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First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

Redefining the minivan – will it win back American family buyers?

by on Mar.21, 2016

Perhaps no other type of vehicle does a better job of delivering what it offers than a minivan.

Running from the Southern California Coast towards Lake Elsinore, the Ortega Highway is the sort of torturously twisting two-lane highways that motorcycles and sports cars love. Minivans travel it at their own peril, and yet, we’re planning to run nearly the full 111.5 miles of what’s official known as CA-74 this drizzly, late winter morning.

If we were driving Chrysler’s old Town & Country model, or just about any conventional minivan, for that matter, you might have reason to question our choice of routes. But this is our first chance to drive the new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

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No automaker is more closely identified with the minivan. The Detroit side of Fiat Chrysler invented the modern people-move back in 1984, and for years it struggled to meet demand, U.S. sales at one point nudging 2 million a year. These days, the numbers are down for nearly three-quarters and a number of one-time competitors, including Ford and General Motors have dropped out of the minivan market. So, some question whether the new Chrysler Pacifica is the segment’s last great hope.

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Chrysler Drops Price on All-New Pacifica

New minivan’s mileage nears top of its class.

by on Mar.10, 2016

Chrysler's new minivan gets a dramatic new look and a new name for 2017: Pacifica.

Chrysler plans to shave about $1,400 off the base price of its all-new Pacifica minivan compared to the outgoing Town & Country people-mover.

The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica will start at $28,595, plus a $995 delivery charge. The outgoing minivan started at $29,995. But load the new Pacifica up and you’ll top $42,000, the automaker said today.

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Chrysler also revealed that the gas-powered version of the new minivan will deliver a combined 22 mpg, according to the EPA. That’s a significant bump from the old Town & Country and positions Pacifica as second-best in the minivan market – though Chrysler had been promising to lead the segment with “unsurpassed” mileage.

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Honda Previews New Hydrogen Car, Civic Type-R, Other Debuts Coming to Tokyo

Assortment of intros ranges from practical to decidedly wacky.

by on Sep.30, 2015

The new, turbo-powered Honda Type R coming to Tokyo will be the most powerful Civic ever.

Few automotive events cover more ground than the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, which has a history of introducing products ranging from the practical to the downright wacky. And if the Honda exhibit is any indication, the November gathering will live up to expectations.

Offering a few hints of what it has in store for Tokyo Motor Show-goers next month, Honda plans to pull the wraps off the next-generation Odyssey minivan, as well as a new version of its only recently launched hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle. The exhibit will include sports and track models like the new Acura NSX and quirky 2&4 Concept, and will look at alternative mobility solutions with the Wander Stand and Wander Walker Concepts.

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The Tokyo show has, over the years, seen some pretty odd and exotic concepts designed to excite visitors – appropriately, in Japanese, translated into “waku waku.” That’s included past Honda models such as one that looked almost like a telephone booth on wheels.

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With Loss of Dodge Grand Caravan, Minivan Market Keeps Shrinking

Departure means possibilities for others in segment.

by on May.07, 2014

FCA is going to phase out the Dodge Grand Caravan in 2016. The minivan segment has been shrinking for some time.

Confirming longstanding rumors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it will end production of the Dodge Grand Caravan in 2016 as part of a broad product and brand realignment that will leave the U.S. side of the automaker with only the Chrysler Town & Country in its model line-up.

That’s a big shift for a manufacturer credited with inventing the modern minivan in 1984 and who once offered the family-friendly vehicles under a variety of different badges. But it reflects not only the changes coming as Fiat Chrysler (FCA) rejiggers its brand strategy, but also the long and steady decline of a once-popular market segment today largely disdained by American motorists.

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Minivan sales shrank by 4.0% in 2013, according to industry data, to 532,357. That’s still enough volume that the industry can’t completely write off what critics have dubbed “mom-mobiles,” but it’s a far cry from the 1.4 million minivans manufacturers like Chrysler sold at the segment’s peak in 2000. (more…)

Nissan Tests a Self-Cleaning Car

Buick looking to keep things clean in the “puke zone.”

by on Apr.25, 2014

A Nissan Note shows how the water and oil-resistant coating keeps one side of the vehicle clean.

If it’s not winter’s salt and grime, it’s mud and everyday dirt. Keeping your car clean can be a chore – a backbreaking one if you prefer to do it yourself.

But Nissan is testing a car that can keep itself clean, thanks to special paints that repel water and oils. Similar technology could eventually allow manufacturers to do away with windshield wipers by effectively fend off water and grime. Meanwhile, new coatings can also help keep a car’s interior cleaner, something especially useful for parents – or those actively involved in sports like camping and trail biking.

