FCA holds an annual event at their Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan for journalists to give them a taste of what the brand has coming to dealer showrooms as well as a taste of future products with upcoming launch dates.
Most of the FCA line is well established, and new often means tweaks to horsepower, which often translates into dollars, as horsepower sells well. Ram Trucks have been refreshed over the last two model years, and their products are doing well, challenging their competitors in the market. Jeep continues to power sales and profits for FCA. And with the recent Gladiator launch, Jeep’s mid-sized pickup truck benefits from having Ram in the family.
Fiat, Alfa, Chrysler have been lagging in new products, with Voyager, a lower cost nameplate variant of Pacifica, a being the most recent. Maserati was not on the field for this event, but the muscle power leader, Dodge, and SRT put out for display a meaty wide-bodied Charger with some muscle-bound Hellcat power and ScatPac V-8 Hemi.
Leave it to the Dodge Boys to show that the love for American Motor Muscle is still alive at FCA with both Challenger and Charger, vehicles that you can raise a family in and be the fastest down the drag strip at the same time. Even if the sheet metal is basically the same for most of the recent decade, both of these machines continue to pump iron.
We gladly reconnected to the Jeep Brand, one that has a long history with this writer. Taking to the off-road trails with Brandon Girmus in a stock Gladiator. Having the pickup’s marketing manager show off his baby from the navigator’s seat was a lot of fun, as he knows which buttons and switches to apply, and when to use them. Plus, we got to talk about the completion of his recent history project an early Military Jeep, and his desire for a Forward Control. No doubt we will see him working on one of those soon.
Work and Play, It Is What You Haul
One of the benefits of having muscle power and the might of the FCA brand is that towing thing becomes easy. Be it with a Ram Heavy Duty Truck pulling a massive piece of construction equipment, a Dodge Durango pulling a swift race-ready Challenger, or a Jeep Gladiator pulling a really nice boat. Was also a highlight. One might think the experience is pretty much the same no matter the tow vehicle, Not so at all, each provided very different experience to the driver. And yes, pulling with a Cummins Diesel, Rocks.
Flashing Lights and Sirens, It’s the Cops
Taking to the test track, we got the behind the wheel of two of Dodge’s police pursuit vehicles. The Charger and the Durango. And we see why so many departments put these into their fleets. Fast and furious and dedicated to the job, FCA makes sure they offer what Officers of the Law need when it comes to their rolling office and detention facility. Police vehicles are very focused on the job at hand, without any fluff.
Abarth, taking to the track in a six-speed 124 Spider with the top down made you want to spend more time, topless in Pure Michigan style. Throaty and growly, agile and comfortable, this little 2-seater was more fun around the test track that should be allowed by law.
While our opinion is that FCA has an aging fleet of vehicles, they still produce ones that have a lot of value and merit in the marketplace. FCA’s has some very dedicated employees who love what they do, and it shows when they talk about the products. Kudos to FCA that they instill that kind of pride in their employees, as it is not easy to earn, especially in today’s world.
Words and Images by William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper currently serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association and has been reporting and working in the automotive industry throughout his career, starting in heavy trucking, then managing a Telco Fleet, and now reporting on the latest news from the automotive industry.
FCA invited Mr. Hopper to attend 2019 What’s New event providing transportation, food, and lodging. This is not compensation for reporting about the brand or the event. His opinions expressed here are his own.
The once boxy Chrysler minivan (the company who originated this automotive segment three-plus decades ago,) is now producing a sleek passenger van that will change minds.
The 2018 Pacifica Hybrid in Limited Trim sure surprised us as we took out it on a recent thousand-plus-mile trip. What we found was an amazing road tripper. An excellent highway cruiser that is not intimidated by the semi-trucks, and had plenty of power to climb the twisty hills of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and to pass with ease.
“That is one HOT Mini Van,” said no one ever. While minivans may not be what people aspire to drive, they do offer convenience and capacity. The Pacifica is a keeper.
