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Pacifica raises the bar for minivans

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Chrysler previously affixed the Pacifica nameplate to a mid-2000s crossover utility vehicle. Thankfully, the impressive, all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is nothing like its predecessor, and it raises the bar substantially in the minivan segment.

Built off an entirely new platform that is stiffer and lighter than that of the outgoing Town & Country, the Pacifica is nicely proportioned and dons sheet metal that is elegant and sleek.

Pacifica becomes the first minivan to offer available hands-free power sliding rear doors and a hands-free power liftgate, each operated by the kick of a foot.

Enter Pacifica’s cabin and you will be greeted by a modern and upscale interior with seating for seven or eight passengers.

The instrument panel is nicely sculpted and features an easy-to-use rotary gear shifter and electric parking brake switch.

There are plenty of places to store items, and there are numerous cup holders throughout. If you have valuables to hide, they can be stored in the under-floor wells where the second-row seats can be stowed.

The second-row seats have an easy tilt feature (even with an empty child seat installed) to allow for improved access to the third row. The third row may be a bit snug for taller adults, but it is noticeably easier to get in and out of than the old Town & Country’s.

One of Pacifica’s selling points is how quickly and easily the second- and third-row seats fold flat into the floor. A new assist system makes stowing the second-row seats much easier than before. As a cargo hauler, Pacifica easily gobbles up numerous 4-by-8 sheets of building material.

Regardless of whether you are hauling cargo or passengers, Pacifica is a pleasure to drive. Its cabin is well insulated, and all trim levels include active noise cancellation.

A rear seat Blu-Ray/DVD entertainment system is available and features dual 10-inch flip-up HD touch screens, extra USB and HDMI ports and plenty of built-in games and apps.

Powering all 2017 Chrysler Pacifica models is a strong 287-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine mated to a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission. Power is transmitted to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is not available. A plug-in hybrid powertrain will be available soon.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is available in five trim levels: LX ($28,595), Touring ($30,495), Touring-L ($34,495), Touring-L Plus ($37,895) and Limited ($42,495).

The base LX comes very well equipped, including 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless ignition and entry, three-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, voice recognition and more.

Additional technologies offered include forward collision warning with advanced brake assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning, parallel- and perpendicular-park assist with stop, rear cross-path detection and more.

Because of its appealing design, comfortable and versatile cabin, available technologies and impressive driving characteristics, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is my top pick in this segment.