CHATHAM, Mass. – Chrysler introduced the modern minivan as a 1984 model and during the four decades since has continuously improved, refined and perfected the genre, culminating in the new for 2021 Pinnacle version of the Chrysler Pacifica.
Actually, Fiat Chrysler Automobile (FCA) calls this variant “a premium people mover that offers a modern living room on wheels loaded with luxury features and content, including quilted Caramel Nappa leather seats in all three rows and unique matching lumbar pillows in the second-row captain’s chairs.”
A moving experience for everyone on the inside
Minivans are the ultimate people-and-their-stuff movers (seven or eight passengers depending upon model chosen) amongst realistic automotive offerings (incredible combination of room for everyone in a very drive-able vehicle, one which will fit into virtually any garage without an issue; for comparison is just five inches longer than a Ford Explorer).
The Pinnacle combines all Chrysler has learned about building minivans into a sleek, modern looking machine, one marking the return of all-wheel drive (standard on this model) along with the company’s unique fold-into-the-floor second-row Stow ‘n Go Seating system.
Chrysler Highlights Safety in 2021 Pacifica Launch
The third row also folds into the floor which can transform the Pacifica from a seven-passenger transport to a 140.5-cubic-foot, flat-floor cargo carrier in minutes – and without having to wrestle any heavy seats out of the van.
The first and third row seats feature electric adjustment, with memory settings for the driver’s position, and the ability to raise or stow the 60/40 split rear bench via buttons. The Stow ‘n Go middle row’s captain chairs can disappear into the floor in a few quick and easy steps (when the seats are upright, the receptacles in the floor can serve as deep, virtually invisible, storage bins). In addition, they can slide forward and back to adjust leg room for second- and third-row passengers.
All the seats are comfortable, including the adult-sized bench in the third row. Cupholders, USB ports (USB A and USB C) and storage bins are placed conveniently throughout the cabin which is open and bright thanks to large windows (and the ones in the sliding-doors open and close) as well as a panoramic sunroof over all three rows.
This is one of the great vehicles for long-distance travel, especially for the driver. The upright, relatively high seating position provides superb visibility, while the heated and cooled seats with infinite electrical adjustment mean you can modify your position as needed.
In front of the driver is a large, easily read, simple and straight-forward electronic instrument cluster, while high in the dash is a new 10.1-inch color touch screen providing the centerpiece and controls for the Uconnect 5 infotainment system.
One of the most comprehensive, yet intuitive infotainment systems, Uconnect 5 adds wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto control as well as the Amazon Alexa voice command system. AM/FM/SiriusXM satellite radio/streaming audio/SiriusXM Guardian Connected Services/TomTom navigation are part of the package, with the sound coming via the Harman Kardon premium audio group which adds a 10-inch rear quarter trim subwoofer to the 19-speaker system.
One other nifty feature is the FamCAM™ interior camera, accessible through the touchscreen, providing a high-definition view of all second and third-row seats, including rear-facing child seat occupants, split-view display and unique “zoom-to-seat” feature. And it works very well!
The Pinnacle comes standard with a lot more cool, useful passenger/interior features than I can cover in a short evaluation. As mentioned, Chrysler calls this minivan’s execution a “modern living room on wheels,” but they have included a lot more handy stuff than you would find in many homes.
Safety underpins the Chrysler minivan experience.
Safety – passive, active and advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) – is a core engineering and design parameter for Chrysler minivans and the Pinnacle brings them all.
The company touts 116 standard safety features on this model (97 standard on all Pacifica versions) including eight standard airbags, five LATCH child seat positions and a KeySense programmable key fob that allows parents to set parameters regarding speed, stereo volume and other limitations for their younger drivers. The Pacifica’s advanced body structure also uses high-strength steel and other materials to optimize occupant protection.
New LED lights and Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB) – both offered for the first time in the segment as standard equipment – join Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection, Rear Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Full Stop, electronic stability control (ESC), Forward Collision Warning with Full Stop, Lane Departure Warning are amongst the ADAS.
Other features simplifying the driving experience (and making it safer as well) include a 360° Surround View Camera with a bird’s-eye view; ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist which uses ultrasonic sensors to guide driver into parking spaces and Front and Rear Park Assist with Stop (Rear-stop only.
Again, the straightforward, large text on both the instrument cluster and center display screen, help ensure the ease of using these ADAS – they are not intrusive, but seamlessly blend into every-day driving.
Dynamics are both familiar and new
The heart of the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle is the tried-and-true Pentastar 3.0-liter V6 engine producing a strong, responsive 287 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque. The power is transferred to the road through a nine-speed automatic transmission and – new for 2021 and standard on the gasoline-engined Pinnacle (plug-in hybrids excluded) – all-wheel drive.
Pacifica’s seamless, fully automatic AWD system is the only one in the segment capable of transferring all available engine torque to the rear wheels, or whichever wheels have more available traction. The Pacifica AWD system is also able to sense and stop the drive shaft from spinning when AWD is not required, a class-exclusive feature in the segment that improves efficiency and reduces emissions.
The economics of the Pacifica – fuel use and pricing
Speaking of fuel economy, modern engineering as discussed above, helped this “traditionally” powered minivan achieve 21.5 miles per gallon during my time behind the wheel. Solid mileage for a vehicle this large and capable and better than the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s 20 mpg in combined city/highway driving (EPA rated 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway).
If ultimate fuel economy is your goal, but you want all the comforts and capabilities of the Pacifica Pinnacle (and are willing to forego AWD and Stow ‘n Go seats), the 2021 Pacifica Pinnacle Hybrid comes in at 30 mpg or 82 mpgE.
Create just the Pacifica you need and want
The Chrysler Pacifica range begins with a very well-equipped front-wheel-drive Touring model at $35,04. Stepping up to the all-inclusive AWD Pinnacle – the lone option offered being a towing package for $995) for $53,390. (Hybrid Touring MSRP is $39,995 while the Pinnacle Hybrid is $50,845).
I have barely scratched the surface of the Pacifica Pinnacle’s capabilities, amenities and features. Its looks have been refined, rounded and made more aggressive than minivans of the past (taking cues from sport utility vehicles), without any loss of functionality. It drives great, provides a wonderful environment for road trips of any length and can handle virtually anything a modern family might need from its primary transportation device.
Chrysler, with its original Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, created the modern minivan segment and the company has systematically piled on innovations and improvements. Today’s Pacifica Pinnacle represents the top of the heap when it comes to these ultimate people movers.