2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle AWD Review

It really is the Cadillac of minivans


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handsome minivan design, easy driving manners, great tech, the best cabin in the segment, brilliant storage options.
Negatives: Engine is a bit rough, opulent interior is too nice for sloppy kids, leather pillows are better to look at than to use.
Bottom Line: The gas version of the Pacifica is the one to get, and fully loaded with Captain's Chairs and Pinnacle trim, it's like a big limo. No one will think you're cool, but they will be jealous of the executive-jet-like interior and the cavernous amounts of space.
The Pacifica is one of the best minivans in the segment, and Chrysler made a smart move in refreshing the Pacifica's looks for the 2021 model year. The changes might not be earth-shattering (are they ever with minivans?), but they're enough to give the Pacifica a more refined look that departs from the somewhat dated design language Chrysler has been using for the past ten years. The all-wheel drive option carries over for 2021, thankfully, and the Uconnect 5 system is as good as the brand's infotainment has ever been. It's also now the only minivan with a built-in vacuum cleaner since Honda dropped theirs due to supplier issues. We drove the priciest trim level, the Pacifica Pinnacle AWD, for our review. Read the full details below.
 

Driving Experience

6.6

 

When it comes to the driving experience, we don't expect much from the minivan segment. The Pacifica is, at least, competent and smooth. It doesn't feel especially nose-heavy in the turns, and it's not totally disconnected from road surfaces. The V6 engine is a bit rough, and the transmission errs on fuel economy rather than quick downshifts for performance.

Ride Quality: The Pacifica is mostly smooth but feels a bit slappy over larger irregularities and gaps.

Acceleration: The Pacifica's 287 horses worth of V6 gets hampered by the AWD system's nearly 387-pound weight increase over the FWD model. 0-60 comes in the low eight-second range, which isn't blistering, but it is competent.

Braking: The brakes have good progression and no grabbiness, but stopping distances are longer than the FWD version due to the added weight.

Steering: Steering is on center but lacks feedback and is light in effort. It's about what we'd expect from a minivan.

Handling: The bodyroll is apparent in the turns, but at least understeer isn't horrible. Just don't enter a corner with too much speed.

Technology

9

 

The Uconnect 5 system is one of the better infotainment systems that relegate most of its controls to the screen. The Pinnacle also gets an upsized 10.1-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, and voice commands, which all work very well. We have to mention that the Pacifica is now the only minivan with a built-in vacuum, now that the Honda Odyssey has lost that option.

Infotainment System: Uconnect 5 looks great, responds better than before, and mostly operates very well. The rear entertainment system provides near-endless distraction for the kids. Get this if you plan on taking long trips.

Controls: Everything is easy to reach. We just wish seat heat/ventilation controls weren't buried in the touchscreen. The rotary shifter is way better than pushbutton transmission gearshift controls.

Styling

8.4

 

The changes to the Pacifica's front and rear fascias aren't dramatic, but they're enough to class up the minivan and give it a more opulent look.

Front: The Pacifica ditches the nearly same front end as the long-gone Chrylser 200 sedan. The larger grille and rectangular headlights replace the more integrated (but less attractive) grille and headlights from the last version. The lower vents and foglight housings have also been modified to match the upper portion.

Rear: The changes in back are almost as significant as the ones out in front. The bigger separate taillight units have been swapped out for a wider unit that connects via light bar.

Profile: There's no mistaking the fact that this is a minivan. At least the styling is smooth and there are no weird elements. The use of chrome trim is tasteful, and the front and rear overhangs are nicely short.

Cabin: The interior of the Pacifica Pinnacle is downright luxurious with rich saddle tan leather, quilted stitching, and excellent materials quality. We could do without the fancy, matching leather pillows, which actually aren't very comfortable to use because they're too firm.

Comfort

9.7

 

The Pacifica benefits from excellent seats and ample amounts of space in all three rows. Our Pinnacle came standard with 2nd row Captain's Chairs, which are nearly as good as the front row seats. You give up the convenience of the Stow 'n' Go seat that fold into the floor, but passenger comfort is about as good as it gets here.

Front Seats: Big and supportive with great adjustability, the front seats are just right for long trips with the family.

Rear Seats: The Captain's Chairs are a delight to sit it, and they also slide and recline for optimal long haul relaxation.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Pacifica is very quiet, even at 85 mph, and the sound deadening is improved over the last model. Build quality is also excellent with no creaks of rattles inside.

Visibility: Huge glass all around and thin pillars provide excellent 360-degree visibility.

Climate: Large vents and huge volumes of airflow make for an ideal climate for occupants. The three-zone automatic system works well. Heated and ventilated front seats are quick to ramp up.

Safety

9.5

 

The 2021 Pacifica hasn't been crash tested by the IIHS yet, but it should prove to be a very safe vehicle having attained solid scores the previous year. It's also very well equipped when it comes to safety features, including accident avoidance tech.

IIHS Rating: The Pacifica has been partially tested, attaining "good" scores in all crash tests.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government gave the 2021 Pacifica five stars in crash tests.

Standard Tech: Our tester came loaded with safety tech, including ParkSense Front and Rear Park Assist w/ Stop, Parallel and perpendicular Park Assist w/ Stop, 360 Surround-View Camera, Adaptive Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Blind Spot & Rear Cross-Path Detection, Lane Departure Warning Plus, Pedestrian/Cyclist Emergency Braking, Full-Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus, and Advanced Brake Assist.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9.5

 

Even though the Pacifica Pinnacle doesn't have second-row Stow 'n' Go folding seats, it's still got ample amounts of space for gear and luggage.

Storage Space: There are plenty of storage spaces throughout, including a sliding door armrest and a deep floor tray between the two front seats.

Cargo Room: The Pacifica has 32.3 cubes behind the third row (with a deep well that swallows gear), and 140.5 cubes with the seats folded flat. It's slightly bigger than the new Toyota Sienna and a tad smaller than the Honda Odyssey.

Fuel Economy

6.4

 

The Pacifica isn't what we'd call efficient. The new Toyota Sienna is hybrid only and crushes it in the MPG department, and it has 4-cylinder gas mill, to boot. The Pacifica's V6 is on the thirsty side, and our milage reflected that.

Observed: 18.7 mpg.

Distance Driven: 77 miles.

Audio

9.2

 

Our tester came with the booming 18-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system that offered up excellent sound with strong bass and no distortion. The fact that it comes standard in the Pinnacle trim is a huge plus.



Final Thoughts

The Pinnacle isn't perfect, but it's close. For a minivan, it does all the important things right: great space, tremendous comfort, and excellent tech. It's also better to look at than before, and the interior is downright premium. We'd say it has the best-looking cabin, the best infotainment, and the easiest storage options, which should put it at the top of your minivan shopping list. The engine could be smoother, and the efficiency isn't great, but those are small sacrifices for what you get. The whole family will enjoy it, and it serves its purposes very well, indeed.
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