The Pacifica Hellcat – Industry Game Changer Or Inevitability?
What does Chrysler’s 707-horsepower minivan mean for the future of performance?by Jonathan Lopez, on
At this point, you’ve no doubt heard the news that Chrysler is cramming the supercharged Hellcat V-8 into its Pacifica minivan, while also adding AWD, performance suspension, and all the accompanying bells and whistles needed to harness such prodigious output. While it might seem a bit crazy at first blush, we should have seen it coming.
I’ll explain. These days, high-level performance is available in just about every shape and size imaginable. Sure, you still have the traditional lead-sled muscle cars and nippy track carvers – those never went away. But if you look around, you’ll also notice 200-mph luxury cruisers, hot rod SUVs, and all-electric super sedans. With that in mind, the Pacifica Hellcat actually makes sense.
Which raises a few very interesting questions – what should we expect from the competition, and more importantly, what will the future of performance vehicles look like now that the Pacifica Hellcat is a reality?
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
How We Got Here
Race cars are relatively simple machines to understand, at least from the perspective of purpose. It goes like this: you start with a set of rules that dictate what you can and can’t build, then you do everything you can within those parameters to produce speed. Grip, power, adjustability at the limit, and consistency – these are the characteristics of a competition vehicle. Nothing else matters.
Conversely, a high-performance street car is much, much more complicated. Speed is obviously still quite important, but outright velocity must simultaneously come into balance with other concerns, like comfort, style, efficiency, practicality, and safety. It goes without saying that some models designate speed as the overriding focus, but if it’s driven on the street, you can bet all that other stuff is at least considered.
But a funny thing happened in the last few decades – compromise went away.
Chalk it up to the never-ending grind of motorsport competition and go-faster engineering. The technology needed to win races has developed to the point that a 4,500-pound curb weight is no longer a hindrance to neck-breaking 0-to-60 mph sprints or rib-bruising cornering. Physics, it would seem, has cracked.
And that makes the Pacifica Hellcat a possibility. But to understand its inevitability, we must return to compromise.
I’ll put it bluntly – no one wants to give up fun for practicality. For far too long, responsibility and restraint called the shots when it came to hauling the family to and fro. But that’s all done now. Welcome to the era of the Pacifica Hellcat.
Answering The 707-Horsepower Challenge
You can bet there are more than a few automakers scrambling to put together some sort of answer to the new Pacifica right now. Chrysler obviously has the jump on all of them, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a new surge of high-powered minivans rolling out in the near future. At this early stage, pinpointing exactly what will populate the burgeoning segment is difficult, but we’ve put together a few possibilities that might be hiding just over the horizon:
Never one to shy away from a muscle showdown, the Blue Oval is undoubtedly looking to make a performance minivan of its own. We’re guessing Ford will tap its highly versatile Transit model for the job, which offers a variety of sizes for engineers to pick through when considering the implementation of a high-output drivetrain. Speaking of which, it’s more than likely we’ll see the 5.2-liter V-8 from the Shelby GT350/GT350R dropped under the hood, with horsepower boosted beyond the original 526 ponies.
The real question is this – will Ford be able to take top honors in the quarter-mile test?
The Nissan Quest has been a reliable people mover since 1992, but only once in its four generations has it received a significant performance upgrade. That was with a concept back in 2011 at the Tokyo Auto Salon, but now with the Pacifica Hellcat on the way, a production version could very well be in the works. If Nissan is indeed planning on offering a tuned Quest for mass consumption, expect the same twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6, dual-clutch six-speed transmission, and AWD system that motivates the GT-R. That includes Godzilla’s most recent power bump, which pushes output to 565 ponies and 467 pound-feet of torque.
Honda is well known for its talent in making fire-breathing tire-burners out of pedestrian commuters – just look at the Civic. The obvious next step is to turn those wrenches loose on a minivan, namely the well-received Odyssey. But where will the H-badge go when it comes time to source the equipment needed to hang with the Pacifica? The answer is obvious – Acura. The NSX offers all the technology you could want, including a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 that would easily replace the Odyssey’s existing naturally aspirated mill. Make a little room for the hybrid components and SH-AWD system, and you’re looking at one seriously quick minivan.
Rumors of an AMG-powered Sprinter van have been floating around for at least a year now, and it looks as though Mercedes could actually follow through. If it gets the green light for production, the result will no doubt include aggressive aero cues, quad exhaust tips, and a silver/grey paint job. Most important is the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 powerplant, which pumps out an astounding 503 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. However, that’s still several hundred ponies shy of the Pacifica Hellcat, which means this tall-body bruiser will need some serious handling prowess to make up the difference.
The Future Of Performance
Some critics are calling the Pacifica Hellcat “absurd,” “ridiculous,” and “a joke.” I disagree. I think Chrysler’s latest minivan is the way forward in the world of performance, heralding a time when we no longer have to pick between practicality and speed. This new age of sports vans means compromise takes a back seat (any row will do) to the desire of the customer. And to me, that makes for a very bright future indeed.