The adolescent vernacular is filled with in-joke throwaways, terms that enjoy fleeting relevance during the lifespan of whichever meme burped them into the universe. Like "yeet." Do you know what "yeet" means? Never mind, it doesn't matter, because in a month or two "yeet" will be on the Shelf of Seldom Used Words along with "thine" and "heretofore."
But I've taken a liking to one recent tentpole of tween patois, the word "shook." It means means shaken, in the sense of profoundly disturbed. And it's a perfect word to describe how I felt when my wife, Heather, declared that we should look at buying a Chrysler Pacifica. I was shook when she said it, and shook all over again when I realized that I agreed with her.
At that moment, we were about two hours into a drive, heading west to the mountains of North Carolina. The Pacifica in question, a 2021 Limited AWD, was filled with skis, a cooler, luggage, and all the bulky detritus associated with below-zero outdoors activity. There were also two children on the manifest, ages eight and 10. It was almost easy to forget about them because they were watching Nitro Circus on the UConnect Theater screens fitted to the back of the front seats, occasionally laughing but never staunching the flow of boredom with a carefully timed punch across the aisle.
"Why don't we get one of these?" Heather said. "Every time you test one, we all love it. It fits everything and it's comfortable. What, am I too cool? I don't care if anyone thinks I'm cool or not." Nor do I, so I say. But I've always found a reason to eschew the minivan. I need AWD, or I need to tow, or maybe I want a plug-in for our next car. Well, the Pacifica offers AWD and can tow 3600 pounds, and there's a plug-in hybrid version. That one can't tow and it's FWD, but with all the money you save on gas you could buy a cool old truck for the towing and 4x4 occasions. Hold on—I have an old 4X4 truck already. Why, then? Why can't I have this thing that would unequivocally make everyone's lives easier?
I don't know. Because the minivan, I've come to realize, represents the epitome of mainstream luxury. It smooths the edges of daily inconvenience in ways big and small, a four-wheeled concierge. Did you neglect to pack for a weekend trip until the very last minute? Worry not, sir, just throw anything you want in the biggest suitcase you can find. Don't even think about it. It'll all fit. And this hypothetical is not so hypothetical, in that I actually did exactly that before setting off in the Pacifica. When Heather opened my bursting suitcase, she asked, "How long did you think we were going to be away?"
And the features! Oh, the features. Heated seats and steering wheel, heated rear seats (spoiled brats), that dope rear-seat entertainment system, remote start, a built-in vacuum, power sliding doors! You know the only other vehicle I've driven this year that had power doors? The Rolls-Royce Cullinan. It cost $503,000. The Pacifica was less than a tenth of that, and we just take it and its ilk for granted. And they're not just power doors—they're remote control power doors. When we got to the house, I realized that one of the kids left a door open on the way out of the car. I stood on the steps and closed it via the key fob, like some kind of billionaire. Truly, the minivan is the private jet for the ground-bound masses.
And the Pacifica scampered up unplowed mountain roads, delivered more-than-adequate acceleration and got decent fuel economy along the way. Have I mentioned it's huge inside? Heather currently has a Lincoln MKT Ecoboost, which seems fairly capacious but offers roughly half the interior volume of the Pacifica. Yeah, the MKT has 355 horsepower and would smoke the Pacifica in a drag race. So that's one column in favor of the crossover, and about a Parthenon's worth of other ones for the minivan.
I really don't know what my problem is. Somehow minivans got branded as automotive sweatpants, a signifier of giving up on your cool younger self and growing dowdy and lame. But it's really the opposite. I made a mental inventory of the people I know who drive minivans, and they're all cool. None of them give a crap what other people think. They got their vans because that's what they wanted, not out of some sense of resignation. One of my friends in California, who has two young kids, bought an AWD Toyota Sienna a few years ago. I texted him to ask if he still had it, and he replied, "Yes, and I love this thing. It stores so much crap! In fact, I bought a camping toilet that we keep in there for emergencies!" Tell me again about how minivan drivers are conformists. I don't know if an in-car toilet is what I'd call a good idea, but you can't say it's not original.
Another friend, in Maine, texted to tell me he just bought a 2020 Pacifica Hybrid Limited. "They threw in snow tires," he said. And that solves that problem, nearly all of the time. Even in the mountains of North Carolina, you can head up the nastier roads if you throw on tire chains. I've never owned tire chains, but I've always aspired to.
Really, I think the only last hurdle is the same one that stopped me from buying a Jeep Gladiator during the depths of lockdown cabin fever, which is that the MKT refuses to die and I'm financially pragmatic. We've owned the Lincoln for nine years and the only out-of-warranty fix was a taillight. (And an HVAC blend door on the passenger side that is broken but ignorable.) And it's hard to part with a perfectly good car that's all paid off and still running fine.
But eventually, the MKT is going to barf its transmission or do something else drastic. And then? I just might indulge in the luxury of convenience. And not be the least bit shook about it.
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