Exterior views of the 2017 Toyota Sienna SE Premium (l) and the 2017 Pacifica Limited (r).
Two very popular minivan models offer parents a whole lot more than their competition: The Toyota Sienna – which has been an industry standard for practicality and luxury for quite a while – and the brand new entry into the market, the Chrysler Pacifica. Ironically, it replaces the discontinued Town & Country model, which set its own standards for comfort and luxury when the minivan segment was first introduced, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #2017ToyotaSienna #2017ChryslerPacifica #Toyota #Chrysler #Lifestyle @Toyota @Chrysler
Many things in life change when you have children, and among them will be a new choice in vehicles. Some will try to refuse the inevitable: a minivan. Others will embrace the full-on practicality of a vehicle that has, over the years, evolved into a rolling family room.
After struggling with arms full of squirmy infants and diaper bags, power sliding doors start to look pretty good. So does the prospect of lots of cup holders and hideaways for toys, as well as entertainment systems to distract the kids during long road trips. Captain’s chairs in the second row can separate feuding siblings, a prospect that can make some parents cry with relief.
Over the years, the Toyota Sienna has proven to be a steady-ender standout for families and it has not gone unnoticed, either by buyers or by industry authorities, as it gets top accolades from Parents Magazine and Edmunds.com. And, it gets top stars in government crash tests.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, on the other hand, has a whole lot of innovation going for it: It’s built on a new light-yet-strong body structure, and is dressed up in a stylishly updated and wide-open interior. It packs some nifty optional features, such as a dual-screen rear entertainment system, a built-in vacuum cleaner (what parent wouldn’t want one of those?) and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system. It is also the first hybrid minivan on the market.
But first, let’s look at the 2017 Sienna. It adds some more horsepower to its V6 engine, an all-new Direct Shift eight-speed automatic transmission, and an easy-to-use Entune multimedia system.
This is all on top of list of parent-friendly features.
Take the Driver Easy Speak option, for example. Okay, it may be hard for kids to hear you all the way into the third row, but not with this feature that uses a microphone in the Sienna’s voice-command multi-media system to send your voice through the audio system’s rear speakers.
There’s also a conversation mirror in the overhead console so you can see what’s going on in the back.
The Sienna’s Dual-View Entertainment Center – with two displays on a 16.4-inch screen – can be seen from the third row of seats, and operated from any seat via remote control.
The 2017 models also have third row seats that can be stowed, and second row seats that can be removed, for that time when you have to fill it with all the worldly goods a kid needs to take to college.
The 2017 Toyota Sienna is available in five grades: the L, LE, SE, XLE and Limited. The optional all-wheel drive feature is only on the LE, XLE and Limited. You can choose between seven- and eight-passenger models. With the seven-seat choice, captain’s chairs in the second row can slide 23 inches to the rear to offer more leg room, something your growing teens will appreciate. Or, they can move forward to make it easier to reach kids (or grandparents) riding in the third row.
On the road, the driver will find there is good visibility all around. However, the Sienna’s 3.5-liter V6 offers some hesitation at hard acceleration. Maybe that’s because the Sienna is a large and substantial minivan, and so it also feels “heavy” to drive.
The Sienna’s safety features include anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control and Smart Stop Technology. There are eight airbags located throughout. Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert is available on SE, XLE and Limited grades and I highly recommend these upgrades. A Pre-Collision System is also available on the Limited.
Now, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan also comes in five trim levels: LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus and Limited. The hybrid versions will only be available in the Touring and Limited Platinum trims.
Every 2017 Chrysler Pacifica comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that offers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That power is sent to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. If you’re a fan of automatic engine stop-start functionality (to help save gas when you’re not moving), look for it to be added midway through the model year.
When driven side by side, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a much more lithe car to drive, and is somewhat easier to maneuver around in parking lots and garages.
Standard safety equipment for the 2017 Pacifica includes traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, side curtain airbags, front seat side airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags and a rearview camera. The antilock brake system also includes periodic brake-rotor drying, especially appreciated for rainy conditions.
Also on board are rear parking sensors that have automatic low-speed braking functionality that is applied when something is detected and the driver takes no action.
Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional for the LX and Touring standard on all other Pacificas. If you’re selecting the entry-level model, you can still get all the best safety features through the Advanced SafetyTec Group package, and this includes automatic wipers, automatic high-beam headlight control, lane departure warning and intervention, forward collision warning and mitigation with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree top-down camera system and an automated parking system (parallel and perpendicular).
Chrysler has also adopted the more open feel found in Toyota Siennas by removing the traditional center console. This creates an open floor between the driver and passenger, making it easier to move around.
The Pacifica gets high points for its “Stow ‘n Go” folding/collapsible second-row captain’s chair seats. It’s a real bonus if you frequently need to switch from carrying people to hauling cargo. These seats fold and store without a lot of effort. But if the seats are in the “up” position, you have lots more room for storage. Another bonus: An available center seat for the second row that boosts the Pacifica’s passenger count to eight. And that extra seat will come in very handy, because the kids always want to bring a buddy along, or there’s extra room for the in-laws. Overall, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica offered a very comfortable and stylish ride in an easily maneuverable vehicle.
Parents spend so much time shuttling the kids around to their various obligations, life just gets easier if you’re rolling along in a minivan that is roomy enough for the whole tribe, and packed with comfort and convenience.
2017 Toyota Sienna
Base Price: $40,830
Engine Type and Size: 3.5-liter V6 DOHC 24 Valve D-45 Injection with Dual VVT-I
Horsepower (bhp): 296
Torque (ft./lbs): 263
Transmission: Direct Shift 8-speed automatic
EPA Mileage Estimates: 19 city, 27 highway
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited
Base Price: $42,495
Engine Type and Size: 3.6-liter V6 24-valve VVT
Torque (ft./lbs): 262
Transmission: 9-speed FWD automatic
EPA Mileage Estimates: 18 city, 28 highway