Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Gil asks: The Chrysler Pacifica appeals to me because of its easy stow seats. I have a bad back which makes pulling seats out of a van not something I want to deal with. My concern with the Pacifica is reliability. I’ve read that Chrysler vehicles are unreliable. How justified is the impression of Chrysler vehicles? Are you aware of any glaring downsides to owning the Pacifica?
My reply: The Pacifica’s main issue is the same issue plaguing almost all new vehicles, which is its overcomplexity. Specifically, its nine-speed automatic transmission. It has three too many gears (same goes for the nine – and ten – speed transmissions you’ll find in many other new vehicles, too). These extra gears are there to “fill the gap” between the lower gears (1-5) and the very tall final/overdrive gear (9th) which is very tall to reduce engine operating RPM and so increase gas mileage.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Overdrive gearing is a great idea. But the MPG gains realized from going from say a six speed overdrive to a nine speed are negligible – from the viewpoint of the owner. Perhaps 1-2 MPG overall. But this is a huge difference from the point of view of the car company, which has to deal with the federal fuel economy fatwas. And this is why almost all of the newest cars have eight, nine and ten speed transmissions.
At any rate, these transmissions sometimes puzzle over which gear to be in – and sometimes shift around a lot – and noticeably. They may also not be as long-term reliable as simpler five and six-speed overdrive transmissions (which was the norm as recently as about five years ago).
That would be my chief worry about the Pacifica. Otherwise, it has many merits – including (as you know) perhaps the best seating system on the market in terms of versatility and ease of use. Also, the 3.6 V6 is a strong, reliable engine – with no turbo!
You can read my review here.
Also, I suspect you’ll be able to haggle a very good deal on one because minivans (generally) just aren’t that popular and also because Chrysler dealers need your business – since they have only the Pacifica and 300 to sell at the moment!
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