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Pacifica stockWhen CarseatBlog visited the Chicago Auto Show, we wanted to be sure to get a look at the all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

The Pacifica isn’t an update of the existing Town & Country, and it’s not a revamp of the crossover Pacifica SUV/Wagon that was discontinued more than 10 years ago—it’s a completely new vehicle with a brand new look.  If you read about our little mishap, you might have the wrong impression that we were not excited by this new minivan.  To be fair, we saw a prototype at a media event and we are actually very encouraged that this should be a big improvement in terms of safety and carseat installation.

The Pacifica will be available in 7- and 8-passenger models. In both models, there are full sets of LATCH in both second-row captains chairs, and also two full sets of LATCH in the third row (more on that in a minute).  In the 8-passenger model (below, left), the center seat in the second row also has a top tether anchor.  The 7-passenger model can be configured with an aisle in the center of the 2nd row (below, right).  Sliding doors with wide openings are a given.

Pacifica 2nd center seatbelt Pacifica 2nd Tilt

Now, let’s talk about those two sets of LATCH in the third row. That sounds great, but it comes with a couple caveats. One set of LATCH is on the passenger outboard side, and appears to be pretty standard. That’s a nice improvement, too, over the Town & Country.

Pacifica 3rdThe other set of LATCH is offset between the center and driver’s outboard sides, meaning that if you installed a seat with LATCH there, you’d be using up two seating positions. (This is similar to the existing Town & Country setup.) On the plus side, that gives you plenty of room to put two seats back there. On the downside, you can only put two seats back there if you use that offset LATCH position. (You could use all three seatbelt positions, though, or install with LATCH on the passenger side and use the two seatbelts in the center and on the other side.)

The two tether anchors in the third row are designed for use with the seating positions that also have lower anchors, so there’s one for the outboard passenger side, and one that’s centered to align with that offset position. This means that particular tether anchor doesn’t align with the center or driver’s outboard seats when using a seatbelt. We don’t know whether Chrysler will allow the anchor to be used for those positions.

Pacifica offset latchThere’s one other potential downside to that offset LATCH position. Because it overlaps two regular seats, there’s a seatbelt buckle (for the driver’s side passenger) and a mini-connector (for the center seatbelt position) sitting smack-dab in the middle of the LATCH anchors. That means that a car seat would have to sit on top of the buckles. I thought for sure there would be a way to tuck them out of the way, but there wasn’t. I could kind of shove them in, but that actually created a bigger lump closer to the seat bight (photo right, tan).  Chrylser has since informed us that the display Pacifica was an older prototype third row seat configuration.  We have a photo of what will apparently be the improved final design for the third row belt layout with the buckles tucked away for LATCH installation of a carseat (below, light grey):

Pacifica New 3rd Row Bench

Photo courtesy of Chrysler

FullSizeRenderOne major complaint about the Town & Country is that the third row seatbelts often don’t fit well on kids in booster seats and kids big enough to be out of boosters. The belt might not make contact with their shoulders or torsos, which is a problem. We wanted to see if the Pacifica addressed that issue. Unfortunately, the pre-production models at the show didn’t have working seatbelts in the third row, so we weren’t able to test them out. However, the belts do come more from behind the seat than from the side like in the Town & Country, so they look like they’l provide a better fit.

Other features of the Pacifica include stow-and-go outboard seats for the second row (below, left), which could be very convenient for quick transformations when you need to haul something large. The second-row center seat in the 8-passenger is removable rather than stowable.  Third row seats fold into the floor like other minivans.

The second-row captains chairs also slide forward easily (below, right) with a car seat installed to allow access to the third row. Like other vehicles with a similar feature, this will likely work only with a forward-facing seat or an infant-seat base, not a rear-facing convertible.

Pacifica Stow N Go Pacifica Carseat Tilt

You can see video of the sliding seats and some other features here.  Please note this is a pre-production prototype Pacifica and the final design may vary slightly.  In particular, we are aware that the third row seatbelt buckle layout has already been revised since our video:

Safety features include Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, forward-collision avoidance with active braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, parking assist, blind spot monitoring with cross path detection and a 360-degree camera view.

Pacifica Cargo 3Also keeping families in mind, the Pacifica will have a built-in vacuum system with a hose that can reach all three rows.  The Pacifica will have 20-speaker surround sound, but also claims to be the quietest minivan, so you can easily talk to the kids in the third row.  Cargo capability is pretty typical for minivans, with split folding third row seats and stowable or removable 2nd row seats.

Another important and interesting feature: The Pacifica will be available in a gas model and a plug-in hybrid model, which could appeal to a lot of families who have been waiting for a hybrid minivan option. The hybrid will have a range of 30 miles on electric, giving it an overall 80 mpg. (The hybrid model will not have stow-and-go seating to accommodate the hybrid batteries.)

The gas model of the Chrysler Pacifica will be available this spring or summer. The hybrid will be available in fall or winter. Pricing has not yet been released.

Overall, we are very hopeful that this will be a major improvement in both safety and child seating flexibility compared to the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.  We’ll bring you more information about this new minivan option as we get it, so stay tuned.

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