2021 Chrysler Pacifica

2021 Chrysler Pacifica First Drive Review: Minivan Excellence

With crossovers and SUVs dominating the sales charts, even once-popular minivans are struggling to retain their slice of the pie. Crossovers may offer less passenger and cargo space, but many customers are happy making this trade-off so that they don't have to look "uncool" driving a minivan. Chrysler hopes to buck the minivan decline and give shoppers a reason to say "no" to crossovers by updating its Pacifica model for the 2021 model year.

It was already one of our favorite minivans on the market, but now, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is facelifted with new styling, an improved cabin, tons of class-leading technology, and a new all-wheel-drive option to appeal to customers in cold climates. To see if Chrysler's improvements have made the minivan cool again, CarBuzz ventured out to North Carolina to sample the facelifted 2021 Pacifica.

Is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica a good Minivan?

  • Exterior Design 10 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 8 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 9 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 10 /10
9.5
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2021 Chrysler Pacifica Models

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
Touring
3.6-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$35,000
Touring L
3.6-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,145
Limited
3.6-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$45,000
Pinnacle
3.6-liter V6 Gas
9-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$50,000

See all Trims and Specs

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Exterior Design: Even Prettier Than Before

It's not easy to make a pretty minivan. The shape is not conducive to beautiful design, but somehow, Chrysler's designers have found a way to make the Pacifica look handsome. Up front, the Pacifica gains standard LED headlights that present a more premium signature. Combined with a new bumper and larger grille, the facelifted Pacifica looks decidedly more SUV-like and sculpted in nature.

17-, 18-, and 20-inch wheel options continue the Pacifica's more premium appearance, with an optional S Appearance Package giving a surprisingly sporty aesthetic with dark wheels and black accents. At the back, new connected LED taillights finish off what we believe is easily the most attractive design on any current minivan.

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Engine, Performance, & MPG

While much is new on the 2021 Pacifica, the powertrain options remain mostly the same. The standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 provides plenty of smooth passing ability with 287 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque on tap. Power goes out through a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission to front-wheel- or optional all-wheel-drive systems. Since it poured with rain during our time with the Pacifica, we had ample opportunity to test the AWD system's capability.

The rain-soaked roads did little to disturb the Pacifica, which barely blinked even when met by massive puddles of standing water. Chrysler says it tuned the AWD system to function automatically without the driver needing to push any buttons or set up any special modes. The system is highly advanced and can even send up to 100% of the engine's torque to the rear axle when it detects slip. For many crossover shoppers, the lack of AWD may have kept them out of a minivan. Now, Chrysler can bring them back by offering it on the Pacifica.

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Driving Impressions: Soft And Silent

On the soaked North Carolina roads, we learned that the Pacifica is up to the task of keeping your family safe. It offers a claimed 97 standard safety features, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking, with up to 116 total available safety and security features. Adding AWD provides additional security, helping the Pacifica remain planted even on slick or icy roads. The steering feels light and maneuverable with adequate accuracy, making it easier to pilot such a large vehicle without being too boring to drive.

The V6 engine felt like had plenty of guts to push the Pacifica up to speed without feeling strained. At highway speeds, the cabin remained quiet thanks to a new acoustic windshield and acoustic side glass on the Pinnacle trim. Road imperfections did little to upset the ride, though we'd like to sample it around our local roads for a more accurate assessment of comfort.

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A Frugal Hybrid Option

With FWD, the Pacifica manages reasonable fuel economy figures of 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined. Even though the AWD system can disconnect the rear wheels, it still hurts fuel economy a bit with ratings of 17/25/20 mpg. If you want the most fuel-efficient Pacifica, Chrysler will offer a hybrid drivetrain on any trim level. Choosing the Pacifica Hybrid means forgoing AWD in exchange for additional miles per gallon.

The hybrid still uses a 3.6-liter V6, but uses the Atkinson combustion cycle and is paired with two electric motors to deliver a combined 260 hp. Power goes out through an electrically variable transmission, delivering 80 MPGe or 30 mpg without the electric range factored. The Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid, meaning it can also be charged up and driven 30 miles on electricity alone. With the batteries and fuel tank full, it will go over 500 miles on a charge. We didn't have time to sample the hybrid drivetrain on our trip but will review it separately as soon as possible.

