- Refreshed Pacifica with updated interior and exterior styling
- New infotainment system gets Amazon Alexa integration and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- A new suite of standard driver aids including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control
- Part of the first Pacifica minivan generation introduced for the 2017 model year
What is the Pacifica?
All right, minivan or SUV — what’s more stylish and better equipped for bad weather? SUV, right? Normally, you’d be right. But the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a viable exception. With updated styling and the continuation of available all-wheel drive, the Pacifica has some of the best attributes of an SUV to go along with its excellent practicality.
From nose to tail, the Pacifica has a new look. The center grille is larger and glittering with glossy black diamond-textured mesh, and the reshaped headlights are eyelined with LEDs like Cleopatra at a rave. Also, the lower air inlets are square and widely spaced so that the whole front end seems broader and more rear-mirror-intimidating.
Chrysler also restyled the rear of the van, giving it a full-width taillight that stretches from edge to edge and curling up at the edges like a giant neon crab. Coming or going, the Pacifica reads more like a sport-utility ride than the featureless lozenge you might associate with minivan design. But it still offers all the features that first won families over to the minivan lifestyle such as sliding rear doors, folding seats and a built-in vacuum. The 2021 Pacifica may look different, but it retains its useful, family-friendly character.
How does the Pacifica drive?
The 2021 Pacifica is as comfortable as a living room, but there’s more to a minivan than just captain’s chairs and built-in games for the kids. The regular Pacifica’s V6 engine — the Pacifica Hybrid is back for 2021, too — is backed by a nine-speed automatic transmission. While the Pacifica isn’t rocket-ship fast, it’s quick enough to surprise at least a few of the other parents at pickup. It’s balanced around corners and stable on straightaways too.
It’s also now more enjoyable on a wet or snowy road. Late in the 2020 model year, Chrysler added all-wheel drive (AWD) to the Pacifica lineup and it remains available on the 2021 models as an option. In typical driving conditions, the AWD system defaults to regular front-wheel drive. But if the system senses tire spin, wet weather or dramatic steering input, it automatically engages AWD.
If you aren’t dead-set on AWD, the Pacifica Hybrid might be the way to go. It’s actually a plug-in hybrid, which means it has a big battery pack that you can recharge at home or at a public charging station. It’s whisper quiet when accelerating on battery power, and it’s got enough power to go about 32 miles on all-electric power before it switches over to regular hybrid operation.
How comfortable is the Pacifica?
Hang on, come back in a little bit, we’re taking a nap back here in the second row of the Pinnacle trim. We’ve got the seats reclined and the little matching lumbar pillow to sleep on. There’s no hurry to talk about the Pacifica’s comfort, is there? Even if you don’t step up to the top-level Pinnacle, the Pacifica is a comfortable place to spend your time. The cabin has plenty of room for knees, hats, and the inevitable pillow fight for those of you who do choose the Pinnacle.
The front seats are broad and adjustable. Up front, the controls are well placed and within easy reach. Big, clear displays make it simple to keep track of time, directions, entertainment and passengers without scrolling or squinting.
Chrysler’s minivans are distinctive because of their Stow ‘n Go second-row seats that fold flat into the floor. That functionality is certainly useful, but the second-row seats have little less padding in the second and third row than the bonier among us might prefer. The third row, like most third rows, is most comfortably occupied by smaller passengers.
How’s the Pacifica’s interior?
The new top model for the 2021 Pacifica lineup is the Pinnacle trim. In addition to quilted leather upholstery and matching pillows, the designers added wood trim inspired by midcentury furniture.
While the Pinnacle trim is impressive, there’s plenty to like in lower levels. We were charmed by a drive in a Hybrid Limited with the S Appearance package in red, a $195 option that adds Twizzler-red leather upholstery for a sporty pop that would put a hot hatch to shame. No matching pillows, though.
How’s the Pacifica’s tech?
The makeover continues on the inside as the 2021 Pacifica receives the latest Uconnect 5 infotainment system. According to Chrysler’s engineers, the Android-powered Uconnect 5 system processes information five times faster than before and can support over-the-air updates of firmware and maps. It also has Amazon Alexa integration and enables two wireless phone connections simultaneously. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported, which means you can activate these smartphone integration systems without needing a USB cable. Displaying all this spiffy content is a new 10.1-inch high-definition touchscreen that can be customized to offer quick access to the apps and settings of your choice.
Other tech features include FamCAM, a video system that allows the driver or front passenger to monitor second-row occupants. It includes a zoom function to keep tabs on rear-facing infant seats too. Slightly older passengers in that row will enjoy more built-in games from the available rear entertainment system.
You can’t talk family-friendly tech without mentioning safety, and the Pacifica offers a bevy of features, with the majority standard on all trim levels. LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, emergency brake assist and traffic-adaptive cruise control are all standard, along with a laundry list of other lighting and collision mitigation technologies. Optional driver aids include a 360-degree surround-view camera and automatic parking assist.
How’s the Pacifica’s storage?
With wide-opening side doors and rear hatches, fold-flat seats, and a lower load floor than the average SUV, a minivan with the seats down is easy to pack full and can carry a surprising amount of gear. The Pacifica offers plenty of room for your groceries behind the third row. Fold down the third row and there’s 87.5 cubic feet of space. Fold up everything by using the handy Stow ‘n Go second-row seats and you have 140.5 cubic feet, just slightly less than rival Honda Odyssey.
Small storage is also a strong point for Pacifica, with pass-through console space for small bags and slide-out and hidden drawers in the back cabin. The Pinnacle trim showcases the new optional center console that Chrysler calls Ultra. Unlike the standard console, which sits flush with the seats, the upgraded version offers a padded top at armrest height and split storage with a top tray and a larger bin underneath. Chrysler says it provides 30% more storage than the standard console.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica has a little SUV-envy in its exterior design, but it hasn’t forgotten what makes a minivan great. With new features and expanded availability of all-wheel drive in a lineup that already benefits from a hybrid powertrain option, the Pacifica is a minivan for everyman (and woman).