Vehicles Archive

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Review Video

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2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

The new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is the only minivan to receive an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award for 2017.  It also received a 5-star overall rating from Safercar.gov and the NHTSA gave it 5-stars in each crash test as well.  That’s why we gave it a Runner-Up award for our Safest Family Minivans and SUVs with 3rd Row Seats.  We do have a few minor concerns, however.  To earn the top award from the IIHS, you have to purchase one of the pricier trim levels and an options package totaling almost $42,000 MSRP with family-friendly 8-passenger seating.  As for carseats, while it’s a nice improvement from the Town & Country minivan, it’s still not quite as kid or carseat-friendly as the 2017 Honda Odyssey.  Is it the best choice for your family?  SafeDad discusses some of the pros and cons in our video review:

Likes:

  • IIHS Top Safety Pick+ (Limited & Touring L Plus w/Advanced SafetyTec group)
  • NHTSA 5-Star Rating
  • 5 sets of LATCH in 8-passenger trim
  • Improved from the Town & Country
  • Interior and Exterior styling
  • Stow ‘n Go is great
  • Easy 3rd row access
  • Cargo space and flexibility
  • Very good performance for a minivan
  • Decent fuel economy; Hybrid available

Dislikes:

  • Very pricey to equip important Advanced SafetyTec features
  • 3rd Row has various issues with child safety seats
  • 2nd row buckle stalks & head restraints can be problematic for certain carseats
  • Narrow 2nd row center seat is difficult for carseats, doesn’t stow in floor
  • Firm front seats, rear seat comfort lags other minivans

Car Seats and Child Seating:

While not as family-friendly as the 2017 Honda Odyssey or even the 2017 Kia Sedona, the Pacifica does accommodate larger families with multiple carseats.  The Car Seat Lady has an exhaustive write-up that fully addresses the second and third row seats in regards to kids and carseats.

Conclusion:

Despite the cost above $40,000, I recommend the Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus trim with the Advance SafetyTec Group and 8-passenger seating options.  This is arguably the safest family hauler you can buy today!  The 2017-2018 Pacifica does have some minor concerns and is still not the ideal minivan for being friendly to carseats, but with Stow ‘n Go seating it is flexible enough for most families.

 

Thank you to Chrysler for providing the 2017 Pacifica used for this review.

SafeDad writes about automobiles, carseats and traffic safety issues at CarseatBlog

2017 Update: Safest Affordable Used Cars for Families and Teens

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Safest Used Cars Deals under $10K in 2017 for Teen Drivers

Many families put a high priority on safety for their kids.  Unfortunately, for various valid reasons, most are not able to go out and buy a brand new car with the latest safety features.  Perhaps others are buying a car for a teen or college student and want something safe, but don’t want them wrecking a new car!  Earlier this year, the IIHS evaluated hundreds of cars to produce a list of recommended models for teens.  A similar list was created by Consumer Reports.

I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers, with more emphasis on crash test results and safety features.  For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is above around 2,750 lbs., but only if it has great crash test results.  While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park.  That’s important for new drivers.  And of course, compact cars are less expensive to buy and maintain.  I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results that Consumer Reports and the IIHS factor into their recommendations.

Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test.  In fact, some models they recommend do very poorly in this newer crash test.  Like Consumer Reports, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000.

My Requirements?

  1. 4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
  2. No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
  3. No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY crash test, including the newer small overlap test
  4. Around $10,000 or less to buy.
  5. Good visibility and handling.
  6. Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
  7. No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs.  Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know.  More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel.  But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.

Preferences:

Review: 2017 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab – Haul Your Cargo and Your Kids

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People don’t often think of pickup trucks as “family vehicles,” but there’s a lot to be said for them if you look for the right features. There’s a wide range of trucks out there, from those with no back seat (standard cab), to those with an unusable back seat (many extended cabs), to those with back seats so large you could camp in them. The former might be tough to use with kids, but the latter can be great, allowing you to safely haul your kids and have plenty of room for cargo and/or horsepower for towing.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016/2017 GMC Sierra 1500 4WD Crew Cab SLT for a week, and I could easily see it being someone’s family car.

Vehicle Features and Driving

We’ll get to the carseat stuff in a minute, but first let’s explore the Sierra’s features and what it’s like to drive it.

The Sierra gets a 5-star overall rating in the government crash tests. That includes 5-star ratings for driver and passenger frontal crash, driver and passenger side crash, and a 4-star rating for rollovers. It receives ratings of Good in most IIHS categories, with the exception of the small overlap test (Moderate), headlights (Acceptable), and LATCH ease of use (Poor—we’ll get to this later). Regarding the headlight category, only one large pickup rated better than the Sierra—the other trucks all got marginal or poor ratings.

The Sierra comes with the safety features one would expect: Antilock breaks, a full range of airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, etc. The model I drove had some extra safety features, including a forward collision alert system, parking assist, and a lane departure assist system.

The lane departure feature was really neat. I’ve driven a lot of cars that alert you when you’re drifting out of a lane, but this takes it one step further. If the vehicle detects that you’re leaving a lane (while not actively steering and with no turn signal on), it gently turns the steering wheel on its own to keep you in the lane. This is a very subtle process, and I had to test it several times to fully understand what it was doing, but it really did help keep the truck where it was supposed to be, in large part because the steering wheel moving on its own definitely grabs your attention.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not a “big car” person. The bigger the vehicle, the more I worry I’m going to run into something, especially when parking it. It’s the kind of fear that subsides over time, but I was still a bit nervous in the mere week I drove the Sierra. That said, I didn’t run into anything, nor did I have any trouble driving or maneuvering the truck.

Many pickup trucks, especially at higher trim levels, can look and feel like luxury cars inside, and that’s true of the Sierra, too. But make no mistake: It’s a pickup truck, and it feels like one when driving. It took a good depression on the gas pedal to get it going, and the acceleration took a while. That’s probably not surprising, but I drove the Sierra right after testing out the 2016 Subaru Forester, which accelerates like mad with just a feather’s touch, so it seemed like a big contrast. The ride was a bit bumpier than what you’d experience in a typical sedan, but again, that comes with the territory. Overall it was actually smoother than I expected it to be.

The Sierra definitely felt sturdy, and once I got used to the way it drove it was pretty fun, even for someone who gets nervous with big vehicles. I even parked it somewhat decently! (I’ve written about my parking woes in the past.)

Carseats and Kids

Halloween – The Most Dangerous Night of the Year

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The risk of a child pedestrian being killed by a driver is twice as high on Halloween night.

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If you are driving today (especially during the hours of 4-8 pm when most young pedestrian deaths occur) please exercise extreme caution and follow these tips:

1. Drive slowly and don’t pass stopped vehicles. The driver might be dropping off children.
2. Park your cell phone. Tonight is the worst possible night to be a distracted driver!
3. Watch for children darting into the street. Kids can cross the street anywhere and most young pedestrian deaths happen at spots other than intersections.
4. Always yield to young pedestrians. Children might not stop, either because they don’t see your vehicle approaching or don’t know how to safely cross the street.
5. Communicate with other drivers. Always use your turn signals and if you have to pull over to drop off or pick up your kids, turn on your hazard lights.

Have a Happy & Safe Halloween!