Best minivan replacement

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Do you always choose the best tool for a given job, or do you fudge it a bit, reaching for a nearby pair of Vice-Grips because the 6-point sockets are all the way out in the garage?

"It's a better tool for the family, " explains Tim Kuniskis, FCA's head of passenger cars. Having owned a minivan - along with several so-called substitutes - we wholeheartedly agree. And the new Chrysler Pacifica is, at least for now, the best of these "better tools."

Pacifica front rowThere are only so many ways to style a van, but the Pacifica at least looks fresh and texturally interesting.

The 2017 Pacifica minivan replaces both the Town & Country and, eventually, the venerable Dodge Grand Caravan, with a recycled Chrysler nameplate; the goal is to put some emotional distance between it and the brand's recent nondescript, sensible people movers. Yes, the change is also part marketing gimmick - there are only so many ways to configure a box, after all - but there's also reason to emphasize the Pacifica's clean-sheet design and engineering. This isn't a refresh; it's the next generation of minivans from the company that invented the segment. That segment may have shrunk in the past decade, but Chrysler's not about to let go of its substantial piece of the remaining pie.

Pacifica rear viewNor should it have to. The 2017 Pacifica is as elegant an interpretation of the van as anything yet imagined. Designers incorporated the new winglike corporate fascia, blending flowing curves into the sculpted sides and around the rear, nary a crease or sharp line in sight. Even the sliding-door "slash, " an attribute stylists claimed screamed "minivan" to focus-group participants, vanishes in the black side window trim - go ahead and search for it; it's nearly invisible. The forward kick of the rear pillar looks like an integrated "A-Team" van wing, again breaking up the expanse of side acreage. It's still a minivan, but not one that requires apologies.

Exterior styling doesn't sell minivans, though, and the Pacifica's interior will force anti-vanners to scramble for objections. Our time was spent in well-equipped Limited models, but many of the elegant design features will translate to base Pacificas - beveled, brushed-metal vent rings, a "brush-stroke" sculpted dash and a control center tipped horizontally and canted toward the driver all further the impression of an upscale crossover versus "mom's taxi, " though a few months of juice boxes and soccer cleats will temper stylists' best efforts (a fate those upscale crossovers also face).

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