The new Chrysler Pacifica, which replaces the venerable Town & Country minivan this spring, uses a combination of reduced body weight, a freer-breathing redesigned V-6 engine, and a nine-speed automatic transmission to claim a piece of the minivan fuel economy crown.
At 28 mpg highway, the new Pacifica ties the Honda Odyssey for top fuel-sipping honors in the segment.
Later this year, FCA plans to further improve the vehicle’s fuel economy when a start-stop system become available. Start-stop systems can improve city fuel economy as much as 6 percent.
The Pacifica’s EPA rating is 18 city, 28 highway and 22 combined; the highway rating is 12 percent higher than the outgoing Town & Country, FCA says.
Engineers used lightweight high-strength steel and magnesium to reduce the curb weight of the Pacifica by 250 pounds over the Town & Country.
The powertrain also got major upgrades. FCA says the Pacifica is the first minivan with a nine-speed transmission.
Under the hood, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 underwent a major revamp that adds a new variable valve timing system with two operating modes, both of which improve combustion and reduce the amount of effort needed to pump air and fuel into the engine and spent exhaust gasses out of it.
The redesigned engine has a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system to reduce combustion chamber temperatures. FCA engineers boosted the compression ratio from 10.2:1 to 11.3:1. The higher the compression ratio, the more power an engine develops.
The redesigned engine does not need premium gasoline, and runs normally on regular.
The Pentastar V-6 engine has become a workhorse for FCA. More than 5 million have been sold since it debuted in 2011.
“Such success brings enormous responsibility,” said Bob Lee, head of engine, powertrain and electrified propulsion and systems engineering for FCA North America. “We focused our efforts on improving efficiency and providing greater customer satisfaction in a package that delivers superior value.”
FCA is also working on a hybrid version of the Pacifica due this fall. FCA says the Pacifica hybrid will travel 30 miles on electric power alone and is expected to carry an EPA rating of 80 MPGe.