After spending two consecutive weeks test driving Stellantis plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), I am left wondering why all automakers aren't offering this in their lineups to a greater degree.
It doesn’t hurt that the Chrysler Pacifica and Jeep Grand Cherokee are well-put-together vehicles with a slew of features that make driving fun, comfortable and safe. I mean, who doesn’t love massaging seats (Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland edition) and sliding doors are so practical (Chrsyler Pacifica Pinnacle edition.)
While it's not "free," the idea of getting an easy 30 miles of electric range daily is such a nice bonus. I have discovered what EV proponents swear by: Many of us don’t regularly drive more than 30 miles a day.
But on the days that I do, it has been nice to have the vehicle switch to gas without me lifting a finger. There’s no need for “range anxiety.” If you want or need to get into the vehicle and drive 300+ miles without having to stop for a charge, there’s also nothing stopping you.
Another nice thing about PHEVs is there is no need to look for high-speed chargers either at home or on the road. Plugging into a standard 120-volt plug outlet overnight gets you from 0% to 100% battery. Heck, even the days I plugged in a few hours in between trips restored a good part of my charge.
With both vehicles, it’s easy to tell your vehicle is charging because there are five bars in the middle of the dashboard that are easily visible from outside the vehicle. They blink and then become solid blue as the battery life is restored.
Stellantis thoughtfully supplies a very long charging cable that is easy to plug into the vehicle. You can do it with one hand while holding a coffee mug and keys in the other hand.
The Pacifica I drove (with an MSRP of $61,785) was luxurious. The caramel-colored Nappa leather seats included quilted stitching. The back bucket seats include small cushions stitched with the Chrysler logo, which gave it an elegant touch. Between those seats and the UConnect entertainment system with streaming apps, it’s not a bad place to be relegated, if you are a kid. Twenty Harman Kardon speakers complete the experience.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee also doesn’t slouch on entertainment systems. The Overland trim level has a base price of $67,880, but the model I drove had lots of options added, which brought the MSRP up to $75,655. It includes a Macintosh stereo system and a passenger-side entertainment display which cannot be seen by the driver.
The vehicles are a good reminder that not all EVs are created equal. It’s notable that a recent JD Power E-Vision Intelligence Report found that the EV divide is growing in the U.S. as more new-vehicle shoppers are digging in their heels and opting for gas engines.
The percentage of U.S. consumers who say they are “very unlikely” to consider an EV for their next vehicle purchase has been growing steadily for the past three months, reaching 21% in March. The top five reasons vehicle shoppers give for not considering an EV are all focused on public charging infrastructure and vehicle pricing.
If more consumers had a chance to experience a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), they might be less apprehensive over a possible EV purchase. An analyst recently told the Washington Post that PHEVs are the “gateway drug” to electric vehicles, and I would strongly agree.