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Interior Design: Luxury SUVs Beware!

Most of the Pacifica's most significant improvements come in the interior, starting with a new Uconnect5 infotainment system. All trim levels now get a 10.1-inch touchscreen, which is 20% larger and five times faster than the 8.4-inch screen it replaces. While we'd like to spend more time with the system, we found it highly intuitive during our limited drive time. Drivers can set up multiple profiles with different layouts with quick access to their most-used features, just like a smartphone.

Speaking of smartphones, owners can now pair two Bluetooth devices simultaneously and use Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa wirelessly. These improvements to Uconnect help the Pacifica reach the top of infotainment excellence in the automotive industry, including the luxury brands.

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The rest of the interior feels pretty special too. We piloted the top Pinnacle trim level, which comes decked out with Caramel leather with diamond stitching, gloss wood trim, and other premium interior appointments. The Pinnacle trim also includes a different 'Ultra' center console that feels more SUV-like in its design. There is ample storage, though buyers who want the most practicality may prefer the 'Super' center console on lower trim levels. On the Pinnacle, front-seat passengers have access to two cupholders, a wireless phone charger, and multiple USB-A and USB-C ports.

In the back seat, we wish the Pinnacle's captain's chairs could slide further back, but they do offer adequate legroom and leather-wrapped throw pillows to use as lumbar support. The optional Uconnect Theatre system includes two seat-mounted touchscreens with various media inputs and built-in gaming features. Even crawling into the third row is relatively easy. Drivers can check up on all the kids in the back using a cool FamCAM interior camera that shows the second and third rows on the infotainment screen.

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Trunk & Cargo: Stow 'n Go Is King

Minivans aren't just meant for hauling people, they need to carry lots of stuff too. Chrysler will offer the Pacifica with up to eight seats, though we prefer the comfortability of the seven-seat model with second-row captain's chairs. As with last year's model, Stow 'n Go seating allows owners to fold the second-row seats into the floor, providing more storage space. It is worth noting that Pinnacle and Hybrid models forgo the Stow 'n Go in the second row, though you can remove the seats entirely on these models.

Folding the third-row seats in the Pinnacle trim is especially simple with electric buttons located in the trunk. The Pacifica offers 32.3 cubic feet of storage behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second, or a whopping 140.5 cubic feet behind the first row.

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Verdict: The Pinnacle People Mover

Truth be told, the Chrysler Pacifica didn't need an update to earn the title of CarBuzz's favorite minivan. It is by far the most handsome minivan and after this update, it has the best interior and technology as well. The new Toyota Sienna offers a slightly different value proposition with a regular hybrid system, but anyone with a short commute and the ability to charge at home should see a benefit in the Pacifica's PHEV system. We do prefer the center console layout and the rear seat ottomans in the Sienna, but there are so many other elements that we prefer in the Pacifica.

Stow 'n Go seating remains the most practical cargo solution in the segment, and the addition of AWD makes it an easier vehicle to recommend for Northern customers. Chrysler has nailed it with this recent facelift, and we would easily recommend the 2021 Pacifica as the best minivan on the market. It remains the pinnacle people mover.

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Price & Trims

Pricing for the 2021 Pacifica starts at $35,045 for the Touring trim, with AWD bringing the price to $38,040. Stepping up to the Touring L brings the price to $38,145 ($41,140 with AWD), adding heated leather seats, a heated leather steering wheel, a Super Console with illuminated cupholders. The Limited and Pinnacle trim levels only come with AWD at $48,390 and $53,390, respectively.

These upper trim levels roll in luxury features such as heated and ventilated seats, panoramic sunroof, a wireless charger, hands-free sliding doors and liftgate, and a built-in vacuum cleaner. The Pinnacle takes the interior up to luxury levels with quilted Nappa leather and throw pillows, a rear-seat entertainment system, and the FamCAM interior camera system.

The hybrid drivetrain can be selected on any of the trim levels for around $2,000 to $3,000 more than an equivalent AWD model. Keep in mind though, the hybrid qualifies for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, effectively making it cheaper than the gas-powered model.

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Check other Chrysler Pacifica Styles

Chrysler Pacifica Popular Comparisons

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$35,045 - $53,390
Price Range (MSRP)
Chrysler Pacifica