First, the IRS shook me down, extending a cold gray palm and empty grin my way.
It didn’t seem like much of a greeting.
Then, I found a 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan in my driveway, looking a bit like an emasculated Batmobile in dark blue paint and somber black wheels.
Oh boy, taxes and a hybrid minivan. Dust off my dancing shoes, kids.
Actually, as I discovered over the course of a week, the Pacifica Hybrid is way more fun than the flinty-eyed bureaucrats at the IRS.
As you may know, the Pacifica is the only minivan on the market with an available – and pricey – gas-electric hybrid powertrain. (My well-equipped Limited model arrived with a hefty $50,000 window-sticker price.)
Hybrids use electric motors to get rolling away from stops, the point at which gas engines are least efficient. Once they are moving, the gas engine takes over, doing most of the heavy lifting and speed work.
Think efficiency, not Rolling Stones-flailing excitement.
Even with its cliché-ish black wheels, though, my Pacifica looked pretty darned sophisticated, flashing curves and lines you don’t see on most boxy minivans.
A sloping, sculpted hood, for example, eased gracefully down onto a swoopy blacked-out grille flanked by fairly elegant headlamps.
Although the sides of the vehicle were mostly flat, a crisp, well-placed character line cut through the door-handles, curving down at the rear fender to give the Pacifica a chiseled look.
A second line down low added more tension to the sides, while high-mounted tail lamps wrapped around a squared-off rear.
It even sat fairly low, settling on the dreary, aforementioned 18-inch black wheels wrapped with 235/60 tires.
Technically, the Pacifica Hybrid is a plug-in hybrid able to drive for 33 miles on electric power only before reverting back to the gas-electric powertrain.
However, I could never get it to run in electric mode exclusively, with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine kicking in every time I pushed even moderately hard on the accelerator.
Nonetheless, the hybrid powertrain makes some sense in the big Pacifica, giving the 5,000-pound seven-passenger people-mover overall economy of 30 miles per gallon – compared with 22 mpg for the standard Pacifica.
Two electric motors and the V-6 engine generate a total of 260 horsepower and rely on a continuously variable transmission to drive the Pacifica’s front wheels.
With strong, instant torque from the vehicle’s two electric motors, the Pacifica felt lively, accelerating to 60 mph in a respectable 7.4 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Maybe I’m mellowing, but I didn’t even notice much drone and bray from the CVT, a transmission I generally despise. Perhaps they’re getting better.
Often, I could drive through my neighborhood in total electric silence, but I had to feather the throttle. In the real world, the gas engine intervened as frequently as reporters at a Washington press conference.
At least it was quieter. Likewise, the Pacifica’s ride was smooth and drama-free, stepping over bumps with the sort of confident, long-wheelbase grace most SUVs lack. (The hybrid model is about 500 pounds heavier than the regular Pacifica, thanks mainly to the battery system.)
The steering was quick, but kind of thick, which I guess is pretty irrelevant in a grocery-getting, kid-mobile minivan.
One minor irritation: Stopping can be abrupt and sharp with the regenerative brakes, which help recharge the batteries but tend to be grabby. Just soft-shoe it.
As you might expect with a minivan, the black interior in my three-row Pacifica felt so cavernous I figured my voice might echo through the vehicle. (It didn’t.)
A deep flat dashboard in decent black plastic, for example, curved gently over the instrument panel, which featured a speedometer on the right and a power gauge on the left.
A seven-inch display screen flanked by large climate vents dominated the mid-dash, while panels beneath it provided knobs and tabs for the audio and climate systems.
Filling out the mid-dash area was a rotary shifter for the CVT with a knob that could have been lifted from a washing machine.
Black leather seats with perforated centers and white piping on the edges, meanwhile, offered really good comfort and support.
Of course, being a minivan, the Pacifica’s second and third rows of seats featured good leg- and head-room, with the second row absolutely Uber-like.
However, Chrysler’s useful Stow ‘N Go fold-down rear seats are not available in the Pacifica Hybrid because of the battery pack.
Among the options on my minivan were the Advanced Safety Group ($995), which included adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward-collision warning and brake assist; an appearance package with black badging and wheels ($795); and a panoramic sunroof ($1,795).
Although I would find it difficult to pay 50 large for a hybrid minivan – not to mention quite painful – hybrid minivans provide good efficiency and great capability.
You’ll have to do the math, though. The base price on a gas-powered Pacifica is $26,985. Is 8 more miles per gallon worth $20,000 to you?
2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
- What I liked most: The seamless operation and reasonably good power of the hybrid powertrain.
- What I would change: A plug-in hybrid vehicle needs to be able to run in electric only with no interference from the gas engine.
- MSRP: Base price, $39,995; as equipped, $50,575.
- Fuel economy: Rated at the equivalent of 82 miles per gallon in electric mode and 30 mpg on gas with filler on the left.
- Official color: Jazz Blue.
- Odometer reading when tested: 6,719 miles.
- Weight: 5,049 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 203.8 inches long/79.6 inches wide/70 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 16.5 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- Spare tire: None.
- 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid in a few words: A relatively green vehicle that is far easier to live with than an electric.
- Warranty: Three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty, five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain protection and 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the battery and hybrid systems.
- Final assembly location: Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.chrysler.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2019 Audi A7