Dear Car Talk:
My husband and I are thinking of buying the new Chrysler Pacifica, mainly because of the Stow 'n Go seats. We have four golden retrievers and live in a fire-prone area -- in case we need to make a quick getaway, the Pacifica seems like a good choice! We're old folks and can't lift the seats out of the Honda and Toyota vans. In fact, we can hardly lift the dogs! But they can get into a van themselves. Is it a good car? And what about the hybrid -- is it a good idea? Thank you for any advice you can throw our way.
I drove the new Pacifica recently and loved it. It seems like a huge upgrade over the old Chrysler minivans. It handles well; it's quiet and comfortable inside; it has a nice interior; it looks great for a minivan. And the Stow 'n Go seats that fold into the floor are a real convenience.
Plus, the one I tested had two separate video screens for the second-row passengers, so two of your dogs can watch the cat channel while the other two watch the squirrel channel. No fighting! What are the downsides? Well, in the past, Chrysler hasn't been able to match the build quality of Honda and Toyota. I owned several Dodge Caravans years ago. While they were practical, versatile and reasonably reliable, neither one lasted 150,000 miles. And they both tended to get noisy and squeaky as they got older, as things loosened up.
My 1992 Caravan even blew an engine at 8,000 miles. But, to be fair to Chrysler, that was several Clinton adminstrations ago.
Will the new Chrysler Pacifica come closer to the build quality of the leading minivan makers? I don't know. In general, car quality has improved a lot. But how much the Pacifica has improved can't be answered until a bunch of Pacificas have 100,000 or more miles on them. And for that reason, I'd shy away from the hybrid version for now. It would be Chrysler's first foray into hybrid technology. I'd want to let some other people see if Chrysler followed the "Install Hybrid Drivetrain" instructions properly before buying one myself.
But my first impression, after driving the Pacifica, is that the build quality is better. And the bottom line is that it's a very nice vehicle. And you'll probably get an acceptably reliable vehicle that the golden retrievers will thoroughly enjoy trashing.
So I'd say go for it, Deborah. And drop us a note when you hit 100,000 miles and let us know how it's doing -- other than the dog smell.