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2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Review by Larry Nutson

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A Minivan For Today's Active Family

2021 Chrysler Pacifica
Now with all-wheel drive

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Many buyers of an SUV do so because they want all-wheel drive. Well, now on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica you’ll be able to get an all-weather capable, seamless and fully automatic all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. 

Revealed in February at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler says the Pacifica has the most advanced AWD system in its class and is the only vehicle to offer AWD along with Stow ‘n Go seating.

I’ve had a few experiences driving the Pacifica. On the invite of Chrysler I recently experienced the new all-wheel drive Pacifica exploring the local highways and back roads around Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pacifica is front-wheel drive. The optional AWD system is seamless and fully automatic 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 feature that improves efficiency and reduces emissions. 

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The roads around Charlotte were clear and dry, so I didn’t get into any slippery road conditions. However, the AWD system also improves acceleration and handling especially in a curve or on a hill. Mechanical changes resulting in improved driving dynamics include the addition of a rear sway bar and revised tuning for the front and rear suspension. Ride height is increased 0.78 inches.

The Pacifica AWD system is quite smart. It engages automatically, based on a variety of sensor inputs that signal when enhanced traction is beneficial. For best traction performance, AWD is engaged when the Chrysler Pacifica begins to accelerate from a standing stop. Other inputs that signal AWD engagement include:

*Cold exterior temperature
*Use of windshield wipers
*Slip detected at the front wheels
*Heavy acceleration at certain vehicle speeds, such as overtaking during passing
*Electronic stability control activation
*Abrupt steering or sudden throttle inputs
*Rough road conditions/grades

The AWD system is available across all four gas-powered Chrysler Pacifica models: Touring, Touring L, Limited and the new for 2021 Pinnacle. 

For 2021 the Pacifica has an exterior refresh with a new grille, front fascia, LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and LED rear taillamp. New colors and six new wheel designs are offered. The S Appearance Package with its black trim and wheels, purchased by 25% of Pacifica buyers, continues.

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The new, elite Pinnacle model is a premium people mover 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. There’s a unique center console design that extends from the dashboard between the front seats.

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All Pacifica models now come standard with a larger 10.1-inch infotainment display and the brand's latest Uconnect 5 interface which includes Alexa functionality. The new FamCAM interior camera, accessible through the 10.1-inch touchscreen, provides a high-definition image including a view of rear-facing child seat occupants, split-view display and unique “zoom-to-seat” feature.

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica offers 97 standard safety features including new Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking as well as Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Path detection, Rear Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Full Stop, Forward Collision Warning with Full Stop, and Lane Departure Warning.

Pacifica is powered by 287-HP 3.6-L V6 mated to a 9-speed automatic. Pacifica Hybrid uses a modified V6 featuring an Atkinson cycle combustion system combined with an electric motor for a total of 260 system horsepower. It has an all-electric range of more than 30 miles and a total range of over 500 miles.

Chrysler says that the Pacifica Hybrid buyer is the youngest in the segment at 47 years old and tends to be families with young children -- 63 percent of Pacifica PHEV owners are Millenial/GenXers.

Minivan owners drive more. AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey says 59% of minivan owners expect to drive more than 11,000 miles per year. Additionally, 86% of minivan owners say that fuel economy is important to them.

More info and specs on the entire Pacifica line-up can be found at

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Touring starts at a MSRP of $35,045. Pacifica with AWD starts at a MSRP of $38,040. Pacifica Hybrid starts at a MSRP of $39,995. 

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Minivans have the reputation of being a family vehicle. Today, minivan buyers actually have a diverse demographic that spans age ranges and family makeup. With a median age of 54, the current market of new minivan owners is made up of nearly as many Baby Boomers as Gen Y and just as many families without children as families with children, according to AutoPacific. 

This report comes from an invitation-only Chrysler launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Chrysler provided my overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation.

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy