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2021 Chrysler Pacifica Segment Maker 37 Years Later - Review by Larry Nutson

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Thirty-seven years since the first

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau

There was a time when nearly every automotive brand had a minivan in their portfolio. Not anymore. Today there are only four on the market in the U.S.

Minivans can be had from Chrysler, Honda, Kia and Toyota…that’s it.

Yes, there are some legitimate reasons for the lack of minivans. As you all know, the utility vehicle (UV) is the popular vehicle type to have today. They are roomy, versatile, flexible to carry passengers or cargo, have good towing ability, can be equipped with all-wheel drive, provide good outward visibility and, today, they now can deliver car-like fuel economy.

From a styling perspective, utility vehicles can be considered somewhat masculine. Minivans garnered the nickname the mom-mobile, or something like that. Some of the dads out there didn’t want to be seen driving one. So, UVs became the acceptable family car.

However, minivans of today have evolved in design. They have a more refined look with more style and pizzaz. They’ve morphed to have some of the looks of a UV. There’s a longer hood, less-boxy side profile and slightly tapered rear.

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Minivans also have a lot of the same features and benefits found in a utility vehicle. A hybrid drive train for low fuel consumption, all-wheel drive, seating for 6 or 7 or 8, a large flat cargo area, a large rear liftgate for easy loading, and an elevated seating position for good outward visibility are features of today’s minivans.

For 2021 the Chrysler Pacifica offers the choice of two power trains, one traditional gas engine and also a PHEV plug-in hybrid gas-electric. The Pacifica also now is available with all-wheel drive on the gas engine version. Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go seating that allows all rear seats to fold flat into the floor creating a large, flat cargo space, is also available on the gas engine Pacifica.

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Today, minivans are bought by both families with younger children as well active lifestyle empty nesters. The lower step-in height of a minivan compared to a utility is a well-liked characteristic. Another feature unique to minivans are power open and close sliding rear doors.

A daughter of mine has three toddlers. She drives a full-size SUV with a three-across center bench fitted with three child safety seats. She wishes she had power opening rear doors on her daily-driver to ease getting her three children into place.

My nonagenarian mother-in-law still drives. Only a bit, though. She has a Chrysler Town & Country, the Pacifica predecessor, that works perfectly for easy local errand running. I’ve had her along as a passenger in a Pacifica. She wants one. I don’t think she need a new vehicle at this point. But, then again, all the new advanced driver-assist safety (ADAS) features and technology in a new Pacifica would really make her driving a lot safer and easier.

A lot of these new safety features, available on Pacifica, really help out especially in the moments of distraction that can occur with a carload of children or simply carrying on a conversation. Blind spot warning, forward collision warning, automatic pedestrian braking, lane departure warning and lane keep assist all can save you on any day out in your neighborhood. Maneuvering features such as 360-degree camera, rear view camera, front park assist and automatic park assist all make getting around safer and help prevent dents and dings.

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My wife and I recently drove a new 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD model equipped with the S Appearance package (total price $55,265) to visit our three-toddler daughter and her family. This trip takes us from our Chicago home around the southern shore of Lake Michigan and across lower Michigan on the interstate. Adaptive cruise control helps maintain a constant speed as well as a safe distance from a leading vehicle. Ventilated seats help keep you comfortable with the low sun in the sky warming the interior.

The 115-volt auxiliary power outlet lets my wife get her work done without her laptop battery dying in her. Wireless charging makes for fewer cords in the center console. Apple CarPlay lets us listen to 99% Invisible podcasts. And, the 24 mpg average fuel consumption for the trip (the EPA highway rating is 25 mpg) makes for no refueling stops along the way.

I’ve had a number of drive experiences in the Chrysler Pacifica. I had a previous drive in the new 2021 Pacifica Pinnacle with its beautiful interior that you can read HERE Here’s my review of the Pacifica AWD. HERE

And go to to see what they have to say.

mentioned the other minivans. The 2021 Honda Odyssey has some mild exterior styling changes, upgraded materials for the top trim level and some additional standard safety features.

Kia has a 2021 Sedona minivan but it’s being replaced by the new 2022 Carnival. Kia refers to the new Carnival as a Multi-Purpose Vehicle and it is more like an SUV in appearance. It does still have rear sliding side doors. By the way, all minivans are classified as multipurpose vehicles by the federal agencies.

The Toyota Sienna has been revamped and now powered exclusively with a hybrid powertrain. The Sienna now also has all-wheel drive.

Both the Pacifica Hybrid and the Sienna qualify for the $7,500 Federal tax credit. Do check with your personal accountant!

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To sum up, there are some good minivan choices out there. Something for everyone’s taste, style, needs and wants. Chrysler has been at it for 37 years and has sold more than 15 million globally.

If I were buying, considering I live in the city, the Pacifica Hybrid would work just fine. I don’t really need AWD. If it snows that much I’ll stay home and wait for the roads to be plowed or take public transit. Stow ‘n Go seats would be nice to have, but I’m not into too much DIY anymore. The PHEV benefit for low fuel consumption will pay off really well in city-type driving.

Happy motoring!

© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy