Just last year, Chrysler introduced the industry’s first gasoline-electric minivan, the all-new Pacifica Hybrid plug-in model, which can be recharged externally – and can go up to 30 miles on a single charge, using battery power only.

It’s quite an innovative vehicle for Chrysler, which hasn’t been involved in the hybrid realm until now. The surprising thing is that Chrysler, and not Toyota – the hybrid pacesetter – was the first to market with an electrified minivan.

For 2018, the Pacifica Hybrid returns with a choice of three trim levels: the new entry level Hybrid Touring Plus model ($39,995, plus $1,095 freight), the midlevel Hybrid Touring L ($41,995); and the top-of-the-line Hybrid Limited ($44,995).

There are six trim levels for 2018 for the gasoline-only Pacifica, which begins with the new entry level L model ($26,995, plus $1,095 freight), and goes as high as the Limited ($43,695). In between are the LX ($29,795), Touring Plus ($32,595), Touring L ($35,495), and Touring L Plus ($38,695)

The Pacifica now is the only minivan left in the Chrysler/FCA stable of vehicles. The Dodge Grand Caravan, which carried over from 2016 to 2017 without the new design of the Pacifica, has been discontinued for 2018.

Pacifica last year replaced the Chrysler Town & Country. Regular gasoline Pacifica models can seat up to eight people, while the hybrids are limited to seven to accommodate the lithium-ion battery pack.

All 2018 Pacifica models – gas and hybrid – now come with the SafetyTec Group at no extra cost, which includes the ParkSense Rear Park Assist with Stop, Blind-spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path detection.

Regular and hybrid models also get upgraded Uconnect 4 audio systems, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all models. The Uconnect 4 7-inch touch screen audio is included on L, LX, Touring and Touring L models. The Uconnect Theater comes with wireless streaming capability from Android phones and tablets.

There are some exterior tweaks for 2018 as well, including new wheels and body-color mirrors on the Touring Plus; a chrome-plated Stow ‘n Place roof rack on the Touring L; and bright body-side molding and chrome Stow ‘n Place roof rack on the Hybrid Touring L.

New paint colors for 2018 are Copper Pearl Coat and Ocean Blue Metallic.

Although it looks nearly identical to the gasoline-only Pacifica, the hybrid comes with some unique exterior, interior and technology features.

Because the hybrid had to give up a seating position to the battery pack, which goes under the floor, there are dual captain’s chairs in the middle row instead of the normal three-person bench. In the gasoline models, the middle bench seat is standard, while the dual captain’s chairs are optional.

As for the plug-in feature, unlike a basic hybrid vehicle, which only recharges its battery from gasoline-engine operation while driving, the Pacifica can be connected to an outside power source to recharge its onboard battery.

When it’s in EV (electric vehicle) mode, running only on the electric motor, the Pacifica can go at least 30 miles on a fully charged battery, Chrysler says.

During our initial test of the vehicle last year, we were able to go nearly 35 miles on a single charge. Even when we were running on the gasoline engine after the battery ran down, we were averaging nearly 35 mpg. EPA rates the vehicle at 84 mpg/e (miles per gallon/equivalent), based on everyday driving using a combination of gasoline and electric power.

Pacifica’s charging port is under a lid just in front of the driver’s door. It allows the hybrid to be recharged in about 14 hours with a 110-volt power connection, or two hours with the built-in 240-volt charger, if the vehicle is connected to a 240-volt power outlet.

Under the hood of the gasoline-only model is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine producing 287 horsepower and 262 foot-pounds of torque. It’s connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. EPA ratings are 18 mpg city/28 highway/22 combined.

The hybrid features a 3.6-liter Atkinson-cycle V-6 engine, coupled with an electric motor for total system horsepower of 260. With a combination of battery power and the modified Pentastar V-6 engine, the hybrid has a range of 530 miles on a single tank (17 gallons) of regular gasoline.

Consumers who drive 30 or fewer miles a day, however, might not need to refuel for months, unless they take longer daily trips.

Pacifica Hybrid owners have to do without Chrysler’s unique Stow’n’Go middle seat, which is a really cool feature on the gasoline-only minivans. The area that would be used to stow the seat under the floor is where the hybrid’s battery pack goes.

There is a surprising amount of power from the electric motor, which is built into the special E-Flite electronically variable transmission that drives the Pacifica’s front wheels. All-wheel drive is not offered.

Besides having plenty of power, our Pacifica Hybrid Limited also handled very well for a minivan.

The electric motor provides plenty of torque at startup to get the vehicle moving quickly. The switch from electric to gasoline power is automatic, and we noticed the gasoline engine kicking in whenever we pressed the accelerator hard, such as for passing or accelerating up a steep hill.

The hybrid system will choose the most-efficient driving mode; but the driver can override that for faster starts. That will lower fuel economy, though, as the vehicle will choose gasoline power over electric if it’s pushed hard.

Unique features help differentiate the hybrid from the regular Pacifica, beginning with the special wave-pattern grille with its teal badge; an exclusive 18-inch wheel design; and even a special hybrid-only paint color – Silver Teal Pearl.

There is a unique instrument panel with hybrid-specific features to help the driver monitor battery power and driving efficiency. The steering wheel has a teal-colored center Chrysler logo like the grille.

There is a unique seven-inch TFT display in the instrument panel above the steering column. A three-pane panoramic sunroof opens up all three rows of seating to views of the sky.

Those two middle seats can be removed, and the third row stowed away to allow the cavernous interior to carry up to 64 sheets of plywood completely inside the vehicle, the automaker says.

Hybrid models use a fully regenerative braking system to help recharge the battery as the vehicle is slowing down. There was a light delay when pushing the brake pedal hard as the vehicle shifts from regenerative braking to full disc braking, but not enough to cause any problems.

Many of the hybrid’s functions can be controlled from a special app that can be downloaded to a smartphone, including setting charging times for the battery pack if the vehicle is plugged into an outside power sources.

Other phone-controlled features include remote heating or air conditioning (no remote start, as the vehicle doesn’t need the gasoline engine to operate the HVAC system).

The Limited model includes leather heated and ventilated front seats, advanced safety features including Adaptive Cruise Control and a 360-degree Surround View camera system, and the KeySense programmable key fob, which lets parents regulate some of the vehicle’s features when teen kids are out on their own.

Other Pacifica comfort and convenience features include the Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum, hands-free sliding doors and a hands-free rear liftgate.

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