The most expensive and ritziest minivan your money can buy.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens. There are always more photos at the end of my reviews.
OK, so let’s get the price part out of the way right off the bat, because this will likely be enough to knock a few people off the interested list.
Pricing: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica
Base price (Pinnacle AWD trim): $65,795
Options: $100 Velvet Red Pearl; $895 Trailer Tow Group
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $68,785
Yep. It’s nearly $69,000. That’s before any taxes, mind you, so it doesn’t matter where you live in Canada – you’re looking at well into the $70,000’s. Holy crap. If you’re doing some pre-tax comparison shopping, Kia’s Carnival can be loaded up to ring in at around $50,800, Honda’s Odyssey tops off in the $56,500 territory and the priciest competitor, Toyota’s Sienna which is the only other van that offers all-wheel drive, rings in at about $58,700. Or about $10,000(!!!) less than the Pacifica I’m reviewing here. So you can decide whether or not that will simply price the Pacifica right off your shopping list.
If you’re still here, know that this is one amazing minivan. It really feels special, particularly inside – and for that price, it ought to.
While there is nothing earth-shattering about the Pacifica’s styling, I do find it’s one of the nicest vans on the market. I really do like the Kia Carnival’s looks as well. The Odyssey’s once-futuristic lines have become commonplace, and the new Sienna just looks horrible, especially from the back.
Chrysler describes the Pacifica as having an “athletic front end” with a “heroic front grille”. Come on now, FCA, that’s a bit rich. But it does boast clean, modern lines and a very handsome aesthetic all the way around. I really like how the side profile incorporates all the windows into one continuous visual panel. And that “heroic” grille? Well, it’s is pretty nice.
There are LED headlights, foglights and driving lights up front. Tail lights are part of a full-width LED signature lighting system. And the wheels are beautiful 20-inchers.
Bundle everything together and you have a really nice minivan with a polished presence. My review vehicle’s paint colour was quite a hit with onlookers as well.
It’s hard not to become speechless for a moment when you open the door to a Pinnacle-trim Pacifica the first time. The quilted Nappa-leather seats are really something else. The rest of the cabin is finished almost entirely in stitched soft-touch surfaces and a suede headliner, all of which works together to make it feel very refined. Unfortunately the interior also gets some hyper-glossy piano black plastic (which already had tons of scratches visible on it and collected dust within seconds) on parts of the centre console and a few way-too-glossy fake wood trim pieces. In an otherwise beautiful interior, these stick out like a sore thumb.
Speaking of the seats, they aren’t just pretty with their diamond-quilting, perforated panels and contrasting piping. The heated and ventilated thrones are highly adjustable and we found them extremely comfortable.
The heated steering wheel is a work of art with its chrome ring and has excellent controls on it and sits in front of some traditional gauges divided by a large 7″ customizable driver information display.
Anchoring the dash is a big 10.1-inch touchscreen that handles phone, navigation and audio functions as well as vehicle settings. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work very well, and the 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is fantastic.
There’s a boatload of driver assistance technology – I can’t think of anything they missed. This trim gets automatic high-beams, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, a 360-degree surround camera with parking sensors, forward collision warning with active braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection and emergency braking, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
Second and Third Row Seats
Getting in is easy of course, due to the powered sliding doors – they can be activated from all over the place – on the doors themselves, from the front cabin or the key fob – or they work hands-free like the trunk.
There’s a massive panoramic sunroof over the first two rows, and a separate sunroof over the third row – if you open the sunshades for these two roofs, it lets in a ton of light and makes things nice and airy in the back two rows.
The second row sports captains bucket seats, which are heated, highly adjustable and quite comfortable. The seatbelts are height-adjustable, which is unusual for anything behind the front seats. And yes, they (as well as the third row) are upholstered as beautifully as the front seats – they even come with separate lumbar cushions for crying out loud! There’s an overhead automatic climate control panel and both second and third row passengers get sunshades.
Second row passengers also get 10.1″ touchscreen rear entertainment systems, complete with remotes and wireless headphones. They can connect devices via USB, HDMI, stream from them or just play the games and apps that are already built-in, and they can even challenge each other in head-to-head games using both screens. My kids really loved this and it would be a boon on road trips. There are also dual DVD players, if anyone out there is still using those.
Getting to the third row is not a problem – you can quickly tilt and slide the second row seats forward and out of your way, or you can simply walk between them.
The third row has 3 seats, all of which have a headrest. The two outboard seats are roomy enough for adults and quite comfortable.
The second row has cupholders and USB ports, where only one side of the third row gets those things but has power recline buttons on both sides. The second row also has access to a large storage drawer that slides out of the centre console – it holds a lot, and has two more cupholders.
If you are transporting little ones, there are two sets of LATCH anchors in either of the back rows, allowing for a theoretical maximum of four child seats.
As with any minivan, storage is ample and well thought out.
Hidden under a sliding lid at the front of the console is a wireless charging pad, 4 USB plugs, an auxiliary port and another storage bin. Behind that are illuminated cupholders. The armrest lid flips up to reveal a large storage bin, which has further USB A and C plugs and a 12V port.
Under the centre console is a large open pass-through bin, accessible by both the driver and front passenger.
