Chrysler Pacifica: Take 2 (Artemisia)

Back in February, before the order of the world collapsed into quarantined chaos, Adam and I bought a new car. It was a high end plug-in hybrid Chrysler Pacifica – far and away the nicest car I have ever owned. This was the car that would see me through the end of my parenting years and the beginning of my camping all the time years! It would be big enough for teenagers and their friends, and for me to convince Adam to buy more camping gear. But it would be guilt free, getting ~50 miles per gallon! Plus heated seats and heated steering wheels and fancy bluetooth stereo systems. It was a gorgeous car.

But before I’d had it even two weeks, I was driving back from New Hampshire with my mom after having dropped Grey off at Camp Wilmot winter weekend when the car flashed a weird warning message. At 11 pm at night on I93 south in 14 degree weather it just …. stopped working. Like, at all. We waited hours for the tow truck to take us to the nearest dealership, and then took a Lyft home. But I was confident they’d fix my car. I mean, it had like a thousand miles on it. It was two weeks old. It was really expensive. Of course it would be ok.

Midnight in the tow truck – there were four of us in the cab! Mom was still recovering from knee surgery. It was 14 degrees. So of course we couldn’t stop giggling.

The dealership they took it to, Bonneville and Sons, said that the error codes had mysteriously disappeared, they couldn’t recreate it, surely it was a fluke. They gave it back to me with a shrug of their shoulders after a few days. I was now nervous. Then COVID hit and no one went anywhere for a while. Finally in May, hiking became an option again and we headed up to do a quick day hike with Thane. On the drive back, at almost the exact same spot, we got the exact same error message. I got to with a tenth of a mile of Bonneville & Sons (I could see it easily from where we were) during business hours. Hooray! I thought! They’ll be able to access the codes! They’re right here! But the service department told me they were leaving in an hour, I’d have to wait for the Chrysler towing to move the car that tenth of a mile, and no. They wouldn’t even look at it. Or help me. It would just sit there over the weekend and then (I thought) the codes would be lost again. I was in tears, and incandescent with the incredibly awful service, and how little they cared. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that angry as a customer, or as little cared about.

Seriously? Come on Bonneville & Sons.

So I had it towed to Massachusetts, to Brigham and Gill where we bought it. They said that there was nothing wrong with the error codes, Brigham and Gill had just deleted them last time.

They replaced a few things and tried a few things and consulted with Chrysler and eventually gave it back to me after a few weeks.

Quality family time

A few weeks later, it happened again, stranding us in a rest stop in New Hampshire – this time on our way UP to our day of relaxing adventures. We left it there, rented a car at Manchester Airport and continued our day (three hours delayed). We moved the car as far south as we could the next day (it crapped out at exit 1 in NH). Then the following day we limped it into the dealership, cleared of all our stuff. The only consolation was that it was definitely and incontrovertibly a lemon of the lemonest variety. There could be no argument. (It has to fail three times to be legally a lemon.)

Goodbye Ruby Rider

But hey! I figured this would work out. I’d just get a new one. What would it take – a few weeks? Well. They had to pay my rental costs, but they only offer $35 a day. If you’re wondering, that is not the value of the car I bought. At all. So I spent most of the summer driving a beat up rental minivan with no Bluetooth capability (I didn’t even know that was still an option) that smelled strongly of the previous occupants smoking addiction and got like 12 mpg. I had to fight for that too – they wanted me to take a smaller car (which, uh, how would I go camping?). But the worst part was the extraordinary and slow and mysterious bureaucracy of the Chrysler process. There’s no documentation, or guidance on what to expect. There’s only being passed along to the next person who has no ability to actually do anything. My fingers itched to do some “process improvement” on whatever the hell they were doing with their internal machinations. It took MONTHS from the day we turned it in for the last time.