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The Nissan Technical Center in Rolle, Switzerland is in the midst of testing a specially prepared version of the maker’s little European Note model. The subcompact hatchback has had a layer of a special coating, called Ultra-Ever Dry applied over its conventional paint finish. Developed by UltraTech International, it’s technically known as a super-hydrophobic and oleophobic paint. In other words, it actually repels both oil and water.

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Fire Risk Forces Recall of 900k Honda Odyssey Minivans

Latest in series of Odyssey recalls.

by on Mar.17, 2014

A 2008 version of the Odyssey minivan.

While often ranked among the best of the market’s minivans, the Honda Odyssey minivan has faced a number of recalls for potentially serious safety-related issues in recent years, and it is being targeted by yet another, the Japanese maker announcing it will need to service nearly 900,000 of the vehicles due to a potential leak that puts the Odyssey at risk for fire.

While the maker says it knows of no fires or injuries so far, “Prolonged exposure to acidic chemicals and a high temperature environment may cause the cover of the fuel pump strainer to deteriorate prematurely in a manner that can result in cracks in the material.”

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If that happens, Honda said in a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is an “increasing…risk of fire.”  It can also lead to the smell of fuel in the vehicles.

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Feds Investigate 343,000 Honda Minivans

Problem could trigger another major recall for Japanese maker.

by on Jul.01, 2013

2007 and 2008 Honda Odyssey minivans are under investigation due to reported brake problems.

Just days after ordering a recall to fix problems with more than 140,000 of its subcompact Fit model, Honda is again under the microscope as federal regulators investigate potential problems that could cause the brakes on nearly 350,000 Honda Odyssey minivans to apply on their own.

The Japanese automaker has already recalled nearly 2 million vehicles so far this year and though it remains to be seen if the new investigation will lead to yet another safety-related service action, Honda already recalled 180,000 vehicles this year due to braking problems.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it launched the latest investigation involving 343,000 Honda Odyssey minivans produced during the 2007 and 2008 model-years after receiving 22 complaints of unexpected braking.  According to some owners, the vehicles suddenly slowed by as much as 30 miles per hour even though they tried to accelerate.

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Honda and Acura Have Big Plans for Shanghai

Concept C and Concept S, new MPV and two new crossover concepts on tap.

by on Apr.08, 2013

Might Acura be planning a new CUV smaller than its current RDX model for a Shanghai debut?

It wasn’t that many years ago when Chinese auto shows were relatively lame events, manufacturers rolling out production cars and prototypes we’d already seen at other global events, such as Detroit, Geneva or even Tokyo. Not anymore.  This year’s Shanghai Motor Show promises to be a major event with dozens of new offerings from global makers including Honda and its luxury franchise Acura.

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In fact, their stands look likely to be crowded with an assortment of new offerings of both the concept and production type. That includes a pair of show cars of which the maker is saying little which makes it unclear whether they will be more CUV or minivan in character.

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Honda Hopes to Clean up with 2014 Odyssey

Minivan gets minivac.

by on Mar.26, 2013

The Honda Odyssey family mover now has a family-ready vacuum built in.

If we said the new 2014 Odyssey minivan sucked, Honda might just take that as a compliment. The updated Odyssey Touring Elite model debuting at the New York Auto Show will introduce a new feature likely to have significant appeal to family buyers – the first in-car vacuum.

The HondaVAC is one of several new features being introduced on the 2014 Honda Odyssey which has gained steady momentum in an otherwise shrinking market segment.

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Minivan sales are currently less than half what they peaked at a decade ago, but there is still a sizable demand among family buyers who see them as the most functional and efficient people-movers on the market. The challenge is coming up with a consistent stream of new innovations.

“Honda is once again showcasing its reputation for innovation with HondaVAC, and its ability to provide true value to our customers,” proclaimed Michael Accavitti, vice president of marketing operations at American Honda.

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Honda Unveiling Updated 2014 Odyssey in NY

Japanese maker hints of “innovative new features.”

by on Mar.19, 2013

Honda will give the Odyssey a minor makeover.

While there’s been plenty of talk about the demise of the minivan, the classic people-mover segment continues to attract plenty of buyers who need space and flexibility, and Honda hopes to expand the appeal of its popular Odyssey model with a mild makeover it plans to unveil at the New York Auto Show later this month.

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The Japanese maker is promising to add some “innovative new features” when it launches the 2014 Honda Odyssey at the Jacob Javits convention center. Precisely what that means, the maker isn’t saying, though minivan buyers put a premium on such features as seating and storage, as well as fuel economy.

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