Chrysler managed to trim 250 pounds of weight from their minivan in moving from the old Town & Country to the new 2017 Pacifica. This fact becomes even more impressive when you consider that the Pacifica is packed with loads more content, such as a rear backup camera, so how did the engineers do it?
Speaking to USA Today, Jessica LaFond, chief engineer of minivans for FCA explained how the use of aluminum and magnesium in the 2017 Pacifica’s construction saved the most weight. By using high strength steel in key structural points throughout the car’s body and aluminum and magnesium where less structural strength is needed , engineers can improve rigidity and also reduce weight.
“What we decided to do was support the structure where it needed to be reinforced and take away weight everywhere we knew could,” LaFond explained. “And then went after just every ounce.”
“We weren’t willing to sacrifice strength and weight where we needed it,” LaFond said. “So that sort of doubled the challenge for us.”
FCA says they saved 40 pounds by using aluminum panel for the large sliding side doors and another eight pounds by welding separate pieces of high-strength steel together for the structural ring around the front doors. The front suspension also features aluminum knuckles and control arms, while a magnesium crossbeam is used behind the instrument panel.
Cutting weight has helped the Pacifica achieve a 10% better fuel economy rating than the Town & Country it replaces, along with the implementation of a nine-speed automatic transmission. This is despite using a very similar 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine, which will also feature in the 80 eMPG Pacifica Hybrid.