Finally, though, we did get the new car! My friends think I absolutely crazy to get the same vehicle again, but other than the bit where it routinely stranded me by the side of the road with 30 seconds warning, I loved it! I really don’t believe that all the Pacificas have this flaw, or they wouldn’t even be able to sell them. I am taking a huge risk, buying an extremely expensive vehicle from a company I know doesn’t take care of the owners of such vehicles. But it is still the only comparable vehicle on the market with fuel efficiency even close to that. And in a saving grace, I was really impressed with how the dealership we bought it from, Brigham and Gill, handled the situation.

We named the new car Artemisia after one of history’s most incredible women. She was a queen, battle-captain, regent and admiral of the Persian fleet with Xerxes during the Peloponnesian War (c. 450 BC). She made the incredibly sexist men of the era respect her, cleverly playing their expectations against them. She’s a woman for whom the name of her husband was unknown. She gets called out by name by Herodotus and Plutarch. She totally needs to have a movie made about her life. Until then, I’ll hope her indomitable spirit keeps her namesake at least on the road! We’ve passed the 1000 mile mark with no issues so far, so fingers crossed!!!

Finally camping with the car I bought to go camping with

Whistle, Ruby Rider

So it’s going to come as a vast surprise to you that one of my great joys in life is camping. Ten years ago, we bought a “family car”. It was the SUV on the market that had the best fuel efficiency at the time since I’d also like for there to be a wilderness to visit. Over time I liked the car less and less. The vaunted fuel efficiency was a flat out lie. I didn’t know it was *possible* for a car to handle so badly in snow. Or rain. Or overcast weather. But I do try to drive cars to the ground.

Then last time I went to Camp Wilmot I almost didn’t make it up the world’s tamest road. AND I didn’t have enough room for four boys and three sleds. And I was just … done with it. So I hit my husband’s website CarGurus to find a new one. I had two primary criteria: fuel efficiency & cargo capacity. I want to bring more crap when camping. I want to be the person who volunteers to bring them *all* up to camp. My sons are headed towards the six foot mark in the next few years, and the back seat doesn’t assume such giants. So I wanted a bigger car. But I balanced that desire with my responsibility towards the environment. This world is literally burning under the magnifying lens of carbon, and I need to do whatever is in my power to mitigate my impact on that. So the best option for fuel efficiency was critical to me. Then there were the other considerations: heated seats (yes please!), fun to drive, comfortable second row, not boring car colored.

Adam and I test drove a couple cars. We hated the Highlander Hybrid, which balanced awful handling with really mediocre fuel efficiency. We tried a used Ford Explorer, but the hybrid isn’t out for another few months and it was not a big improvement. Then I finally talked Adam into test driving the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid – a brand new model. Also a minivan. But I learned to drive on a minivan (a red one!) and still have a soft place in my heart for them.

I loved the car, and brought it home with me that night!

The car is soooooo cool. I’m still uncovering features. Not just heated seats, but heated steering wheel! Hands free door opening! Self park! (I’m still too nervous to try that one.) Separate heating and cooling for all the passengers! Plenty of electrical/USB outlets! I can’t wait to go camping in it!

Best of all, it’s a plug in hybrid that gets between 30 – 80 mpg. That’s on target with our Ford C-Max commuter car. Super impressive, even if we end up in the low range. (At some point we might need to install a second charger, but not yet.) It’s everything I wanted!

Naming is always hard, but we finally all settled on our choice, from a favorite TV show. Everyone say hi to “Ruby Rider

Soooo sexy!

My brother was in need of a car, so he flew up and took home the old Kia (Herodotus), where he’ll drive it into the ground for us!

Goodbye Herodotus!

Just a quick note from the purchasing process with CarGurus. I am usually the car buyer in our family, due to being the person who cares. But when we bought the Kia, my husband was the one who got all the questions/comments addressed to him, due to him being male. But since I expressed interest via CarGurus with my name, they knew that I’m the buyer and did a great job of addressing themselves to me. It’s just a nice, subtle change I appreciated!


Disclaimer: We do get a nice rebate from CarGurus for highlighting our buying experience and rather nice rebate as employees. The opinions are mine, and do not reflect official CarGurus points of view nor my employer. That’s pretty much always true.