the peterborough examiner Thursday, October 26, 2017
Pacifica hybrid is a solid bet
Road Test: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Jil Mcintosh Driving.ca Have cars, will travel. I?m an oldcar enthusiast, so each October, I make a trek to a huge antique auto event in Pennsylvania. Last year, I took a Chrysler Pacifica minivan to get there. But for 2017, a Pacifica plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version has been added. With the same three occupants, same route, and same amount of stuff, the race was on to see how much better the hybrid could do. Last year?s conventional Pacifica Limited rang in at a base price of $52,995, before numerous options brought it to $60,445. My hybrid, in Platinum trim, was fully loaded at $56,495. But there?s a bit more to it: I live in the very generous province of Ontario, which hands back a $14,000 ?green? rebate on the Pacifica hybrid because it can be plugged in. Quebec gives back $8,000 on it, while B.C. rebates $5,000. Those in other provinces have to pony up the full price. The Pacifica Hybrid contains a large battery, warranted for up to 10 years or 160,000 kilometres. The third-row seats fold flat, but the battery?s placement under the floor eliminates the regular van?s Stow ?n Go, fold-into-the-floor second-row seats. If you want extra cargo room, you have to remove and store these chairs, as you do on competitors? minivans. Like the regular Pacifica, the hybrid model uses a 3.6-litre V6 engine, but with fuel-saving Atkinson cycle technology. This results in less horsepower, but the hybrid system runs the electric motor in tandem with it when acceleration is needed. In place of the regular van?s nine-speed automatic, the hybrid uses a CVT. After it?s plugged in and charged, the battery provides a length of completely fuel-free electric driving, as much as 53 km or so, depending on how you drive. It takes about 13 hours to charge up on regular household current, or about two hours with a 240-volt charger. Ontario rebates up to $1,000 to buy and install one at home. We hit the road at 4 a.m., fully charged. Once the stored charge runs out, the Pacifica operates as a conventional hybrid, automatically switching between gas, electricity, or a combination as needed. As you drive, it recharges the battery with regenerative braking, capturing energy otherwise lost during deceleration. Unlike a fully electric vehicle, a PHEV will continue to run as long as there?s gas in the tank. Most regular hybrids will use that energy as required, but as soon as it builds enough up, the Pacifica immediately goes completely electric again for as long as it can. You don?t get much on flat ground, but in Pennsylvania?s mountains, I was able to build up as much as four kilometres? worth of electricity on the steepest inclines. The regenerative system is so strong that the van actually loses speed when coasting downhill. I might have made our daily trips from the show to our hotel on electricity alone, except for the main issue surrounding electric cars: Infrastructure. Our hotel had a public vehicle charger, but it wasn?t working. We stopped at numerous stores and restaurants, but only one had a charger. In addition to an hour?s free electricity, it got us a spot near the door in the otherwise packed parking lot. Several people ignored the Tesla parked alongside while checking out the oddity of a minivan with a cord. The hybrid Pacifica is really meant for close-to-home use, where you can charge it regularly and then commute to work or run errands primarily on electricity. Natural Resources Canada estimates that over a year, on average, the hybrid with charging costs half as much to fuel up as the conventional van does ? $917 versus $2,027. My van would have done better if I?d been able to plug it in whenever we stopped. But even so, I averaged 7.3 L/100 km on the 2,195-km trip, versus 9.3 when I took the conventional Pacifica. Some of that difference came from driving it differently. My right foot is light at the best of times, but a PHEV coaches you to be even better. I accelerated gradually, and coasted where possible to build up electricity, which advances a gauge in the cluster for extra encouragement. Really, with just a few changes to our acceleration and braking habits, we could collectively save billions of litres of fuel a year without changing a single vehicle on the road. Beyond its driveline, the Pacifica has pretty much the attributes of its conventional sibling. The seats aren?t quite as comfortable as in Toyota?s Sienna or the Honda Odyssey, but they?re still supportive. The ride is smooth and quiet, and the steering is light and accurate. Overall, the driving experience is as good as or better than its competitors, which couldn?t always be said of the aging ? but much less expensive ? Dodge Grand Caravan that it?s replacing. It?s not exactly cheap transportation, even with a rebate, and you get the maximum benefit only if you remember to plug it in whenever you can. But there aren?t many larger-family-sized electrics out there, and this one comes without ?range anxiety.? If that?s your shopping list, this could be your van.
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