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

More importantly, for around-town commuting, sports carpools, and errands, the Pacifica’s approximately 32-mile EV-only driving range lets drivers spend most of their time running on low-cost electrons from their homes rather than costly gasoline from a gas station.

But while EVs also provide that low-cost commuting capability, the Pacifica lets drivers hit the road with their families without range or charging concerns because it still uses gas when it is needed. But only when it is needed.

The EPA estimates that in driving that uses a mix of gas and electricity, the Pacifica has the equivalent of 82 mpg. When running on gas only, it still functions as a regular hybrid, with the electric motor recovering energy when coasting or decelerating and returning it when accelerating, so the government says that it scores an impressive 30 mpg even when the battery has been depleted.

During a week of driving a total of 443 miles, the Pacifica averaged 39.5 mpg. That’s because I drove it 235 miles around town using only electricity from my home ChargePoint charger. Then we went on a 208-mile tour of prospective wedding venues with our daughter and her fiancé, with the Pacifica proving to be an ideal limousine for the four of us now that we no longer use minivans for carpooling kids home from after-school practices.

Because the Pacifica hybrid mounts its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack in the underfloor storage bins that otherwise contain the Stow’n’Go folding second-row seats when they aren’t needed, it has sturdier, better-cushioned non-folding seats. When the less-comfortable folding seats are tasked with carrying infant safety seats or child boosters, their comfort is irrelevant.

So the cushier fixed seats were a bonus for our adult back-seaters in comparison, making their long day more comfortable. It is important to note that the hybrid retains its third-row Stow’n’Go seats and storage.

The enormous dual-pane panoramic sunroof bathes the cabin in light that makes the second and third rows of seats feel less claustrophobic and more luxurious than they otherwise might. And after a tiring day of considering prospective venues, the young couple was able to relax in the back seat as I drove while they were streaming season three of Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime thanks to the built-in Amazon Fire TV for the dual rear-seat video display screens.

When navigating through the crowded parking lots of the various wineries and other prospective wedding sites, the Pacifica demonstrated its unexpectedly tight turning radius. Combined with its optional 360-degree camera and rear vision that is better than that of most SUVs, the Pacifica proved easy to park, so it didn’t contribute to any anxiety on a day when I was facing the reality of a very large bill for the upcoming activities.

During the course of the tour through central Virginia, I realized that we’d be passing close to the Blue Ridge Tunnel, a closed rail tunnel that is now open for hikes. So I diverted from the planned course through the rolling piedmont to drive up Afton Mountain to the tunnel’s entrance for a quick visit.

Climbing on the tight switchbacks of the winding two-lane highway, the Pacifica acquitted itself better than could be reasonably expected when pressed into service as an impromptu sports car. The hybrid drivetrain provides the benefit of torque fill, when the electric motor is able to assist the van’s 3.6-liter V6 when accelerating out of slow corners while simultaneously making a steep climb. Combined power for the gas and electric engines is 260 horsepower.

At the same time, the hybrid’s regenerative braking, which is emphasized by twisting the rotary shifter to the “L” position, helps slow the van for the curves. This not only recharges the battery, but it takes the load off the brakes. This is especially relevant on the way back down the mountain.

The Pacifica’s body roll and pitch through these turns was amazingly well controlled considering the cushy ride the van’s suspension provided while cruising on the straighter roads leading to the mountain. Equally surprising was the grip provided by the stock Nexen N Priz RH7 all-season tires. Considering their primary assignments of providing all-weather traction, low rolling resistance, low road noise, and long tread life, their ability to provide grip through the hairpin turns was unexpected and welcome. The tires were a nice surprise from an unheralded brand.

Arriving home at the end of the day, it was time to plug the Pacifica in so that its battery would be ready for regular short-trip service in the morning. The Pacifica’s charge port is notable for having a protective seal built into the back side of the door that covers it, so there is no annoying plug to remove and install every time the vehicle is charged. While this is commendable, arriving home at night underscored the Pacifica’s lack of a light for the charging port, which makes it needlessly difficult to insert the connector from the charging station. This is an easy fix that Chrysler should have addressed long ago.

Speaking of fixes, we can’t discuss the Pacifica plug-in hybrid without acknowledging the Consumer Reports reliability score elephant in the room. In the most recent test, the Pacifica hybrid scored dead last in reliability, and by a meaningful margin over the next-to-last vehicle.

Chrysler says this was due to some problems with the batteries in the Pacifica hybrid’s first few years, and that these problems have since been fixed by a recall program. Commendably, Chrysler-brand CEO Christine Feuell provided a direct explanation of this for Design News by email. “Pacifica Hybrid field data and reported customer concerns indicate significant improvement,” she said. 

“In fact, the trend for vehicles with [three months in service] is approaching historic lows, which is what we want to see,” she continued.  “A battery issue was resolved with a safety recall and other issues were addressed with software updates.  As we do with all our models, we continue to closely monitor the Pacifica Hybrid’s performance using both internal reporting systems and J.D. Power data.”

Such an unflinching discussion of the previous problem and the solutions applied make me much more comfortable recommending the Pacifica hybrid as one of the vehicles I test that I would actually buy with my own money. I may yet really do so, replacing our aged Town & Country. After we’ve paid for a wedding.