Drive Time: Hybrid charges up Pacifica claim | MyWindsorNow.com

Drive Time: Hybrid charges up Pacifica claim

Bud Wells
For The Tribune

The light-blue exterior finish is the only color available for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

Its claim of segment-leading minivan for Chrysler's year-old Pacifica has been charged up with the showing of a plug-in hybrid version.

No minivan has been in the hybrid mix before.

I drove to Newport Beach, Calif., a year ago for introduction of the gasoline-powered Pacifica, which was of improved stature in replacing the near-three-decades-old Town & Country minivan.

It earned plaudits all over the country for its 287-horsepower V-6 engine, with rotary dial shifter to control its 9-speed automatic transmission, 28-miles-per-gallon fuel rating on the highway, sliding side doors with push of a button, power liftgate, longer and wider passenger space, 20-speaker sound system, even a built-in vacuum for cleaning every nook and corner.

Coming my way last week was the '17 Pacifica Hybrid Platinum model. Pistons, valves and camshafts have been modified in the more-efficient Atkinson cycle for the 3.6-liter V-6, as two electric motors contribute to the overall horsepower in the plug-in hybrid. It operates with an electrically variable transmission in place of the 9-speed, and a battery pack beneath the second row of seats is charged from a plug-in port in the left front fender.

On a drive of the hybrid to DIA Saturday evening to pick up Darrel and Carolyn Davis, returning from a two-week trip, I re-set the mileage computer at Brighton. All electricity had been expended from the battery pack, so the only source of power, in addition to the gas engine, was electricity produced by the car's regenerative braking system. From Brighton to DIA and back to Greeley, the 82-mile distance was split 61 by gas engine and 21 by electricity, with an overall average of 30.4 miles per gallon.

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The next day, Sunday, after an overnight plug-in charge for 12 hours, I drove the Pacifica Hybrid to Johnson's Corner for a meeting to deliver a title to a PT Cruiser convertible I had sold for a friend, and the totals were: 55 total miles driven, 30 from the charged-up battery pack, 6 from regenerative braking and 19 miles from the gas engine, with an overall average of 41.3 mpg.

So you can see, if driving duty was primarily in town or to work and back each day, and with an overnight charge of the battery pack, use of gasoline would be minimal. On the other hand, a 200-mile highway drive, after depletion of the battery pack, power would be provided mostly by the gas engine and mpg surely would drop into the 20s.

The Pacifica Hybrid is finished in a pleasant silver teal (light blue) color, the only choice for the hybrid. A wider stance and the increased size, plus weight of the battery pack and electric-motor setup pushed the curb weight of the Pacifica Hybrid to 4,987 pounds, rounding out at 5,000.

In addition to the regular key fob for the Chrysler, a second one, available for handing off to younger drivers, places limits on speed and audio volume.

Sticker price reached $47,885, with the addition of many options, including tri-pane panoramic sunroof, front- seatback video screens for second-row viewing, high-beam headlamp control, adaptive cruise and lane-departure warning. The hybrid is eligible for a $7,500 federal rebate.

The top four sellers of minivans through the end of July this year are the Dodge Grand Caravan with 87,370, Chrysler Pacifica 67,886, Toyota Sienna 67,258 and Honda Odyssey 58,290.

— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at budwellscars@comcast.net.

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