Chrysler Pacifica — Family friendly people mover

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The minivan may be the greatest single invention for moving families and cargo from place to place. It was an instant success when it arrived in 1984 under Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth nameplates replacing the family station wagon as the most effective way to conduct the business of everyday living for dad, mom and the kids. And it remained the best-selling passenger-cargo friendly vehicle until the turn of the century. That's about the time the car-based sport utility crossover became America's new vehicular sweetheart.

A generation of new car buyers who were stigmatized growing up with minivans in the driveway, now think of them as "mommy-mobiles," a relic of the '80s and '90s — without the flare and sex appeal of the stylish new crossovers, many of which come with all-wheel drive for bad weather conditions or for jumping off the beaten path en route to a back-woods campground.

For 2021, the best-selling refreshed Chrysler Pacifica minivan may help win back the young family. It has gained many of the attributes of an SUV with updated exterior styling that more mimics a crossover — and all-wheel drive is now available for the first time since 2004. From front to back, the Pacifica has a new, modern look while retaining its minivan practicality. The grille, exterior lighting elements, rear liftgate, and wheel designs have all been tweaked.

It has been endowed with a modern face including a 3D diamond-style grille, and with lower air inlets that are square and widely spaced giving the front end a broader appearance. At the same time, the rear of the van gets a full-width taillight treatment.

Introduced as a replacement for the Town and Country in 2017, the Pacifica still offers all the features that have won families over to the minivan lifestyle such as sliding rear doors, fold-into-the-floor rear seats, scads of storage compartments, and room for seven or eight people depending on seat configuration.

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-spe
ed automatic transmission. The plug-in hybrid delivers an EPA-estimated combined 30 mpg from the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 gas engine and a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery with a total system power of 260 horsepower. It's paired to an eFlight electrically Variable automatic transmission.

We found the Pacifica with the 287-horsepower engine up for the task of moving four passengers and cargo in an expeditious manner when merging into fast-moving traffic or passing on a two-lane road. At the same time, the Pacifica is easy to drive and works well for a bigger vehicle in pesky mall parking lots. For those that like to tow weekend toys, the Pacifica with AWD has best-in-class towing of 3,600 pounds.

Inside the Pacifica, you will find a graceful, sophisticated cockpit that includes high quality materials, a luxurious sculpted dash, and a control center tipped horizontally and canted toward the driver. The interior has been given a more open feel than the previous Chrysler Town and Country eliminating the standard transmission shifter with a dial-controlled device. Initial impression might be that this is more a luxury crossover than the typical family hauler.

There are a myriad of storage bins, pockets, cupholders, cubbies — and a large center console bin that will easily swallow up a woman's purse. One of Chrysler's biggest bragging points are the unique Stow 'n Go seats that fold into the floor creating a flat loading surface. The unique seats are missing from the hybrid model, however, to make room for the battery pack.

Impressive are the power sliding doors and power liftgate that includes hands-free operation. The doors and the liftgate open up to 32.2 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third-row seats, 87.5 cubic feet with the third-row stowed and 140.5 cubic feet with all seats folded. That's about standard for the segment.

There’s ample head, leg a
nd shoulder room in the first two rows of seating. 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 trek.

Pacifica’s infotainment is handled by Chrysler’s industry-leading Uconnect 5 infotainment system with a standard 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, Uconnect Access that lets you remotely track, lock, or start your Pacifica via your Smartphone, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration
, support for Amazon Alexa, and support for over-the-air-updates. The 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.

One new and useful feature for the young family with children is what Chrysler calls the FamCam interior camera, which provides front-seat passengers a view of rear-facing child seat occupants in the second row, and even allows them to zoom in on passengers.

In the safety department, Chrysler says
its minivan comes with 97 standard safety features and 116 overall. The Pacifica is a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it has not yet been rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Pacifica comes in four trim levels for both the gas and hybrid versions — Touring, Touring L, Limited and the new luxury appointed Pinnacle starting at $35,540. Our Limited test vehicle with AWD carried a bottom line of $49,885 with no options.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica


Base price: $35,540; as driven, $49,885
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 287 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 262 pound-feet @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 121.6 inches
Length: 204.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,883 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Towing capacity: 3,600 pounds
Luggage capacity: 32.3 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 140.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 19 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 17 city, 25 highway, 20 combined
0-60: 7.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey

The Good
• Plug-in Hybrid and AWD availability
• Upscale interior
• Stow 'n Go rear seats
• Outstanding exterior design

The Bad
• AWD cuts into fuel economy

The Ugly
• AWD not available on hybrid