When you’re at the top of your game—and in our opinion, the Chrysler Pacifica definitely is—continued development is what keeps you there. Facing increased competition from family-sized SUVs as well as an updated Honda Odyssey and an all-new Toyota Sienna, Chrysler just introduced several key updates to the Pacifica, namely, a more handsome mug, available all-wheel drive, and a deluxe new trim level.
A much larger grille and squintier headlamps gives the 2021 Pacifica a more purposeful appearance. We’ll stop short of calling it aggressive, but the restyled front end is undeniably attractive. The rear end also gets a modern touch in the form of a new full-width LED light signature that ties the two taillamps together.
Fresh New Look
After spinning off the Pacifica’s bottom two trim levels—L and LX—as the low-cost Chrysler Voyager minivan in 2020, Chrysler has pushed the Pacifica further upmarket for 2021 with the introduction of the Pinnacle trim. (The Voyager is still the pre-facelift version, making it the Ram Classic of Pacificas.) Although it shares the same updated styling elements with the other, lesser Pacificas, the Pinnacle adds bodyside badging on the front doors, unique wheel designs, and attractive quilted leather upholstery in a rich caramel color.
The Pinnacle also offers a unique center console design that extends from the dashboard between the front seats. In the back seat, second-row passengers are treated to leather and suede lumbar pillows reminiscent of those found in ultra-luxury sedans from Mercedes-Maybach and Rolls-Royce. How fancy. Limited and Pinnacle models also benefit from acoustic glass for the windshield and front side windows to help provide more isolation from wind and road noise. To the naked ear, it doesn’t seem much quieter, but in our testing we did measure a 1-decibel improvement at a 70-mph cruise.
All Pacifica models now come standard with a larger 10.1-inch infotainment display and the brand’s latest version of the Uconnect software interface, called Uconnect 5. The new system can connect to two devices at the same time and supports up to five driver profiles with custom settings for those driver’s specific preferences. It’s also capable of receiving over-the-air updates.
The new iteration of Uconnect mirrors the previous version’s ease of use and adds new features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Clearly inspired by the Odyssey’s similar feature, the Pacifica gains a new interior video system called FamCam that uses an overhead camera to more easily keep an eye on infants riding in rear-facing child seats (or just see who’s really starting the leather-upholstered pillow fights). Speaking of kids, the Pacifica’s optional rear-seat entertainment system also received some updates and now includes more games, including chess and backgammon.
Same Great Taste
Our all-wheel-drive Velvet Red Pinnacle test vehicle rang in at a lofty $54,885, but buyers who want all-wheel drive at a more affordable price will be happy to know it’s a $2995 option on lower-priced Touring, Touring L, and Limited models. Front-wheel drive is still the only arrangement offered with the Pacifica’s optional hybrid powertrain. Up to 100 percent of the power from the Pacifica’s 3.6-liter V-6 can be routed to the rear axle if and when conditions arrive that necessitate it, and when it’s not, the Pacifica carries on in front-wheel drive. While the Pacifica’s system will send power rearward in response to slip at the front wheels, it also uses other cues to proactively engage the rear axle. Turning on the windshield wipers, heading up a steep grade, or accelerating for a pass will all prompt the system to divert torque rearward, regardless of whether there’s enough grip up front.
From a subjective standpoint, the system functions seamlessly, and the Pacifica exhibits the same controlled ride, competent handling, and peppy acceleration as the front-wheel-drive models we’ve tested in the past. At our test track, the all-wheel-drive Pinnacle proved to be slightly slower than a front-wheel-drive 2017 Limited model we tested. The 2021 Pinnacle required 7.9 seconds to reach 60 mph—0.6 seconds behind the 2017 Limited—and completed the quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 87 mph.
For comparison, a front-wheel-drive 2021 Honda Odyssey and an all-wheel-drive 2021 Toyota Sienna—which is now offered exclusively as a hybrid—both delivered quicker results, although the Toyota only barely squeaked past the Pacifica in our zero-to-60-mph test. But for most minivan customers, acceleration figures aren’t a huge priority. What matters is versatility and family friendliness, two areas in which the Pacifica continues to excel.
For example, the second-row Stow ‘n Go seats—which fold flat into under-floor storage bins to create a large, flat load floor—have been retained in the all-wheel-drive models, with the three-piece rear driveshaft sneaking down the centerline. The Odyssey requires unlatching and lifting the heavy second-row chairs out of the van entirely in order to achieve the same effect. The Sienna’s second-row seats can’t be removed or stowed at all. The all-wheel-drive system does put a notable hit on fuel economy, however. The Pacifica’s EPA ratings of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models drop to 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway with all-wheel drive.
Chrysler’s mid-cycle improvements to the Pacifica help push the brand’s minivan game forward without requiring any major sacrifices. More important, it delivers another option for buyers who want a three-row AWD vehicle that’s not an SUV or crossover. By our reckoning, that elite crowd is down to the Toyota Sienna and Mercedes-Benz E450 All-Terrain Wagon. And those don’t come with throw pillows.
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