What was innovative about the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager was the use of a front-drive format that opened up critical cabin space.
Forty years ago, Dodge and Chrysler-Plymouth dealers welcomed a new type of family transportation…
Actually, it was a new take on a vehicle that has been around for decades. A smaller van for passengers that was based on a common car platform. What was innovative about the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager was the use of a front-drive format that opened up critical cabin space. Chrysler extolled the virtues of a flat floor allowing the loading of a full sheet of plywood (or sheetrock) after removing the second- and third-row seats.
Did I mention the fact that it would fit in a garage quite nicely?
The minivan gained new customers. It also attracted new competitors. And, several backlashes and pushbacks. Yet, the Chrysler minivan kept on innovating and raising the bar for the genre.
Little did I know that a recent spin at Rental Car Roulette would give me a list of minivans to choose from. They were all gray Chrysler Pacifica Touring-Ls. Each and every one of them…
I drove off in one to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan. What did I do to celebrate.
Let me back up a bit here. Whenever I get a minivan to work with, it is usually the top trim or something innovative to check out. The last few Chrysler Pacificas were a combination of plug-in hybrids, Pinnacle and S appearance package models that demonstrated what the old Pentastar had cooking for their more popular offering. That would include new technology and family-friendly features the company introduced to make the minivan experience more livable.
The Touring-L represents not just a rental car specification. It is also a consumer-friendly trim that does not require a lot of technology and gizmos to weigh down the price of admission. Instead, it offers comfort for seven, connection points for devices, a good audio system, and a comfortable ride.
One attractive piece of the Touring-L is its leatherette upholstery. The perforated faux hide is comfortable and breathable. Some would be happy with cloth seats, but a touch of leather(ette) is all you need to keep all of the occupants happy. There is one drawback, though: Be careful during the summer when the faux hide could get a bit warm.
Then again, a good air conditioning system will make things more comfortable. As will sunshades for the sliding side doors and the third-row windows. Both features will make longer journeys a breeze with a full load of passengers and luggage.
The second-row seats are of the captain’s chair variety. It adds a flat space for passengers ot scamper to the third row. This model also has full Stow ’n Go seats, which folds down to a flat surface. Storage spots are plentiful from front to back, including in front of the second-row captain’s chairs.
Everything else should be the same as all of the Pacificas I reviewed, right? This time around, the rental Touring-L is powered by the 287-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 with the nine-speed automatic. However, this is the front-drive non-plug-in hybrid model I have driven in a while. There really is no difference in the way it drives. It is powerful, punches its own weight, and cruises quite nicely. The transmission may try to shift oddly, but it corrects itself once it gets to speed.
One thing I loved seeing is the fuel economy average I gained in this rental. Does 25.0 MPG sound like something you’d enjoy in a front-drive, non-plug-in hybrid minivan?
Certainly, there are minivans that will yield better fuel consumption, tout newer and more advanced drivelines and such. But, there is nothing wrong with driving around in a Chrysler Pacifica with you, your family or a group of friends. It is one of the better-looking vehicles of its genre, in my humble opinion. The ride quality is lovely. It steers and brakes quite well.
Ultimately, how it feels is what matters the most. Every time I get behind the wheel of a Pacifica, it is a wonderful experience. You sit high enough to command the road. You have every control at your fingertips. And, you’re comfortable. Very comfortable.
Comfortable enough to want to gobble up more miles than you originally intended to.
A sign of a good vehicle is exactly that: How you let yourself go after making your mandatory stops for the day. I ended up taking this rented Pacifica into the exurbs and rural communities west of the Twin Cities. Imagine having a minivan full of people while doing that. Imagine their faces when they see cows just feet from the side of your minivan. The joy on their faces when they “moo” back at them.
If you were to buy this minivan as specified, it will sticker at $43,770. Consider how many minivans I’ve worked with that hovered in the $50,000 range, that’s refreshing!
To say that this seven-year-old minivan is still relevant is more to the point of its staying power after 40 years of innovation. To know that people with growing and maturing families still have a conveyance that can make long journeys fun is a testament to the ideas Chrysler has back in the early 1980s.
More like Lee Iacocca’s original team from Ford that came with him to Chrysler in the 1970s…
If you’re old enough like me to remember when the Caravan and Voyager arrived at their respective showrooms, then you remember the buzz they created and the rush to get one into customer’s garages. The magic is still there in the Chrysler Pacifica.
Happy 40th to Chrysler’s minivans!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern