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The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica plays to all the traditional minivan strengths, while it strikes out in exciting new directions in styling and in plug-in hybrid technology.

The minivan was invented in the 1980s. Since then, the reputation's been the same.

We call them "big-box bores." They’re functional to a fault, but sporty? No, not really. Sexy? Not so much.

Chrysler invented the minivan in 1983, and this year, it's going to try to change decades of history with their latest offering, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

The Pacifica replaces the Town & Country, and over time, it'll replace the Dodge Grand Caravan, too. (The Dodge remains in production for a while as the new Pacifica enters production.)

The Pacifica lineup will include LX, Touring, Touring-L, Touring-L Plus, and Limited models—all built in Windsor, Ontario, right across the river from downtown Detroit. A plug-in hybrid model will arrive by the end of the year.

Chrysler Pacifica styling

The Pacifica revives a nameplate that used to be affixed to a vehicle derived from Chrysler's minivans, but sold as a sort of crossover-SUV wagon.

Make no mistake: This Pacifica is entirely new, and has nothing in common with any previous Chrysler.

The new platform underneath is given away by a sleek, fresh interpretation of the minivan's classic one-box shape. There's more than a glimmer of passion in the Pacifica, and it starts at a slim nose that's themed like the one on Chrysler's 200 sedan.

Down its sides, the Pacifica outlines a big glassy cabin in bright chrome, and angles back its rear pillar at a relaxed angle like the one on the Kia Soul. The minivan-specific sliding side doors are hidden as much as possible. Their tracks are actually hidden under the side glass for the rear quarter windows.

Wheel sizes range up to 20 inches, where they really serve to emphasize the sporty stance. Hybrid models will get a different grille pattern and unique wheel designs.

Inside, the Pacifica looks to be everything you might expect in a minivan, yet it’s a bit more curvaceous and sculpted, with linear elements that Chrysler says “keep the eye moving throughout the cabin.”

The dash is stitched and sculpted in a way that bears no resemblance the upright look from the outgoing vans, with their relentlessly rectangular shapes. The Pacifica even has its own color schemes that dress up the interior in blends like "Soho, " a theme with the palette of a cigar bar.

Everyone gets in on a brighter interior, thanks to a panoramic dual-panel moonroof over the front two rows and a fixed-panel one over the third row.

Chrysler Pacifica performance

Chrysler's new Pacifica is its first minivan that's truly entertaining to drive. It's surpassed the Honda Odyssey as the minivan we'd drive, if we could only drive minivans from now on.

All versions, for now, are powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 that turns out 287 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. The heavily revamped V-6 is lighter and more efficient, and it's now teamed to a 9-speed automatic transmission, with stop-start that saves fuel in city driving.

Acceleration is smart and the shifts are pretty crisp—the Pacifica has much less of the 9-speed clunks we've experienced in other Chrysler vehicles.

Strong straight-line performance is joined by very good ride and handling. The Pacifica has a new front-strut and rear trailing-arm suspension, and electric power steering. It's all tuned for crisp responses, better even than today's paragon Honda vans. A brand-new, sturdy body structure that's much stiffer than the outgoing vans gets much of the credit.

Chrysler Pacifica comfort and utility

Chrysler's long had a lock on the best seating system in minivans, and now, the fold-flat setup for second- and third-row seats is easier to use than ever.

The Pacifica's grown up and out; it's now the largest minivan in most dimensions, but it's what Chrysler does with the space that puts it atop the Odyssey and Sienna.

There's plenty of front-row space and storage, of course. In the second row, Chrysler offers a pair of buckets (and a removable third seat) that fold under a flat load floor. The innovation this year is a pair of power-assist buttons in the sliding-door frames that move the front seats out of the way. Power them out of the way, flip up a panel, tug a loop of fabric, and the second-row chairs spring-latch into place. The second-row seats also now tilt forward for third-row access, even when a child safety seat is installed.

The third-row seat is roomy and comfortable even for adults, and power-folds under the floor, leaving the Pacifica the only minivan that's able to carry up to eight passengers or dozens of sheets of 4-by-8 building material.

Chrysler Pacifica safety and features

The IIHS called the 2017 Pacifica a Top Safety Pick+ and federal testers agreed, awarding the minivan with a five-star overall rating.

The latest safety options are on the Pacifica's order sheet now. A standard rearview camera and Bluetooth can be joined by parking sensors and surround-view cameras. At the top of the range, Chrysler fits the Pacifica with adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitors.

Those who have late-model luxury vehicles in the household will be happy to note that the Pacifica now includes things like parallel and perpendicular park assist, and a lane-departure warning system that nudges the steering to help keep you in the lane of travel when attention wanes.

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