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David Mims hit the nail on the head.

I was extolling the virtues of a gas-sipping, luxurious, pleasant-to-drive vehicle and he just looked at me like I was crazy.

“My wife will never drive a minivan,” he said. I was immediately chastened.

“Mine, either” I muttered, as that realization slowly settled in.

Therein lies the rub. Polling consistently shows that Americans are convinced that climate change is a clear and present danger and that it is largely caused by humans. Yet those same polls show we despair of doing anything about it. We don’t trust the government to act, nor do we think we can personally take meaningful action.

In truth, there is plenty we can do. Climate change is a complex and dynamic issue, but the single greatest variable is transportation. Forget the Weltschmerz about the travails of electrifying the fleet, we can today – RIGHT NOW – choose available technology that would reduce the volume of toxic CO2 we pump into the atmosphere by four to 10 times. Moreover, we could do that without sacrificing the room and comfort to which we have become accustomed.

First, however, we would have to break our addiction to giant land yachts with front grilles that look like a Great White on a feeding frenzy. Next time you’re driving keep track of how many oncoming trucks and SUVs have angry faces.

This is no accident. Detroit’s understanding of the American psyche is as adroit as Madison Avenue’s. Aggressive styling is seen as powerful. In a University of Michigan study, drivers in cars with angry-looking faces were perceived as more aggressive and powerful than those in cars with neutral-looking faces. 

Subconsciously, this leads drivers to believe that they are safer in an angry-looking car. In a world growing smaller and sleeker, an annoyed vehicle stands out from the crowd. Feelings we dare not exhibit personally we are quite willing to allow our cars to express for us.

In the end, however, a human’s impact on the planet is a function of how many barrels of oil are burned while getting from point A to point B. A plug-in hybrid, like the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, uses about four barrels of oil a year, according to the EPA. A full-sized SUV or pickup uses 19-20 barrels, and a midsize SUV, like a Hyundai Palisade, around 14.

Newton’s first law makes clear that vehicle weight is but a small slice of fuel consumption. Aerodynamics is also a multivariate calculation, and the single largest variable is wind resistance, which is exponential – a little more resistance requires a lot more fuel.

Rather than riding down the road in trucks and SUVs that are, in essence, pushing a barn door, if we wanted to save on fuel and help the environment we would all be riding in vehicles with good aerodynamics, which is to say wedge-shaped.

You know, like that butt-ugly creation destined to be the Tesla Cybertruck. Quickly, can I have a show of the hands of everyone who thinks that looks cool?

I thought not.

If Ford wanted to solve the range anxiety about its F-150 Lightning, it would ditch the old body style and build a wedge. Ford did not do that for a simple reason: It wanted to sell trucks.

Side-by-side comparisons

What happens if we replace a massive, flat-faced SUV with a wedge-shaped minivan? To explore this, we chose to compare two full-sized SUVs that have recently graced our driveway, the Nissan Armada and GMC Yukon. We compare them to the 2023 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Since it is a plug-in hybrid, it is the only minivan on the market eligible for federal income tax credits.

It could be argued that a minivan should be more precisely compared to a midsize SUV, and we’ll not dispute that point. The thing is, we haven’t seen many lately. While the midsize SUVs might compare more favorably in terms of fuel economy, the larger vehicles will rack up more points when it comes to towing and hauling capacities.

Points are awarded on a 3-for-first and 1-for-third basis

Interior volume

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

  • Seating capacity: 7 or 8
  • Cargo space behind third row: 32.3 cubic feet
  • Cargo space with third row folded: 87.5 cubic feet
  • Interior volume: 140.5 cubic feet
Spending about 75 cents a day to charge the Chrysler Pacifica’s 16kWh battery allowed the plug-in hybrid to deliver better than 67 mpg in city driving, while on the highway it achieved around 30 mpg. In a week’s worth of driving around Texarkana it averaged 53.7 mpg. Photo by Bill Owney

Nissan Armada

  • Seating capacity: 8
  • Cargo space behind third row: 16.6 cubic feet
  • Cargo space with third row folded: 95.1 cubic feet
  • Interior volume: 166.6 cubic feet

GMC Yukon

  • Seating capacity: 7 or 8
  • Cargo space behind third row: 15.3 cubic feet
  • Cargo space with third row folded: 94.2 cubic feet
  • Interior volume: 165.4 cubic feet

As you can see, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid has the most amount of cargo space behind the third row, although offering less total interior volume. The Nissan Armada and GMC Yukon enjoy and/or suffer similar packaging; there’s little room behind the third row, almost identical room with third row folded and similar space in total interior volume.  Given its versatility and ease of use, we’re giving three points to the Chrysler.

