When the Chrysler Pacifica first debuted, it leapt to the top of its class. In recent years, its competitors have come up with some new tricks, so for 2021 Chrysler has focused on revamping the Pacifica range to give buyers more choice, and the results keep this van in contention for the top accolades.
- Smooth driving
- Tons of usable interior space
- Great cab technology
I do not like
- The top trim goes north of $ 55,000.
- Stop-start roughness
Anonymous looks, but who cares?
Chrysler first showed its revamped Pacifica at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, and many of my colleagues were quick to vent its new design, calling its front too boring or nondescript or whatever. I’m in the opposite camp; I think that’s great, if only because it no longer has the same front end as a Chrysler 200. Minivans are meant to be tools more than toys, so understated looks represent their utilitarian tendencies. The rear is much sharper than before, and thanks to the new running lights at both ends, its night profile is much more unique than before.
But when it comes to family vehicles, just like your own existence, it’s what’s inside that counts. To this end, the Pacifica absolutely shines, especially in the new Pinnacle 2021 trim. Yes, it’s almost as expensive as a BMW 5 Series, with my tester sounding an “oof” inducing $ 54,885, including $ 1,495 per destination. But, at the same time, it’s almost as luxurious as the Bimmer, thanks to standard finishes like quilted Nappa leather seats, cushions for the second-row captain’s chairs, and almost every modern feature you’d expect from a minivan.
However, opting for all that luxury doesn’t mean you have to compromise in other departments. The motorized third row can still be stowed effortlessly, thanks to switches mounted near the tailgate. There is still a hidden vacuum cleaner there too. The only real trade-off is the lack of Stow-n-Go second-row seats, but they can still slide on and off the road to make room for flat-pack movable boxes, Christmas trees, a whole dog kennel, you name it.
Storage space has always been an important factor in minivan interior design, and Pacifica Pinnacle goes way beyond basic finishes with what it calls Ultra Console. This redesigned center console packs an impressive amount of storage space, from a sneaky tray underneath to a cavernous closet under the armrest. Just below the climate controls, there’s a wireless charging tray that’s large enough to accommodate any phone currently on the market, plus cup holders suitable for larger water bottles.
Uconnect 5 is a fulcrum of the technological showcase
FCA’s Uconnect is one of my favorite infotainment systems because it is simple and easy to learn. The latest version, Uconnect 5, makes one of its first appearances in Chrysler Pacifica of 2021and no surprises, I love it.
Now living on a 10.1 inch screen, Uconnect collects some new tricks that make living with the system even easier. A more robust processor means faster boot times and better responsiveness, while its Bluetooth capabilities expand to allow for more simultaneous sources. Amazon Alexa features are built in, as is wirelessis . My favorite part, however, is the new home screen, which shows multiple corners of the system (e.g. audio, navigation) at the same time, and there’s enough screen resolution to make everything look nice and crisp. USB ports are everywhere, with only the first row enclosing four USB ports, split equally between USB-A and USB-C.
In terms of cameras, there are enough of them on this Pacifica to give the British CCTV panopticon a run for its money. The regular backup camera offers adequate resolution and the surround view camera makes parking a breeze. But the most interesting camera is actually inside The Vehicle: A new FamCam internal monitor uses a roof-mounted lens to keep an eye on rear seat occupants from above, which is great for paranoid parents who want to keep an eye on a little one in a rear-facing car seat ‘back.
When it comes to safety, Pacifica Pinnacle comes standard with almost everything. Parking sensors? Check. Active parking assistance? Check. Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality? Lane-keep assist? Automatic emergency braking? Pedestrian and cyclist detection? You got the idea.
Soft but steady on the road
I’ve always enjoyed the way the Pacifica drives, which is more like a well-cushioned car than a crossover, and thankfully FCA hasn’t messed up the success for the 2021 model. There are, however, a couple of new additions. to help the automaker keep up with the Joneses.
My tester uses the same engine the Pacifica has always used, the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V6. Here, it produces 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, but the novelty is the ability to send that power to four wheels, instead of two. For an additional $ 2,995, its new all-wheel drive look offers a little extra of mind for drivers in places with more than a season or two. I find it has no effect on the overall character of the Pacifica, especially since the rear wheels don’t actually engage until the car detects a forward slip, which increases fuel economy. The 362-pound delta doesn’t seem to affect the surprising amount of fuss the Pacifica has always packed, and the V6 still sounds great when it rushes down a ramp.
There is a little more ground clearance on the AWD Pacificas, but from what I can tell it doesn’t affect handling in any way. This is a neutral minivan, with just the right amount of roll to soften the ride without making it look too washed out and with enough damping to remove most of the bad bits on local roads. As before, it will be a fantastic travel minivan, absorbing miles and returning a lot of comfort over long distances. The steering is well thought-out and both the accelerator and brake pedals are tuned to ensure smooth starts and stops every time. The current stop-start system, however, is a little janky, with ample shoving when the V6 shuts down and comes back to life.
The only place the AWD system cannot be ignored is in the Pacifica’s fuel economy estimates. While the front-wheel drive model earns a respectable 19 miles per city gallon and 28 mpg on the highway, the added mechanical complexity of the AWD variant (and the weight that comes with it) drops those figures to 17 and 25, respectively. Thankfully, a light foot can fill that gulf a bit, as I see highway figures closer to 28 or 29 mpg.
Up to brass tacks
The minivan segment may not be the most compelling in the industry, but it’s not like it’s stagnant. The Toyota Sienna is now a hybrid-only deal, with optional AWD via a second electric motor at the rear, which lacks the all-electric range of the Pacifica’s PHEV variant but promises a combined 35mpg. It’s also … in a very unique style. Honda recently updated the Odyssey as well, but the changes are all minor, so it’s slowly becoming the lagging segment as Toyota and FCA offer more pathways to efficiency, which is important in family vehicles of this size.
If you don’t want your minivan to look like anything from Akira, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a hard act to beat, but you could say the same about the 2017-2020 models too. Throughout the Pacifica’s lifecycle, it impressed me with its family-friendly functionality and ride quality, and its new versatility only makes it more attractive.