Road Trip

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is an ideal road trip warrior, especially for National Parks travel

Author Nicole Wakelin tried out the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid during a long haul trip across Wyoming and South Dakota visiting many of America's National Parks.

Photo by Nicole Wakelin

Today's roads are populated by legions of SUVs and crossovers, many filled with busy families. They're a good choice when you have lots of passengers, but don't discount the perks of driving a minivan like the Chrysler Pacifica. Sure, it's not especially cool, but when it comes to functionality, it's hard to beat.

The Pacifica makes managing day-to-day life easy, but it also shines on a road trip. Whether you're packing up the kids or it's simply a couple's getaway, this minivan is loaded with features to make the trip relaxing and fun.

On the kid front, there's a rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones and two 10-inch touchscreens in the seatbacks. The second and third row Stow 'n Go seats fold down into the floor when not in use or that same space becomes hidden underfloor storage. It's the perfect place to pack extra snacks, drinks, or an emergency change of clothes.

2019 Chrysler Pacifica The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid's all-electric drive mode is helpful for sneaking up on wildlife at the National Parks.Photo by Nicole Wakelin

Even if there aren't kids in the mix, it turns out the Chrysler Pacifica is a great choice for a couple's getaway. Equipped with optional captain's chairs in the second row, the space in the middle is an ideal spot for a cooler. It's easily reachable for the front passenger so a cold drink and a snack are always at the ready.

There's also an ample amount of storage with 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 140.5 cubic feet behind the first row. Even with a full load of passengers, the Pacifica provides plenty of room for your luggage. Leave the kids at home and all that cargo space makes picking up those quirky roadside finds a breeze.

The Chrysler Pacifica gets good fuel economy with an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined with the gas engine. There's also the Pacifica Hybrid, which is the only hybrid minivan on the market. It gets an EPA-estimated 82 MPGe making it a fuel economy champion.

The Pacifica Hybrid has an all-electric range of 30 miles with regenerative braking that extends that range. Road trips that wander through more mountainous terrain will see that electric range go up with heavy brake use in downhill stretches.

A hybrid running in electric mode is quiet. Not only does it make the interior quiet for passengers, it reduces noise outside the vehicle, too. Those planning a drive where watching wildlife is a part of the adventure will find the Pacifica Hybrid less likely to startle roadside wildlife leaving the kids with a close-up look at creatures that might be spooked by a gas engine.

The Chrysler Pacifica is a versatile minivan with room for the family and all their stuff. Its comfortable and spacious interior lets everyone relax and good fuel economy, especially in the hybrid, make it easy on the family budget. Pricing for the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica starts at $33,495.

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New driver assist technology is coming to the Lexus lineup later this year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

New Lexus Teammate driver assistance technology will debut on the 2022 Lexus LS 500h later this year. Its availability is constrained to all-wheel drive models.

The technology was developed based on the Mobility Teammate Concept. This automated driving concept is unique to Toyota sough to enhance communication between drivers and cars, "enabling them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance". The concept sees cars and humans interacting and partnering rather than having automation take over for drivers. This approach allows drivers to enjoy the experience of driving but allowing the vehicle to take over some functions of driver's duties at times. In this way, the tech works as both guardian and chauffeur.

2022 Lexus The company's flagship sedan will get the technology first.Photo courtesy of Lexus

2022 Lexus LS 500h

On the 2022 Lexus 500h, Lexus Teammate will offer two functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.

Advanced Drive is design to "accurately detect driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, braking, and steering commands to maintain the vehicle within the lane, follow other vehicles, change lanes, navigate certain interchanges and traffic jams and overtake slower vehicles." It's a Level 2 functionality that "allows for driving on limited-access highways with partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation".

This description makes it sound a lot like the suite of lane keeping, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control technology that Hyundai offers rather than true Level 3 technology that General Motors's Super Cruise delivers.

Lexus will show operation of the technology on a screen with information displayed like this.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Advanced Park operates similar to how the Genesis GV80's hands-free parking assist technology works. The Lexus tech automatically controls steering, acceleration, braking, and gear changes with parallel parking or backing into a parking space. It uses a combination of 360-degree sensing technologies and a bird's eye view display to perform the task while allowing the driver to monitor progress.

"We are very proud of Lexus Teammate, which is the culmination of five years of close collaboration between our technical centers in Japan and the US. We conducted simultaneous development and rigorous testing in both markets with the goal of achieving industry-leading advanced driver assistance functionality," says Derek Caveney, executive engineer at Toyota Motor North America's Integrated Vehicle Systems team.

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The 2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST gives buyers more performance at a lower price.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer lineup is getting a three-model enhancement for the 2021 model year. The Explorer Enthusiast ST, Platinum, and Platinum Hybrid will be making their way to dealership lots later this year in a targeted attempt to identify customer desires.

The new models join the just-announced 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch, also a new addition.

2021 Ford Explorer Enthusiast ST

The Enthusiast ST grade takes a lot of what customers like about the existing Explorer ST and delivers it at a far cheaper price. The Enthusiast ST has a starting MSRP of $48,750 as opposed to the ST, which starts at $52,830.

Setting it apart from there Explorers is the Enthusiast ST's quad chrome exhaust tips, 20-inch machined aluminum wheels with painted pockets, and sideview mirrors with ST projection lamps.

The new model comes equipped with the same 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine that's in the Explorer ST that churns out 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission completes the powertrain.

Ford has given the model a sport-tuned suspension and a top track speed of 143 mph. A standard Class III Trailer Tow Package provides towing capability of up to 5,600 pounds.

The cabin of the Enthusiast ST is complete with leather seating surfaces, unique Miko micro-perforated inserts, and City Silver accent stitching with the ST logo. There's a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, heated sport-style steering wheel with the ST logo, and paddle shifters.

The Explorer Enthusiast ST also features standard Ford Co-Pilot360 technology.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum

2021 Ford Explorer Plat Ford has two new Platinum models coming to a dealership near you.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

2021 Ford Explorer Plat

The new Explorer Platinum is powered by a 3.0-liter engine and comes standard with rear-wheel drive. Four-when drive is available.

To make the Platinum version worthy of its upscale price tag, its packaging includes door handles with satin aluminum insert, liftgate appliqué, lower bodyside cladding insert, roof-rack side rails, a twin-panel moonroof, and a unique grille with satin aluminum finish. Its cabin is fitted with leather seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dashboard, door rollovers, and door and front console armrests.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $52,480. The hybrid version of that model starts at $53,085.

All the models are currently available for order via Ford dealerships. Deliveries are expected to begin this summer.

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