In 2002 Chrysler introduced a vehicle that it thought would be the next big thing in the new crossover SUV market.
The vehicle, a luxury people-mover with three rows of seats, was supposed to offer the capacity of a minivan, the stance of an SUV, and the handling of a sedan. Chrysler expected to unload 100,000 of those vehicles every year.
Problems arose quickly, though. This vehicle, the Chrysler Pacifica, didn’t excel as a minivan, was too expensive to compete with other luxury SUVs, and had an engine that barely gave it enough oomph to pass on the highway.
Chrysler discontinued the Pacifica in 2008. Yesterday the company brought it back, only this time the nameplate will grace the rear hatch of what used to be the Chrysler Town & Country.
Fiat Chrysler discontinued the legendary Dodge Grand Caravan in order to focus its energy on a single minivan and let Dodge evolve into a more performance-oriented brand. The Town & Country, a vehicle synonymous with minivan superiority, was supposed to carry the torch.
The new van, introduced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, certainly has the attributes needed for success. Aside from its name, it has everything going for it. The Detroit Free Press said,
it’s clear that the automaker poured every ounce of energy it could into developing a new design and packing the new minivan with innovations that will allow Chrysler to leapfrog the competition for several years.
Perhaps the biggest innovation is the addition of a plug-in hybrid trim, which will allow the Pacifica to travel up to 30 miles on electricity alone and achieve a fuel efficiency rating of up to 80 MPGe in city driving. Taking the kids to school and then running errands has suddenly become a gas-free proposition, which should appeal to plenty of suburban parents. (At least until VW’s all-electric Microbus hits the market and the Tesla Model X becomes more affordable.)
The standard Pacifica will come equipped with a redesigned 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engine that produces 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Both vans will offer cargo space worthy of a minivan, but the non-hybrid will be the one for people who need to haul 4-by-8 sheets of plywood. The hybrid version has its batteries under the second-row seats, eliminating Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go system.
Both models of the new Pacifica go overboard with technology, offering two 10-inch Uconnect screens for rear-seat entertainment. The kids can watch movies, play built-in games, connect personal devices to browse the Internet, and stream content throughout the vehicle.
The Pacifica has the makings of a revolutionary minivan, but seriously, what’s up with the name? Automakers have had a lot of success bringing back retro names, but there’s a lot more brand equity in names like Camaro and Charger than there is in Pacifica.
Maybe Chrysler wants to completely distance itself from the Town & Country name so it can apply a new pricing structure, or maybe it just wants to abandon the minivan stereotypes that the old name invokes. If that’s the goal, why choose a name that belonged to a failed experiment from last decade? It’s a puzzling question.
While the naming strategy doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s hard to argue against the revolutionary attributes of the new Pacifica. Comprehensive fuel-economy numbers and pricing have yet to be released, but we’re still pretty sure this Pacifica will make us forget about the old one.
Should Chrysler have renamed the Town & Country?