Fresh tech and a facelift improve the already great Pacifica plug-in.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is better than it’s ever been. A more aggressive face, some fresh wheel options, and revisions to the front and rear lighting improve the exterior, while upgraded leather and a more stylish center console help refine the cabin. But it's not just new styling that makes the Pacifica more of a solid option for 2021.
A brand-new Uconnect infotainment system adorns the dash – and it's probably our favorite upgrade of the lot. Plus, more standard active safety means Chrysler's minivan can compete with alternatives from Toyota and Honda out of the box. All of these updated elements combine to make the already great Pacifica even better for 2021.
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The former Pacifica looked sort of fussy to our eye, but the 2021 model gets much cleaner styling. Slim LED headlights with halo-like accents and a sharp, six-sided grille adorn the front fascia, with a cleaner bumper design and better-integrated fog lights just below that. And gone are last year's split taillights, replaced by a sleeker full-width light bar. Plus, every Pacifica trim gets new wheels for 2021 – our car wears 18-inch aluminum shoes as part of the $795 S Appearance package, which also includes a gloss black grille surround and corresponding black badges.
Chrysler carefully redesigned the cabin of the 2021 Pacifica as well. Most notably, tweaks to the center console now create a seamless flow into the dash, wrapping around a 10.1-inch embedded touchscreen. Nicer finishes, like lacquered wood, are available on higher trim levels like the luxurious Pinnacle model. But our Limited model with the S Appearance pack gets gloss black finishes instead, which we're less fond of because of how quickly they accumulate fingerprints. But the S package does add black Nappa leather seats with a black faux leather dash, both with contrast white stitching that helps the cabin look and feel very high-quality.
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The Pacifica scores a perfect 10 in this category for a number of reasons, but most of the credit goes to its exceptional ride quality. Even with 18-inch wheels (versus the standard 17-inchers), the Pacifica has a very smooth on-road demeanor, absorbing bumps and imperfections without so much as a shrug. For as comfortable as the Pacifica is around town, it's even better on the highway, combining a super smooth ride quality with sublime sound deadening. The cabin is so well insulated that it only takes a whisper to speak with the front passenger.
Nappa leather comes standard on the Limited model and above, with the S Appearance package adding black leather with white accent stitching that we like. The front seats are soft and relatively supportive – bolstering could be better, but then again, this is a minivan – and there's lots of room, as you'd expect. The 40.1 inches of front headroom and 41.1 inches of front legroom are slightly better than both the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey.
The second-row captain's chairs are solid, with the same comfortable and high-quality Nappa leather as the front buckets. But when Toyota now offers a full recline and leg rest option on its captain's chairs, it's hard to say the Pacifica's seats are as good. That said, the Pacifica has more headroom (39.6 inches) and legroom (39.0 inches) than the Sienna, with only the Odyssey offering more foot space (40.9 inches).
Third-row access is relatively easy thanks to a shoulder-mounted pull tab that folds the chairs forward, although the Sienna's one-push button is still a better solution. Once back there, the Pacifica's rearmost row affords you 38.7 inches of headroom and 36.5 inches of legroom. The Sienna and Odyssey do offer a bit more room in their third rows, but unlike a lot of three-row crossovers, the Pacifica's back seat is still fine for carrying adults over quick jaunts.
Along with a facelift and some upgrades to the interior design, Chrysler also fitted the Pacifica with the new UConnect 5 infotainment system, which is a big upgrade over the previous UConnect 4. The now-standard 10.1-inch touchscreen (compared to last year’s 8.4-inch screen) has a cleaner home screen layout, crisper graphics, and a touch response time that is smartphone-fast. The navigation system is much-improved, too, with a more focused layout and intuitive controls. And now wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot are available options on lower trim levels. However, they all come standard on the Limited and above.
This particular Pacifica is also well equipped, sporting the optional Uconnect Theater Family group. The $2,495 option affords seatback video screens to passengers in the second row, with baked-in games and a DVD player with wireless headphones. Plus, there is no shortage of plugs located throughout the cabin; the Pacifica has 12 USB-C and USB-A ports and a wireless phone charger up front. There’s also a FamCam feature for the driver, which displays a bird's-eye view of the rear seats.
The Pacifica’s hybrid powertrain is this minivan’s strongest selling point. The gas-powered 3.6-liter V6, with a 16-kilowatt-hour battery pack, and two electric motors give the plug-in Pacifica a total output of 260 horsepower. That also affords it a solid 32 miles of electric range when fully charged. If you charge at home on a normal 110-volt outlet, it takes about 14 hours to fill up, while a stronger 220-volt outlet takes just two hours.
When fully juiced, the two electric motors provide instant oomph. The Pacifica isn’t quick, but the immediate burst of power helps move the 4,987-minivan with purpose. Even at highway speeds, placing your foot firmly on the accelerator results in a jolt of torque, making for easy passes. Our only complaint here is that the transition between pure electric and gas can be a bit harsh, especially around town. And at higher speeds, the Pacifica’s gas engine is a bit loud. The Hybrid version also lacks the available all-wheel drive of pure gas variants; the batteries take up the space that a driveshaft would otherwise occupy.
In terms of handling, the Pacifica has nice, lightweight steering and decent agility for a minivan. Don’t be afraid to fling it into a corner, because the Pacifica turns in smoothly and accelerates out with little drama. We do still prefer the way the Sienna drives by a slim margin, though – the steering is more precise and body movements are less noticeable. But that’s just picking nits.
Safety is another strong point for the Pacifica. For 2021, Chrysler’s minivan now comes standard with equipment like automatic emergency braking (for cars and pedestrians), blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane-keep assist, forward-collision mitigation, and even rain-sensing wipers. And all of those systems work well in our test. The adaptive cruise control system brakes smoothly and maintains a perfect distance to the car in front of it, while blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist offer a clearer perspective of other vehicles on the road.
There is one additional safety option that our tester lacks: the $1,595 Premium And Safety Sphere package. That option adds more advanced features like a 360-degree overhead camera, parallel and perpendicular park assist, as well as front and rear park assist with automatic braking.
The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid achieves 30 miles per gallon combined. In terms of pure fuel economy, that figure is down compared to the less powerful Toyota, which gets 36 mpg combined in front-drive form. But unlike the Sienna’s traditional hybrid setup, the Pacifica is a plug-in hybrid, which gives it 85 mpge and up to 32 miles of pure electric range. The Sienna, by comparison, only has a low-speed electric mode with limited battery range.
The plug-in also gets better fuel economy than its purely gas-powered sibling. The front-wheel-drive Chrysler Pacifica sans electrification gets 22 mpg combined.
The base non-hybrid Pacifica costs a cool $35,095, while the plug-in pumps that starting price up to $39,995. Our Pacifica Hybrid is a Limited model, which costs $45,845 to start – only the range-topping and new-for-2021 Pinnacle is pricier ($50,845). And after options and destination fees ($1,495), this Pacifica costs $50,630.
Fifty grand does sound like a lot of scratch for a minivan, but remember that the new Sienna is equally pricey. A comparable Sienna Limited model costs $46,700 out of the box and crests $50,000 with options. The range-topping Sienna Platinum, meanwhile, costs $49,900, whereas the luxurious Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacls is $50,845.
On our Pacifica tester, in particular, there are only two options: the $2,495 Uconnect Theater Family package and the $795 S Appearance package. The Theater Family package is one that we recommend, since it adds useful seatback-mounted screens and wireless headphones (if you have kids) and the FamCam function. But we could do without the S appearance package, unless you truly can’t live without black wheels and an ‘S’ stitched in the headrests.
Pacifica Hybrid Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid: Review
2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited