- Uconnect 5 infotainment
- A dozen USB ports
- AWD not available on hybrid
- High floor
- Awkward sitting position for second and third rows
The Chrysler Pacifica has been a longtime favorite of MotorTrend. Not only have we respected Fiat Chrysler (FCA) for engineering a decent-driving minivan, but we also love the way the Pacifica treats the family going along for the ride. In fact, two years ago we crowned it America’s best family car after beating vehicles in several segments during our March Mayhem contest.
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For the 2021 model year, the Pacifica gets a decent mid-cycle upgrade, adding available all-wheel drive to the gas engine while keeping the magnificent Stow ‘n Go seats, which fold flat into cubbies in the floor. When being used as, well, seats, those empty cubbies are available to use as generous hidden storage bins.
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The 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar continues to make 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque; the nine-speed automatic can now send the power to all four wheels thanks to the new-for-2021 all-wheel-drive system. Instead of using an “AWD Lock” button, the system looks at things such as temperature, the use of windshield wipers, and wheel slip before coming into action automatically.
In an impressive packaging lesson, Chrysler was able to keep the Stow ‘n Go seats even with a transmission tunnel for AWD. (That’s a lot of stuff sharing crowded space under the floor, hence why it’s so impressive.) But the bad news is that the plug-in hybrid Pacifica gets neither AWD nor Stow ‘n Go due to the 16-kWh battery under the floor, proving there is a limit to what can fit down there. The hybrid, however, continues to deliver more than 30 miles of electric range before reverting to gas-electric hybrid operation. In the battle of who can offer the best of both worlds, the 2021 Toyota Sienna is the only minivan to offer a hybrid powertrain and AWD together; in fact, the Toyota isn’t offered in non-hybrid form at all.
Besides being more capable, the 2021 Pacifica also uses new interior noise-reduction measures such as enhanced body sealing, thicker glass in the sliding doors, and acoustic glass for the windshield and front windows. As a result, the Pacifica’s cabin should bring peace to parents after dropping off the kiddos at school. “It feels like a quality car that’ll be able to withstand years of abuse from the family,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said.
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Keeping kids busy and entertained can be a hard task for any parent these days, but the Pacifica ups its game. With six standard USB ports, an optional rear entertainment package, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi, kids will be able to stream Netflix all day long. Depending on the combination of packages and trims, the Pacifica can have up to a dozen USB ports, which should be more than enough to keep everyone on board connected.
Speaking of connectivity, parents will be extremely happy when they see their kids through the infotainment screen. The new FamCam feature takes a page from the Honda Odyssey and displays a bird’s-eye view of the second and third rows. Double tap a seat, and the camera zooms in to provide a closer look. “FamCam is a tiger mom’s dream,” associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said; senior features editor Jonny Lieberman described it as “absolutely killer.”
But the Pacifica has some misses, too. The higher floor—those Stow ‘n Go seats have to stow somewhere, after all— has tall passengers riding in the second and third rows with their knees too high, an uncomfortable position for long road trips. The new Ultra center console on the Pinnacle trim increases its space, but it’s not as generous as the Sienna’s cavernous bridge console, which allows big purses to fit with no problem. And although a built-in vacuum is always nice to have, it lacks the power to pick up the crumbs the kids leave behind. The range-topping Pinnacle trim gives a great first impression, but when you look further, the fake wood and hard plastics are evident.
The Pacifica is still the gold standard of minivans, but we were hoping its mid-cycle update would deliver a more extensive list of improvements.
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