Hybrid | PHEV Power
This vehicle can be used like the gasoline-powered vehicle many are used to, with the hybrid power stepping in to extend fuel economy. What surprised us was the PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle) technology. Plug the Pacifica in, be it at a Type Two Electric Vehicle Charger for a 2.5-hour recharge or into your home’s 110v grounded outlet for a longer charge time, about 14 hours. And drive 30-plus miles on all electric, which should cover most routine errand runs, or a one-way trip to work.
The extra step of plugging in is not hard, it just takes some forethought, to find an available Electric Vehicle Charger when you park. And of course to remember to plug the car into that charger, or the outlet at home.
The Chrysler Pacifica is designed with a focus on passenger comfort. From the heated and cooled front seats to the various interior lighting options. And what made me happy was the number of power outlets, some connected to the UVO system and others not, for the devices and electrical items brought into the van that need power.
Room for seven in three rows of seats, does it get any better? Why yes it does, as there is still cargo space even with all three rows of seats in use. Yes, let’s say it again, cargo space and not just a little bit, plenty of it. So you can take that road trip with the family and stuff that comes along, A feat which is hard to do in the smaller 3-row passenger vehicles at the same price that on the market today.
Many vehicles come with 3 rows of seats, but few provide much if any room in the 2nd row, and the 3rd row. Or other creature comforts for those passengers. HVAC controls as well as plenty of USB plugins for those passengers. In the Limited Trim model, we had there was a two-screen rear seat entertainment option for the second-row passengers with separate HMDI and USB plugs, as well as wireless headphones, or a headphone jack and individual remote controls. Which means not everyone has to watch the same video or play the same game.
Legroom and Cargo Space
Legroom is plentiful with seat adjustability for the first and second-row seats. In the hybrid, the 2nd-row seats can be removed and lifted out and stored out of the vehicle. (The Pacifica Hybrid does not have 2nd-row Stow and Go, as the batteries are carried where the seats would fold into.) Don’t take that as a negative, there is plenty of storage throughout the van, including a large drawer in the base of the front center console for the 2nd-row passengers, lots of crannies for storage, and best of all behind the 3rd row seats which are stow and go, there is space to carry cargo.
Storage compartments are all over, even a place by both front seats to stow a wet umbrella, including a little tray molded into the door sill to collect the water dripping off of it.
Doors All Around
From the side sliding doors on both sides and rear hatch, as well as the front doors, you can load people and cargo in and out of the van easily and at a comfortable height. Have your hands full? that is OK, put a foot under the vehicle and that door will open automatically (you do need to have the key in your pocket and know in just the right place.)
An All Seeing Van
From inside you can pop down the little rear seat monitor mirror to see what is happening in the back to the exterior cameras the van has to see the traffic around you.
The Pacifica has the optional 360-Degree surround camera that has a large camera in the base of the grill, one at the top of the windshield, and one under each exterior side mirror, as well as at the rear of the van (the backup camera) these operate individually or as a combined unit to help see all that is around the van. While you can only access the imagery on the screen in a parked or under 5 mph mode, this system combined with an onboard radar is the eyes of the vehicle, assisting the driver.
Adaptive Cruise Control is one of the best options on any highway cruiser. The driver sets the cruise control and enables it to look ahead to recognize if the vehicles are slowing down or pulling into the lane in front of you. It then adjusts your speed appropriately. With Full Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus the van also pays attention when you may not be, slowing the van down and stopping if need be.
This in addition to ParkSense®, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, and lane departure warning, when turned on, let you know what might be around you and warns you. It lets you know when you are drifting out of your lane, if there is another vehicle in your blind spot, or if you are simply backing up if another vehicle is going to be in your path. Very helpful and an added level of safety one needs in this distracted world.
Parking, No Problem
ParkSense® helps you see what you can not when you are parking, are you getting too close to something, it will let you know with an audible warning as well as a visual on the center screen from the camera view.
