Chrysler remains committed to the minivan segment, taking the opportunity to show off the refreshed 2021 Pacifica at the Chicago Auto Show today.
Minivans may have lost their luster in this millennium thanks to the rise of crossovers, but they remain the best choice for moving a family and their things. Chrysler invented the segment, so it’s encouraging to see the team from Auburn Hills reveal its latest evolution of the breed in Chicago.
The new 2021 Pacifica adds numerous feathers to the minivan’s cap, including more luxury, more standard and available safety features, and available all-wheel drive.
All-Wheel Drive Joins the Lineup
The big news for Pacifica in 2021 is the addition of all-wheel drive. It’s a high-demand feature in the automotive world, though the Toyota Sienna is the only option to offer it in this segment right now. AWD will be available on all 2021 Pacifica trims when it hits dealerships later this year: however, it will only pair with the 3.6-liter V6 engine, not the hybrid.
Chrysler last offered all-paw traction on its minivans in 2004. The new system is much more advanced, capable of sending 100 percent of the engine torque to the rear wheels if needed. On the flip side, it can also completely disconnect drive to the rear axle too, improving efficiency. AWD will engage when the system senses extra traction is needed, but can also send power to all four wheels when the driver uses the wipers, during overtakes, or if there’s sudden steering or throttle inputs.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Chrysler Pacifica Review
The addition of AWD hasn’t impacted Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go seat system, which remains unique in its class by allowing the second and third rows to fold flat into the floor.
More Safety Features, Improved Tech
Chrysler has chosen the 2021 Pacifica as the first vehicle to carry its updated Uconnect 5 system. The latest infotainment offers processing speeds five times faster than the previous model alongside higher-resolution images on the 10.1-inch screen. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa integration are all standard, wirelessly to boot. With Alexa, Pacifica drivers can remote start their car and unlock the doors. Two phones can now connect simultaneously via Bluetooth, and the system allows for up to five user profiles (plus one for valets).
Another useful addition for those with little ones is the new FamCam. Using high-def cameras dotted throughout the interior, front-seat occupants can check on those in the other rows via the touchscreen, even zooming in on rear-facing child seats.
Depending on trim the Pacifica can come with up to 12 USB ports, including Type C variants for faster charging.
Of course, this being a minivan, safety will be a primary concern for many buyers. Chrysler is touting over 100 available safety features, 97 of which are standard on all trims. Standard safety features include automated pedestrian emergency braking, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control (right down to full stops), lane departure warning and keep assist, auto wipers and lights, LED headlights and a third-row lock out. Optional features include a 360-degree camera and park assist.
New Looks, Pinnacle Trim Piles on the Luxury
Chrysler has pitched the Pacifica as a more posh minivan, and the 2021 model leans into that with a new Pinnacle top trim. It gets an exclusive caramel Nappa leather interior, with larger front center console and standard second-row captain’s chairs. That larger center console offers 13.65 liters of storage (12.1 of which is covered), making it a prime spot for purses or laptops. Meanwhile the second row gains a pair of lumbar support pillows, trimmed in the same leather as the interior. Why don’t all minivans come with standard pillows?
All 2021 Pacificas get a refreshed exterior. The biggest changes come with its new face: with the Chrysler 200 dead and buried, the Pacifica’s nose no longer shares a look with that sedan. The swoopy headlight/grille combo is out, with simpler, rectangular lighting units framing a larger, more traditional grille.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Toyota Sienna Review
Chrysler calls it “utility-vehicle-inspired”, but in person, we initially found it something of a step back. It’s a safer look than before, though the more we look at it, the more we see hints of the classic mid-’90s Town & Country—which we consider a good thing. The changes out include a full-width taillight, something we’re also fans of as it spreads across the automotive world. It’s three-dimensional, adding interest to the back end without getting fussy.
A new Fathom Blue color certainly adds to the posh feel: deep aquamarine tones pop under light, yet it’s nearly black otherwise. Wheel sizes range from 17 to 20 inches, with six designs available.
For those minivan buyers who simply can’t wait for an AWD Pacifica—or maybe prefer the current model’s looks—Chrysler will briefly offer it on the 2020 model. Dealer orders for the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition begin early second quarter 2020, with deliveries arriving at the end of it. While we were at a pre-show event, Chrysler higher-ups told us the 2020 would be offered for only 90 days. The Voyager will continue on as the value proposition with the current styling.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica will heat dealerships in the fall. Orders will open in the third quarter.