2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle — 'A modern living room on wheels'

By Jim Prueter

(January 28, 2021) Say what you will about the minivan and the stigma associated with owning and driving one, it’s undeniably the most versatile family-friendly vehicle you can buy. And, when it comes to flexibility, cargo and passenger capabilities along with ease of overall use, any three-row crossover — regardless of size — pales in comparison. And I haven’t even begun to laud plaudits regarding ease of mid- and third-row entry and exit seating.

With a generation of new car buyers who grew up in minivans largely stigmatizing them as transporters from hell, the folks at Chrysler, who pioneered the minivan, are making a strong argument to choose a Pacifica over a utility vehicle.

We first drove the Chrysler Pacifica when it was introduced five years ago, replacing the aging Town & Country. Since then, it has won numerous “best of” and “Car of the Year” awards, including the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Originally the Pacifica was offered as front-wheel-drive only with seating options for seven or eight, depending on the interior configuration. Now, for 2021 it has been updated and offers available all-wheel-drive (AWD) (gas-powered models only).

Pacifica is available in both gas-only and plug-in hybrid form and comes standard with a 287-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine that works with a nine-speed automatic transmission.

The plug-in hybrid version tested here delivers an EPA-estimated combined 30 mpg from the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 gas engine only and a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery Atkinson Cycle hybrid with a total system power of 260-hp.  Its paired to the eFlight electrically Variable automatic transmission. Total gas and electric range is 520 miles. The all-new for 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan is offered exclusively as a hybrid and powered by a 4-cylinder engine that has an estimated EPA fuel economy of 35 mpg combined. We averaged a combined 27 mpg during our weeklong testing of our hybrid powered Pacifica

For 2021 the new top-of-the-line Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid is introduced and was our tested model for this review. The Pinnacle is packed with premium appointments, such as Caramel Nappa leather seats with quilted seat bolsters and perforated seat inserts on all three rows, including the second-row captain’s chairs. Unique, new, second-row comfort lumbar pillows feature an embossed Chrysler logo and match the quilted Nappa Caramel seats with suede pillow backs. Soft console side panels are trimmed with Caramel accent stitch, and the larger console area allows for the armrest to move from seats to the console.

Additional interior touches unique to the Pinnacle model include new Mid-century Timber Hydro bezels on the instrument panel, which deliver a “pop” of wood styling, a black suede headliner and a Piano Black finish on the center stack bezel, PRNDL bezel and push-push console storage door. Satin Chrome plating on the seat controls and sliding-door handles, high-end berber-construction floor mats and Satin Chrome door sill guards complete the interior. The exterior stands out with new Platinum Chrome 20-inch wheels and Platinum Chrome grille surround, moldings and exterior badging, including a new Pinnacle side model badge.

In addition to the standard collection of safety features on all Pacifica models, the Pinnacle adds Chrysler’s Safety sphere Package, which includes 360-degree surround view camera, ParkSense parallel/perpendicular park assist and front park assist.

A new feature we really liked is what Chrysler calls the FamCam interior camera, pictured at right, which provides front-seat passengers a view of rear-facing child seat occupants in the second row, even allows them to zoom in on passengers and comes standard on the Pinnacle, as does Uconnect Theater with Blu-ray player. For audiophiles, a new Harman Kardon Premium Audio Group adds a 10-inch rear quarter trim subwoofer with 19-speaker system as standard on the Pinnacle (with a 20-speaker system for Pinnacle Hybrid).

However, you should know that there are a few negatives when choosing the hybrid over the non-hybrid Pacifica. For one, Pacifica’s awesome Stow-N-Go seats are not available on the Hybrid because the underfloor area is occupied by batteries. The Hybrid also tops out at seven seats for occupants while the non-Hybrid has the option to seat eight.

Of course, the main reason for choosing the Pacifica Hybrid is for the fuel savings, achieved with the benefit of a plug-in feature. The EPA says you’ll cover a distance of 32 miles in all-electric drive before you burn a drop of gasoline. That is, of course, if you remember to plug in and charge the batteries.

Our Pinnacle trimmed cabin had a luxury-car look and feel; it’s the nicest cabin in its class and no other minivan even comes close. Materials are high quality and soft touch surfaces abound.  There’s ample head, leg and shoulder room in the first two rows of seating, and as is in most every three-row vehicle. Even the third row while best left to the kids isn’t a penalty box for adults if the trip isn’t a long-range pilgrimage. Chrysler calls this model “a modern living room on wheels.”

Pacifica’s infotainment is handled by Chrysler’s industry-leading Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, Uconnect Access that lets you remotely track, lock, or start your Pacifica via your Smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Smartphone integration and support for Amazon Alexa and support for over-the-air-updates.

Our Pinnacle included satellite radio, two 10-inch rear-seat touchscreens, a 20-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, rear-seat DVD player, a built-in Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum (Chrysler claims the longest hose in the business), 5G wireless operated WiFi hot spot, and an upgraded 810.1inch touchscreen with navigation.

The last time we tested the Pacifica Hybrid we were quite disappointed that the regenerative brakes that deliver additional electric power back into the battery didn’t seem to work at all. Chrysler seems to have fixed that malady and this time around it did an excellent job in that regard and added a significant number of additional EV, gas-free miles to the overall driving range.

In addition to the fuel savings, there are plenty of reasons to consider the Pacifica Hybrid over a utility vehicle. Visually, the Pacifica looks less like a minivan and more like a utility vehicle. There’s significantly more useable cargo and seating room. Comparably priced, the Pacifica is much more affordable. And, finally, it’s actually more enjoyable to drive. Take a road trip and you’ll quickly discover the room, comfort and luxury you’ll get from the new Pinnacle trim level Pacifica. Chrysler calls the Pinnacle “a modern living room on wheels,” and we completely agree.

Vital Stats
Base Price:  $52,340
Price as Tested: $52,340
Powertrain: 260-hp 3.6-Liter Atkinson Cycle V-6 eHybrid engine connected to an eFlight Si-EVT automatic transmission.
Fuel Economy: Combined Electricity + Gasoline: 82.0 combined city/highway, and 30 MPG combined city/highway gasoline only.
Seating: Up to 7 occupants
Where Built: Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Crash Test Ratings:  A Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Competes With:
Honda Odyssey
Kia Sedona
Toyota Sienna

Fab Features
Pinnacle trim level completely luxurious
Excellent fuel economy
New FamCam
Superb driving characteristics: ride, handling and noise level