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Chrysler Pacifica reimagines the minivan

A.J. Mueller

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Minivans may be the ultimate mommy wagon, even if they are generally bulbous, bloated, asexual. It’s no wonder droves of moms have fled minivans for shapelier, more stylish SUVs in recent years.

For a lot of moms, minivans say, "You've given up," said Janet Strauss, a South Pasadena mother of one. "You have succumbed to a world where you don't exist and your kids are your life."

No longer is your car an expression of virility but utility -- and the endless shuttling of wee ones to school and baseball and pizza.

But what if minivans were different? Take the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which adds a sheen of technology to an otherwise blase class of vehicle. Later this year, the Pacifica will be the first-ever plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. Charge it up, and it can go 30 miles as an all-electric vehicle before switching to hybrid mode.

It will even be able to drive itself. This week, Chrysler announced a partnership with Google to use the Pacifica as part of its autonomous vehicle program. All the cameras and radar and sensors for that to happen are already built in to the gas-powered Pacifica. It's loaded with safety features that warn of unintended lane departures and cars racing into its blind spots — even stopping itself in an emergency.