Tony O'Kane | Jan 15, 2016

In among the sleek RWD sports coupes, tech-packed concepts and butch SUVs crowding the floor at this year's Detroit Auto Show, was the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

It's a minivan, and in the US market it will soon become the replacement for the Chrysler Town & Country - a car we know over here in Australia as the Chrysler Grand Voyager.

Bored yet? Don't be, because while the Pacifica might look like a slightly more aerodynamic breeder bus, it's got one significant ace up its sleeve - fuel economy.

In plug-in hybrid form (the first of its kind, according to Chrysler), the all-new Pacifica consumes as little as 2.94 l/100km on the US urban test cycle - substantially less than a Toyota Prius.

Being a plug-in, it can also theoretically run on no fuel whatsoever, provided you never breach its 48km all-electric range in a single day and recharge often.

Power comes from a 16kWh lithium-ion battery to keep weight low, hooked up to two electric drive motors. A 185kW/312Nm 3.6 litre petrol V6 provides motive force when the battery runs down, and also helps charge it up when on the go. A CVT automatic takes power to the ground.

The non-hybrid Pacifica also uses a 3.6 litre Pentastar V6, but tuned for 214kW and 355Nm and bolted to a nine-speed automatic that drives the front wheels.

The 2017 Pacifica sits on an all-new platform, which Chrysler claims is the lightest and stiffest in its class to deliver fuel economy, handling and refinement benefits. Helping the latter is the inclusion of active noise-cancelling technology in all models.

It measures a huge 5172mm long, 2022mm wide and 1777mm tall, and stands astride a 3089mm wheelbase.

Every one of those dimensions is bigger than the Dodge Journey/Fiat Freemont, Fiat Chrysler's remaining 7-seat people mover twins in Australia. Like the Journey/Freemont, the Pacifica has room for seven passengers, but accommodates them in a 2/2/3 seating arrangment, with a pair of captain's chairs in the second row.

An eight-seater 2/3/3 configuration is also available on non-hybrid variants.

The second row seats can fold down into the floor while the third row bench flips backwards into a boot recess, creating a fully-flat load area that rivals many commercial vans.

Chrysler boasts that the Pacifica is also "the most technolgically-equipped vehicle of its kind", thanks to a pair of 10-inch high-def touchscreens that rear passengers can use to watch movies, play games or browse the internet.

Two premium sound systems are also available - either a 13-speaker Alpine setup or a 20-speaker Harman Kardon system with "audiophile-quality sound".

Busy parents will also appreciate the hands-free tailgate and sliding side doors, which can be opened by a kicking motion under the sides or rear of the car. Did your rugrats make a mess? An integrated vacuum cleaner will take care of that.

Unfortunately, this zero-emission bus is unlikely to come here. Fiat Chrysler Australia hasn't officially ruled it out, but for now the Dodge Journey and Fiat Freemont will likely continue to be the group's primary people-moving products in this country.

MORE: Chrysler News and Reviews

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