If you want ultimate flexibility, only the Pacifica offers the remarkable Stow’n Go seats in the second and third row alongside all-wheel drive. The sad thing is, this review vehicle’s Pinnacle trim’s second row seats are NOT Stow’n Go so you’ll need to remove them if you really need all that space.
The ease and speed with which Stow’n Go seats fold into the floor and disappear still impresses me and if you regularly need all the cargo space your van can offer, this will make a big difference and might have you looking at a lower trim level – every trim below the Pinnacle offers second-row Stow’n Go seating. If you can survive without them, then you can still enjoy the large underfloor storage wells in this trim. They are underfoot for second row passengers, and would be big enough to house the folded up seats – in other words, they can hold a LOT of stuff. Perfect for a road trip, where they can swallow up a duffle bag, backpack, etc. for each passenger in the second row.
The third row seats are power-folding using a control panel in the trunk. They split 60/40 and you can decide if you want to control each or both at the same time. You can then recline them at different angles, or fold them back and down into the trunk well for a flat load floor.
Heads-up – the power-folding function is sloooooowwwwww, so it requires a bit of patience.
Of course, the deep trunk well is already more than capable of swallowing up a Costco-sized shopping trip. Plenty of bag hooks and a 12V plug make it even more useful – although I think we’re well past the days of the 12V accessory. Why manufacturers haven’t switched to household plugs in the trunk is beyond me. Accessing the trunk is easy-peasy thanks to the power liftgate with the hands-free function.
Under the Hood
Motivating the Pacifica is a 3.6L V6. It puts out 287 HP and 262 lb.ft of torque through a 9-speed automatic transmission which distributes the power to an all-wheel drive system. Urban fuel economy isn’t this vehicle’s strong suit – it’s rated at 14.1 L/100 km around town, and 9.4 L/100 km on the highway. We ended up with an average 12.8 L/100 km which isn’t bad, considering we we spent most of our nearly 500 km in the city.
Chrysler’s Pentastar engines are pretty solid and although the numbers don’t jump off the page, the V6 provides ample power off the line. The gearing is such that it almost feels a bit lurchy and too eager when you step on it in terms of a standing start. That said, once you’re moving, there’s not quite as much power by virtue of the sheer mass you’re moving along and frankly the transmission – which uses a rotary gear selector and is incredibly smooth – becomes a hindrance in some situations. It definitely seeks the highest gears out to save fuel, and it is downright lazy to shift down. So when you’re moving along and you need to access the power quickly, it won’t happen right away – it takes too long to shift into the appropriate gear for things like merging onto a freeway or passing on the highway and that makes it feel like a significant delay. Of course, if you’re happily cruising along at one speed, that isn’t an issue.
The Pacifica rides beautifully – all road imperfections, bumps and potholes are swallowed up wholesale. The handling is what you’d expect from a modern minivan. While it competently moves into curves and corners, it’s a huge and heavy vehicle and will lean a bit and of course this is not an athletic ride. But overall, the handling isn’t bad at all and the suspension is very well sorted.
We found things to be very quiet on the go too – road, wind and engine noise are well muted, except for when you step on the gas. Revving the engine up makes a bigger racket than you might expect.
If you tow things, the Pacifica as reviewed, can tow up to 3,600 pounds (1,633kg).
A nifty FamCam feature allows you to check on all your back passengers with interior cameras, even letting you zoom in on specific seats (including rear-facing baby seats!) and use a split-screen to monitor how they’re all doing. This is very, very family friendly and quite innovative.
We loved the Stow’n Vac bagless vacuum. It’s accessible from the second row in a little space on the driver’s side behind the second-row seat. This is great, as it’s more centrally located versus other in-vehicle vacuums that are trunk-based. You wouldn’t even notice it’s there, until you’re looking for it. It comes with additional tools and attachments, and the debris bin (it’s bagless, remember?) in the back can easily get dumped out and is even dishwasher safe.
There is a household plug on the opposite side in the same spot in the second row.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was very high. Although she’s not a minivan mom any longer, she always did appreciate the incredible sensibility and practicality this vehicle class offers when we had our Honda Odyssey, and she still likes them. She said this was the nicest one she had ever seen inside and enjoyed how it drove, as well as how easy it was to operate things as the driver. And for anyone who knows my wife, you’ll understand that her obsession with throw cushions was satisfied in the second row seating.
What can I say about this thing? Let’s focus on what it does right, which is almost everything. The Pinnacle trim of the Pacifica is the ultimate minivan. It offers all the flexibility and space that minivan buyers are after, and adds in a heaping measure of true luxury, all the current technology and safety gizmos, comfort, performance and utility. I can’t really think of anything that’s missing here.
That leaves only the value. Considering the depreciation a buyer would see the moment they would drive this van off the lot, assuming they are paying full MSRP – which is unlikely – I can see why there aren’t a lot of Pinnacle-trim Pacificas on the road to date. As a matter of fact, I’ve only seen one in my travels here in Edmonton. Frankly, I have always found Chrysler’s pricing strategy with the Pacifica to be a bit weird, because they traditionally haven’t been able to bring the reliability and resale argument to the table, yet they are asking more than the two big hitters from Toyota and Honda. Hey, whatever – if people are willing to pay it, go for it – the market generally sorts itself out.
So if you have the financial wherewithal or you’re looking to lease a van, I can’t imagine that someone wouldn’t enjoy owning this one on a day to day basis. It really has it all. And more.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by FCA Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.