NEWS

2021 Chrysler Pacifica: Because You’d Really Rather Have an SUV

Competes with: Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna

Looks like: Remember the original 2004 Chrysler Pacifica?

Powertrains: A 287-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6; nine-speed automatic transmission or plug-in hybrid gas-electric V-6 with continuously variable automatic; front- or all-wheel drive.

Hits dealerships: Summer

The field of minivans seems to be ever-shrinking as consumers give up traditional vans for crossovers. It’s not lost on the folks at Chrysler that the time has come to refresh their popular Pacifica minivan — and they’ve now done so, showing off the new 2021 Pacifica at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show. In a bid to appeal to people seeking the convenience of a van with the look of a crossover, Chrysler stylists have flattened the swoopy front and changed the shape of the hood and fenders to create what looks more like the original minivan-based 2004-08 Pacifica, a crossover that was about a decade ahead of its time, instead of the more traditional one-box minivan shape. To give it even more utility-vehicle-like appeal, the automaker has also reintroduced all-wheel drive.

Related: More 2020 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

Shop the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica near you

Used
2020 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus
14,012 mi.
$40,499
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Home Delivery
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Used
2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited
26,376 mi.
$39,950
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Exterior

The new front end and rear end are immediately noticeable on the new Pacifica, with a more upright front end with a more pronounced “3-D diamond-style” grille and deeper headlights. The headlights and foglights are now standard LEDs, as are the side marker lights and redesigned taillights. That new rear taillight assembly now spans the width of the rear end, creating a wider look to the van that de-emphasizes its height.

Three trim levels carry over: Touring, Touring L and Limited. But new for 2021 is a top-of-the-line Pinnacle trim, aiming to bring more of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ interior-quality magic to the new Pacifica (for what is sure to be a considerably hefty sticker price). The Pinnacle gets unique exterior trim, with a Satin Carbon grille, and Platinum Chrome exterior surrounds, moldings and badges instead of the Bright Chrome the other models get. As before, the popular S Appearance Package is optional, bringing blacked-out trim to the exterior for a sportier, more urban look. All Pacificas get 18-inch wheels as standard, with 20-inch wheels as options (there are now 12 wheel options in total across the trim levels; six them are new for 2021).

Interior

The 2021 Pacifica is the first recipient of the newly revised Uconnect 5 multimedia system, accompanied by a bigger 10.1-inch touchscreen that will be standard in the Pacifica (you can read all about the new Uconnect 5 features here). There are no fewer than four different center consoles now, each accompanying a different trim level. Touring models get the old Mid console, unchanged from before, while Touring L models get the previous-year Limited’s Super console. This year’s Limited gets a new Premium console featuring a split-level pass-through, and storage capacity increased by 3 liters to 7.6 liters overall, preserving the Stow ‘n Go seating function for the second row. The top Pinnacle trim gets a unique Ultra console that flows into the instrument panel, with the front armrests on those models moved from the seat itself to the console lid. Storage capacity is 13.65 liters, up 4.55 liters and a third more than the current model. All trim levels get a standard 7-inch digital gauge cluster, a soft-touch dashboard with accent stitching and second-row sunshades.

The Pinnacle model gets a glitzy interior treatment as well as that new console, featuring Caramel Nappa leather in a perforated, quilted diamond pattern in all three rows. It even features two lumbar throw pillows for the second-row captain’s chairs done up in the same quilted leather. The headliner is black faux suede and the floormats a Berber-construction carpet. Satin-chrome accents are on many of the controls, while Timber Hydro wood and piano-black bezels set off the panels.

The Pacifica’s technology also gets updates with the introduction of the new FamCam, a wide-angle digital camera mounted in the roof between the front moonroof and the rear fixed-glass panel. It allows the driver to monitor the passenger areas using the instrument panel’s touchscreen, providing clear views of all seats (including rear-facing child seats); it even has a unique “zoom-to-seat” feature for monitoring specific spots. Elsewhere, the USB port count is now doubled to an available 12 ports, some of which are now USB-C for faster charging.

Rear-seat entertainment gets a boost with two 10.1-inch touchscreens in the front seatbacks, bringing new games to the roster of options. If you’d rather listen to music, an available Harman Kardon 19-speaker system (20 speakers on the hybrid model) includes a new 10-inch subwoofer in the rear trim that fits even with the optional Stow ‘n Vac vacuum system. You’ll be able to hear the audio better, too, thanks to new body seals all around and upgraded acoustic glass for the windshield (and front side glass in the Limited, Pinnacle and Hybrid models).

Under the Hood

The powertrain for the Pacifica hasn’t changed — it’s still the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making 287 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. The plug-in hybrid variant also carries over unchanged, but it’s now considered a powertrain option instead of a standalone trim level — meaning you can get a hybrid version of any of the Pacifica’s four trim levels.

The big mechanical news is the return of an all-wheel-drive system to the Pacifica due to popular consumer demand. The system uses a power transfer unit that splits off of the automatic transmission, driving a three-piece driveshaft into a rear drive module. That uses a wet clutch to send as much as 100% of available torque to the rear wheels when needed. The system is completely seamless and requires no driver involvement, disconnecting completely when not in use and activating when certain conditions are met. The AWD models get an upgraded brake package, as well, as the brakes are used individually to help manage torque for the system, and a new rear sway bar is fitted to the rear suspension. Sensor inputs monitor a host of vehicle systems to determine if the AWD system will be needed, including exterior temperature, use of windshield wipers, detected slip at the front wheels, hard acceleration for passing, activation of the electronic stability control system, abrupt steering or throttle inputs, and rough or steep road conditions.

Safety

Chrysler is billing the ’21 Pacifica as the safest minivan ever made, citing a total of 116 total safety features, 97 of which are standard and 14 of which are new for 2021. Included in that total are things like “LED lights,” of course, but also included are a bunch of new standard features like automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, rear park assist, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, electronic stability control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, forward collision warning with full stop, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. You can upgrade from this, however, with the Safety Sphere Package that includes a 360-degree surround-view camera system, ParkSense parallel and perpendicular park assist, and front and rear park assist with automatic braking in reverse.

Get One Soon … Sorta

All of these changes apply for the new 2021 Pacifica, but it should be noted that the 2021 Chrysler Voyager (which took the place of the lower trim levels of the 2020 Pacifica) receives none of them — that model carries over into the 2021 model year unchanged. The new 2021 Pacifica will be available for ordering at dealers in the summer for delivery in the fall, but Chrysler has decided to do something unusual: It’s making the AWD system available on a limited run of current-generation 2020 models for 90 days only beginning in the spring. Pricing for both models will be announced closer to the on-sale dates.

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