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The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid may be the best execution of currently available plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology; it delivers on its efficiency promise and stunningly satisfying to drive. (Bill Visnic)

What we're driving: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited

Don’t know how I overlooked the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid for so long, but it gets my personal award for most pleasant—and pleasingly surprising—vehicle I’ll drive in 2018. Yep, this thing is so scrumptiously executed that I’m certain nothing else will surprise me more this year.

I expected an underwhelming, underpowered groaner of a hybrid and instead I got a super-efficient and fabulously smooth do-anything limousine.

The Pacifica Hybrid owes most of its agreeable nature to the “eFlite” 2-motor electrically-variable transmission that works with virtually no noise, fuss or even gear-shifting sensation, freeing you from the blaring groan of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) typical to most hybrids. Its two integral motors, 84 hp and 114 hp each, channel the power from 16 kWh lithium-ion battery pack alone or in  collaboration with the Atkinson-optimized 3.6-L V6.

There’s nothing sweeter in the PHEV market than the flexible, confidant and quiet way the motorized transmission propels this minivan. Leave the garage in the morning and count on a legitimate 30-mile all-electric range (in summer weather). The system seldom needs the engine to maintain 75-mph flat-road cruising. And whenever or wherever the engine does engage, you mostly don’t know it happened. The 84 MPG3 fuel-efficiency rating and ridiculous driving range of 566 miles (911 km) is the almost secondary bonus.

The Pacifica Hybrid makes an immensely compelling case in the argument about where in a high-voltage hybrid the electric motor(s) should go. Rarely does it feel anything close to its listed 4987-lb (2262-kg) curb weight and driving around town, in particular, is a case study in silent but always-satisfying propulsion. To add to the pleasure, this van’s low-slung weight makes for delightfully grippy cornering, giddily flattening the body lean you expect from a minivan.

Would be nice if this top-of-the-line trim didn’t push 50 grand, though, probably taking it off the table for many families who would potentially find it so transformative. There are lower-priced L and Touring trims, but there’s no zeroing the added cost of the PHEV components.

No wonder Waymo wanted 100 of these things. For a company dedicated to the automated-driving future, though, it’s a shame the great-driving Pacifica Hybrid could be seen as complicit in helping assure nobody experiences its extraordinarily affable driving characteristics.
2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
Base price:       $44,945
As tested:         $48,580
Highs:                Superb IC and electric blending; excellent driver interface; surprising driving dynamics
Lows:                 Nearly $50K freezes out many families; minivans aren’t exactly hip these days
Takeaway:        Outstanding execution of plug-in hybrid tech                 
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