Back to Black: Chrysler’s hip Pacifica Hybrid

This stealthy, eco-friendly family-hauler may just change the way you look at minivans.

I know, I know; to all you auto aficionados out there, the humble, family-friendly, soccer-mom-approved minivan is the four-wheeled equivalent of tofu.

We all accept they make perfect sense. Lots of space, slidey side doors, and cupholders galore. But like those cubes of coagulated soy milk, to many they’re very much an acquired taste.

But think again all you sport-ute lovers. One drive in Chrysler’s latest plug-in Pacifica Hybrid will have you answering that eternal minivan question – “Are We There Yet?” – with a resounded “Yep, We’ve Arrived”.

Just look at the thing. With its metallic midnight-black paint – Chrysler calls it Maximum Steel – blacked-out chrome, bad-boy black wheels, and an interior with more black leather than Alice Cooper’s closet, this could be Metallica’s official tour bus.

During the week I shared with this stealthy stealth-machine, every time I parked, onlookers would scatter fearing the FBI, or ICE, or more likely AC/DC would spill out.

And the stealth part also applies to the way it drives. With a bank of lithium-ion Duracells under the floor, the hybrid Pacifica can whirr around in electric-only mode for 32 miles before the gas motor kicks in.

Think about it. Most of us drive way less than 32 miles a day. So, plug it in overnight, or at the office, and you’re running-around will costing you mere pennies.

And with the Pacifica’s 16.5-gallon tank, the combo of gas and electric gives you a pretty amazing 520-mile total driving range.  That’s Tampa to Key West on less than a tank.

I also love the feisty way this hybrid Pacifica drives. The 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack and that trusty 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 give a combined 260 horsepower. Hit the throttle from a stop light and it’s like being launched from a catapult.

Interestingly, all those batteries and electric motors help make the Pacifica feel even more nimble through the curves.

Having an additional 500 pounds under the floor lowers the center of gravity and prevents the minivan feeling tippy and top-heavy in turns. We’re not talking sports car handling, but it does feel surprisingly planted and balanced. Confidence-inspiring even.

Pricewise, you can slide behind the wheel of a Pacifica Hybrid for around $40,000. But splurge on the wonderfully well-equipped Limited at $45,545, and then add the $795 S-Appearance Package that gives you that stealthy FBI look. As a bonus it also gives you lovely piped Nappa leather seats.

With the Advanced Safety Tec package – just $995 – you get every cool safety feature, from adaptive cruise control to 360-degree surround-view cameras, to lane-departure warning. With destination, our tester topped out at just $50,800.

And here’s the beauty of buying a Pacifica Hybrid – The Rebate. Uncle Sam will happily credit you $7,500 from your taxes for doing your bit for the environment.

I don’t have to tell you about the amazing practicality that comes with every minivan out there. With the Pacifica Hybrid, you get three rows of seats, fancy middle-row captain’s chairs, easy-peasy power-sliding side door access, and the load-carrying capacity of a Mayflower moving van.

I have to admit that this feisty, fuel-sipping Chrysler really won me over. I loved its edgy style, its easy driving manners, its high-up driving position, all those seats, and its terrific hybrid powertrain.

Before you sign on the dotted line for that me-too crossover or rough-riding SUV, maybe take another look at the minivan.

I tell you, in the case of the Pacifica Hybrid, it really rocks.

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