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2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid long-term wrap-up: Functionality with efficiency

We've just finished a year with our long-term Pacifica Hybrid, and we're going to miss our electrified workhorse.

Our big, red van got a lot of hard use over a year of testing.
Nick Miotke/Roadshow

A full year has come and gone with our long-term Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, and it would be an understatement to say that we're sad to see it go. In our 12 months with the Hybrid we added 16,196 miles to the odometer, most of which were spent in and around Detroit, Michigan.

Our Hybrid was a Limited model, loaded up to the gills with all sorts of comfort, convenience and tech features. Our long-termer added the $395 Hybrid Appearance Package, which features 18-inch alloy wheels (17s are standard) and a whole host of blacked-out exterior trim. We did, however, skip over the $995 package that adds a surround-view camera system and adaptive cruise control, and we're kind of wishing we hadn't. All in, the Pacifica Hybrid we tested came in at $44,785 before destination.

This wasn't our first rodeo with the Chrysler Pacifica, so we knew that we'd like it for its practicality and functionality. But we weren't sure how the hybrid drivetrain would hold up to a full year's worth of wear and tear. Overall, it was very lovely, though there were some hiccups along the way -- ones we didn't experience the year before with our gas-only long-termer.

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What we liked

The instant electric torque of the plug-in hybrid powertrain was always appreciated. That, coupled with the quiet ride you get when cruising on electricity, made the Pacifica super enjoyable to drive on the daily. All Pacifica Hybrids are powered by an Atkinson-cycle V6 with an electric motor and a 16-kilowatt-hour battery, and the EPA estimates roughly 32 miles of all-electric driving on a full charge.

On average, we saw roughly 28 miles of electric driving on each charge, and with the ability to plug the Pacifica in to a Level 2 charger each night, at one point, we put 1,000 miles on the van before needing to get gas. Charging the Pacifica takes just two hours on a Level 2 charger.

The EPA estimates a fuel economy rating of 84 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe), but that's only if you recharge the battery as often as possible. With just the gas engine running, Chrysler says you'll get closer to 32 mpg. After a year of mixed driving, we saw 42 mpg. That might not seem impressive, but consider that's roughly double the 21.4 mpg we saw with our long-term 2017 Pacifica a year before. 

The Pacifica is a proverbial Swiss army knife of a family hauler. Whether cruising on long trips to camp sites in northern Michigan or while hauling four-by-eight sheets of plywood, the Pacifica handled everything with aplomb. Long-term life at Roadshow means hauling a lot of video production equipment and serving as a home base on shoots, which it also handled with ease. Every week, we loaded the Pacifica up with Pelican cases and heavy gear, and the cargo floor was no worse for the wear with all that hauling. Plus, its large, flat body sides made the Pacifica ideal for mounting cameras to get those tricky car-to-car shots.

By the end of a year, the light leather didn't look nearly as fresh as it did when the van arrived.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

What we didn't like

Unfortunately, a lot of the interior didn't handle a year of abuse so well. We took a risk and ordered our minivan with the light leather upholstery. After 12 months, we can say with confidence that if you have children, pets or, in our case, grubby video producers with dirty hands, you will want to get a darker interior. Certain touch points, particularly the steering wheel, just couldn't stay clean no matter how hard we tried. After just one year, our leather was starting to look gross.

If you order a Pacifica Hybrid, you'll have to make a couple of sacrifices. Because the battery packs are stored beneath the floor, you can't get Chrysler's well-designed Stow 'N Go fold-away seats. You also can't get the optional vacuum found in the gas-only Pacifica -- something we used a ton with our previous long-termer.

You might think life with a plug-in hybrid will be quiet all the time. Yes, there were many times where we'd get out of the van and walk away not realizing it was still on -- at which point it honks. But in operation, we experienced a number of weird powertrain noises. Sometimes they sounded like a fan, or a motor-generator recharging the battery pack. Sometimes they were quiet, while other times they were loud enough to make us think something was wrong. Since these sounds were totally random in both frequency and volume, they weren't always reproducible when we took the car to the dealer (many times). Other Pacifica Hybrid owners have written about similar experiences on forums, so we know the problem isn't just limited to our van, either.

Video shoots would have been a lot harder without our trusty Pacifica Hybrid.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Would we go hybrid?

The idea of a hybrid minivan makes a ton of sense. Take a vehicle that spends most of its life running errands in the suburbs, when it can easily use electric power, and the whole thing sounds like a recipe for success. If your driving needs are local or you have frequent access to charging stations at your home or office, this vehicle is for you. There's something luxurious about being able to go an entire month without having to visit a gas station, just like we did.

That said, for us, losing the Stow 'N Go seats, combined with the weird drivetrain noises, has us thinking we'd rather stick with a gas-powered Pacifica for long-term use. There's nothing wrong with the Pacifica minivan as a whole -- it's one of the best family haulers you can buy today. But if efficiency isn't a top priority for you, we can see why the added tradeoffs (and cost) of the hybrid might not be totally appealing.