First, Pacifica; second, tie, Armada and Yukon


All three received five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in crash tests. The Armada and Yukon also received the highest possible rating of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in all their crash tests. The Pacifica Hybrid received a “Good” rating in all the IIHS crash tests except for the small overlap front test, where it received an “Acceptable” rating.

The Armada and Yukon both come standard with several safety features, including forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring. The Pacifica Hybrid comes standard with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

None of the three is particularly adept at keeping itself in its lane. All tend to overcorrect. Available on Yukon is General Motors Super Cruisetm, perhaps the best automated driving system currently available.

First Yukon, second Armada, third, Pacifica.


Consumer Reports does not rate any of these three highly, though Pacifica scores best. 

J.D. Power also rates the Pacifica Hybrid as the most reliable vehicle of the three, with a reliability score of 82 out of 100. The Yukon comes in second with a score of 79, and the Armada comes in last with a score of 76.

The Yukon has been known to have problems with its transmission, and the Armada has been known to have problems with its electrical system.

First Pacifica, second Yukon, third Armada.

Ride and drive


  • Ride: The Armada has a smooth and comfortable ride. It absorbs bumps well and doesn’t feel too floaty or wallowy.
  • Handling: The Armada’s handling is good for its size. It’s not as agile as a smaller SUV, but it’s still easy to maneuver around town and on the highway.


  • Ride: The Yukon has a firmer and more controlled ride than the Armada. It doesn’t absorb bumps as well, but it feels more planted on the road.
  • Handling: The Yukon handles better than the Armada, but it’s still not as agile as a smaller SUV. It’s easy to maneuver around town, but it can feel a bit cumbersome on the highway.

Pacifica Hybrid

  • Ride: The Pacifica Hybrid has a more car-like ride than the other two vehicles. It’s not as smooth as the Armada, but it’s more comfortable than the Yukon.
  • Handling: The Pacifica Hybrid handles better than the other two vehicles. It’s easy to maneuver around town and on the highway, and it doesn’t feel as top-heavy as the other two vehicles.

First Pacifica, second Yukon, third Armada

Fuel consumption


  • 5.6-L 8 cylinder
  • MPG city/highway/combined 14/19/16
  • Fuel type: premium unleaded
  • Tank size: 26.0 gallons
  • Range: 416 miles
  • Cost to fill tank: $114
  • Cost to drive 25 miles: $6.86
  • Annual fuel cost: $4,100
  • Annual consumption: 18.6 barrels
  • Grams CO2/mile: 558


  • 3.6-L V6 + electric motor
  • MPG 53.7 mpg combined.
  • Fuel type: regular gasoline/ 110-V outlet
  • Tank size: 16.5 gallons
  • Range: 520 miles
  • Cost to fill tank: $59
  • Cost to drive 25 miles: $1.44 – $3.00
  • Annual fuel cost: $1,250
  • Annual consumption: 4.0 barrels
  • Grams CO2/mile: 119

Yukon 2WD

  • 6.2-L V-8 or 3.0-L 6 cylinder diesel
  • 14/20/16 or 21/27/23
  • Fuel type: Premium gasoline or diesel
  • Tank size: 24.0 gallons
  • Range: 384 or 552 miles
  • Cost to fill tank: $105 or $98
  • Cost to drive 25 miles: $6.86 or $4.46
  • Annual fuel cost: $4,100 or $2,650
  • Annual consumption: 18.6 barrels or 15.5 barrels
  • Grams CO2/mile: 555 or 442

First Pacifica, second Yukon, third Armada


The Armada starts at $48,150, the Yukon at $51,995, and the Pacifica Hybrid at $45,295.

The Armada offers a lot of value. It has a powerful V8 engine, a comfortable ride, and a spacious interior. The Yukon is also a good value, but it doesn’t offer as much power or cargo space as the Armada. If towing matters, the Armada is probably the best. The Pacifica can drag around 3,600 lbs., enough for a bass boat, trailer and gear.

The Pacifica Hybrid is eligible for up to a $7,500 federal income tax credit.

First Pacifica, second Armada, third Yukon.

Final tally: Pacifica 14.5 points, Yukon 13, Armada 9.5. 

I share this research with the full realization that Beautiful Bride ain’t gonna let me have a minivan.

In four decades of journalism, Bill Owney has picked up awards for his coverage of everything from murders to the NFL to state and local government. He added the automotive world to his portfolio in the mid '90s.

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