You may not like parking, so just hit the button and the Pacifica’s Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist will take over for you and park the vehicle. You do have to be in it and provide assistance, but the cameras see and measure the distance and make all the decisions and steering moves for you. While this is the one feature we did not take advantage of, it can be a big help in tight spots. You tell the Pacifica you want it to find a parking spot, by pushing a button, then tell it which side to look by putting the turn signal on for that side, and the car finds a spot and asks you make the gear changes, brake and accelerator activations, but it steers itself into a parking spot using the onboard cameras.
The Pacifica is beyond a daily grocery getter, beyond the family van. In a crowded passenger minivan market, there are options. If you want something fuel efficient, one that can run 30 miles on all electric, the Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice.
In either conventional or hybrid form this front-wheel-drive transversely mounted front engine van provides all of the passenger comfort and roadworthiness from a brand well known for luxury.
While the hybrid and PHEV technology is beyond amazing, and the usefulness of the space that the Pacifica offers makes it both a great long-distance runner and a city street cruiser.
That is just part of the story of the Chrysler Pacifica. The rest of the story is you, your family. Visit a dealer and take a test drive. Compare it to other vehicles, including SUV and CUV offerings. If you need a vehicle to haul passengers and their stuff in comfort, with great fuel economy, this is a very strong contender at an under $50K price point.
Words and Photos by William West Hopper.
FCA and Chrysler were kind enough to provide us the use of the Pacifica for a week. We were asked to review it and share our experiences on social media, we were not compensated for posting, other than the use of the vehicle. We paid for our own fuel, tolls and other travel expenses.
2018 will be the 14th year for the annual awards and the for the fifth consecutive year based on Prime Research’s 2017 media report. The World Car Awards were inaugurated in 2003 and launched in 2004.
2018 marks the 12th year of World Car’s partnership with NYIAS, and the fifth consecutive year that the World Car Awards have retained their ranking as the No.1 automotive awards program in the world in terms of media reach. While the awards and ceremony are a recognition of automotive excellence is on an international scale and intended to complement and not compete with other national and regional Car of the Year celebrations.
The awards are administered by a not-for-profit association, under the guidance of a Steering Committee of pre-eminent automotive journalists from Asia, Europe, and North America. Peter Lyon (chair – Japan), Jens Meiners (vice-chair – Germany), Mike Rutherford (vice-chair – UK), Tim Stevens (director – USA), Siddarth Patankar (director – India) and Gerry Malloy (director – Canada and president, WCOTY Association).
Automobiles Nominated for the
World Car Awards
2018 World Car of the Year:
– Mazda CX-5
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60
2018 World Urban Car:
– Ford Fiesta
– Suzuki Swift
– Volkswagen Polo
2018 World Luxury Car:
– Audi A8
– Porsche Cayenne
– Porsche Panamera
2018 World Performance Car:
– Honda Civic Type R
– Lexus LC 500
2018 World Green Car:
– BMW 530e iPerformance
– Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
– Nissan LEAF
2018 World Car Design of the Year:
– Lexus LC 500
– Range Rover Velar
– Volvo XC60
The Road to the World Car began in Frankfurt on September 19, 2017, and was followed by the first-ever Tokyo Test Drive conducted at the BMW Tokyo Bay facility in October giving jurors yet another opportunity to evaluate contenders that might not be available in their home markets. Then, the fourth annual “L.A. Test Drives” took place across a six-day period in November with a record number of 35 jurors participating. At the Geneva show in March, they close in on the end of the Road to World Car journey which will end on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, when World Car opens the New York International Auto Show and also declares all winners in all categories.
New York International Auto Show
Owned and operated by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the New York Auto Show is an awesome combination of new ideas, technological innovation, exceptional concept cars and nearly 1,000 of the latest new cars and trucks. Over one million visitors are expected to visit the show this year to see what is truly possible from the automotive industry.
Information for this post is from the World Car Awards Press Release. Photos are from the various automotive media sites. Collated and edited by William West Hopper.
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