Minivans

2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivans: Hybrid and gasoline powertrains

• First Drive

engine

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan will be the first in the world (though not for long) with a nine-speed automatic. It also boasts an upgraded Pentastar V-6 gasoline engine, and the first electrified hybrid minivan, using a dual-motor, electrically variable transmission (EVT) with a special Atkinson-cycle V-6 gasoline engine. Skip to the hybrid.

hybrid engine closeup

Conventional gasoline powertrain

The redesigned V6 gasoline engine is the most powerful for any minivan, with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That compares with the Honda Odyssey’s 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet (rated at 19 city, 28 highway), and the Toyota Sienna’s 266 hp and 245 pound-feet (18 city, 25 highway). It includes two-step variable-valve lift (VVL), cooled exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR), and other improvements over past models. Underneath the mild horsepower gain is 11% higher torque in the 2,000-4,000 rpm range. Full story on the Pentastar Upgrade V6.

(Gasoline FWD)2017 Chrysler
Pacifica
2016
Honda Odyssey
2016
Toyota Sienna
2016
Kia Sedona
2016
Caravan
Horsepower 287248266276283
Torque (lb-ft)262250 245248260
Weight4,330*4,3964,3754,4114,510
MPG18/2819/2818/2518/2517/25
Towing max3,6003,5003,5003,5003,600
Passenger vol.168173164n/a164
Cargo (behind 3rd row)3238393433

* 4,943 pounds for the hybrid, estimated at 80 MPGe city

Despite the increased power and feature set of the engine, it weighs four pounds less than the prior generation — including 13 pounds of new content — weighing in at 326 pounds. This included thin-wall die-cast components, a lighter windage tray and oil pan (now single piece), and cutting the sump from a six-quart fill to a lower-cost and lighter-weight five-quart fill. The latter is handy for people who buy their own oil, since the five-quart container is a bargain compared with single quarts.

Pentastar V6 upgrade

The crankshaft’s main bearings and pins were trimmed, cutting weight and friction.

Standard engine stop-start (ESS) systems are a “late launch” feature. It includes a high-speed, high-durability starter that reduces crank time. Acceleration is always aligned with driver inputs. Passive accelerator application is met with measured throttle response; hard inputs trigger aggressive starts. The system, which can be shut off, works this way:

  • When the minivan stops, fuel flow is cut; higher-capacity batteries maintain in-cabin systems.
  • When the brake pedal is released, the engine restarts and the transmission is engaged.

Transmission

The nine-speed gearbox has a rotary shifter on the center console, saving space and easing use. The compact ZF-based transmission has a wide 9.81 ratio spread which increased both acceleration and economy. The low 4.70 first gear helps launches; small ratio steps for mid-range gears help smooth out shifts. In higher gears, engine speeds can be cut, lowering noise and fuel use. Despite this, it’s about the same size as its six speed predecessor, thanks to nested carriers and the use of dog clutches. Both dog clutches and spline engagements are relatively free from friction losses, for highier efficiency.

928TE automatic

The knob shifter eliminates cables and levers, and their paths into the cabin. Shifting between major positions (Drive, Park, Reverse) is easy, with clear stops and large gaps between gears.

Hybrid-electric system: 880

Launching in second half of 2016, the Pacifica Hybrid is the world’s first hybrid-electric minivan (the first full-electric was delivered by Chrysler in 1993). With an estimated 260 total-system horsepower, it can go at least 30 miles solely on electric power from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery. The expected EPA rating is 80 MPGe in the city cycle.

charging cap

When the battery level drops, the Pacifica Hybrid becomes a part-time electric vehicle, with power supplied by the electric drive and/or the gasoline engine. The battery pack, under the second row floor, can be fully recharged in as little as two hours using a 240-volt plug-in system.

hybrid engine

The key is an FCA-engineered electrically variable transmission (EVT), with two motors, both capable of driving the wheels. Normal hybrids use one motor as a generator, and a second to deliver power to the wheels; the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid uses a one-way clutch so the “generator motor” can also power the wheels, for higher efficiency and better use of space.

The photo below is of Chrysler’s first motors-in-transmission setup, engineered mostly by General Motors, with participation by DCX and BMW.

two mode hybrid transmission

The new hybrid engine is a Pentastar V6 converted to the Atkinson cycle, increasing efficiency; an Atkinson engine normally has higher compression (in this case, 12.5:1) and hold the intake valve open longer, so that all the power from combustion is used. The down-side is there’s nothing left to keep the engine moving, hurting low-speed power. Having electric motors “help” eliminates that problem, which is one reason Toyota has long used Atkinson engines with its hybrids. Higher compression was delivered by unique “handed” pistons.

There is no alternator, two-step valve lift, or cooled EGR with this version of the engine.

hybrid cutaway view

On deceleration, the generator sends electricity to the 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, stored under the second-row floor; it keeps third-row Stow ’n’ Go seating and storage, but eliminates second-row Stow ’n’ Go. An exterior charge port is on the driver’s side fender; a charge indicator is on the instrument panel.

Mounts

With either powertrain, the engine and transmission assemblies are mounted with hydraulic-elastic mounts, and a torque control elastomeric mount bridging to the front suspension cross member. Powertrain mounts are on the right to cut noise and reduce shaking from road bumps; the hydraulic-elastic mounts dampen low-frequency, high-amplitude motions, with the hydraulic portion tuned to dampen engine oscillations (cutting “after-shake” from bumps).

minivan grille

The mounts are attached to the body rails, isolating the cabin; a decoupler in the hydraulic portion of right mount allows both ride-motion damping and engine vibration isolation. The die-cast aluminum brackets also help isolate the cabin.

Engine specifications

For general information on the Pentastar V6, see our Pentastars site.

 GasolineHybrid
ValvesChain-driven, VVT on intake and exhaust,
variable intake lift
Chain-driven,
VVT on intake and exhaust
FuelMultiport returnless injection (SMPI)Port fuel injection (PFI)
Compression11.3:112.5:1
Horsepower287 @ 6,400248 @ 5,800
Torque262 lb-ft @ 4,000230 lb-ft @ 4,400
Redline6,4005,800
Fuel87 octane, up to 15% ethanolsame
OilFive quartssame
Coolant7.2 quarts (6.8 liters)same
MPGTBDTBD; around 80 MPGe city
Built inMexicosame
TransmissionNine-speed ZF-style (see text)Electrically variable with dual motors

• First Drive

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