What Is It?
More than 35 years ago, Chrysler invented a vehicle that would become known as the minivan. Since then minivans have fallen out of favor among car shoppers who typically prefer the styling and capability of crossovers — vehicles typically combining the underpinnings of a car with the styling of an SUV. That said, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid might win over some of those car shoppers with fresh styling, a range of new high-tech features, updated interior and better people- and cargo-carrying capability than practically any crossover on the market.
Chrysler provided us with a 2021 Pacifica Hybrid Limited painted in Ocean Blue Metallic. Even though the Limited is not Pacifica’s top-level trim, it still comes well equipped with a long list of standard features. In fact, the only option on our test vehicle was the Uconnect Theater Family Group that includes the rear-seat entertainment system. Total MSRP for this Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is $49,835. Competitors to the Pacifica Hybrid include the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey and the upcoming Kia Carnival.
Chrysler designers gave Pacifica a styling update for the 2021 model year — the first since its premiere in 2017. The primary grille is much larger than the previous version, while the lower grille mimics the styling of the upper to give the minivan more of an SUV look. Headlights are all new and incorporate new LED running lights. Additionally, LED headlights and taillights are now standard on all versions of the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica.
Since their inception, Chrysler minivans have always been about transporting families in spacious comfort; Pacifica continues that tradition although at a much higher level than the original. Front seats get trimmed in Nappa leather with heating and cooling, and the steering wheel is also heated. The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica’s seats are a bit stiff but offer decent support and comfort.
Room for Stuff
The updated Pacifica gets plenty of room for phones, bags, and other items thanks to a large two-level center console. The van has multiple USB-A and USB-C ports up front as well as a wireless charging pad. The Pacifica now has up to 12 USB ports — a mixture of both Type A and Type C — spread throughout the cabin.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid features the latest version of the brand’s infotainment system called Uconnect 5. The centerpiece of Uconnect 5 is an all-new 10.1-inch touchscreen intelligently integrated into the dashboard. Five times faster than the previous version, Uconnect 5 is built on the Android Auto operating system and offers a long list of innovations. The new system can be customized for up to six user profiles; with card-based screens, each user can also create a custom home screen that highlights preferred features. The system can also manage two Bluetooth phone connections simultaneously.
Quite often minivans have the unique ability to eclipse similarly-sized crossovers in both passenger- and cargo-carrying capacity. The captain’s chairs in the second row of the 2021 Pacifica are as comfortable and roomy as the front seats. The reclining rear seats and flat floor provide great legroom, and the low step-in height through the dual sliding doors makes ingress much easier than any SUV. The side doors — in addition to the rear hatch — can now be opened hands free with a swipe of a foot below the door.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica’s Uconnect Theater features dual 10.1 seatback touchscreens. To the system’s assortment of games Chrysler adds chess, backgammon and Concentration. The Uconnect 5 system has USB and HDMI inputs as well as a Blu-Ray / DVD player, so occupants in back can recline the seats and relax with a movie while the miles fly by.
Although most minivans are not very sporty looking, their boxy shape results in a third row capable of carrying adults in comfort. The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica does not disappoint; even with its third-row seat at standard height, the aft row possesses decent headroom as well as significant legroom — more than enough space. Cupholders and USB ports are additional benefits for third-row passengers.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica offers a new feature called FamCam, which gives the driver a high-definition view of rear-seat passengers with zoom capability, so it’s possible to check on the kids if they’re being unexpectedly boisterous or suspiciously quiet. The FamCam can also be configured to provide a view of a rear-facing child seat.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid continues to offer cavernous cargo space with plenty of room for luggage and other gear, even with all three rows in place. The third row can easily fold flat into the floor to provide more than 87 cubic feet of stowage.
Under the Hood
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid continues with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 gas engine that uses an Atkinson-cycle combustion system for improved efficiency. The gas engine gets teamed with an eFlite electrically variable transmission system. The EVT uses two electric motors — one for driving wheels and the other for generating power. The system also employs a one-way clutch that allows the generator to transfer power to specific wheels as necessary. Total output is 260 horsepower directed to the front wheels. Although Chrysler did add AWD to the 2021 Pacifica, it is not yet available on the Hybrid.
EV Mode and Fuel Efficiency
As a plug-in hybrid, the Pacifica has a 32-mile electric-only range on a full charge. According to the U.S. EPA, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is rated at 82 MPGe combined on electric power and 30 mpg combined in hybrid mode. During our drive, the van displayed an average of 31 mpg in a combination of EV and hybrid driving. Charging the battery to full from total depletion takes about 2 hours on a Level 2 charger. Using a standard 110-volt household outlet, full charge will take about 14 hours — for most consumers an overnight charge.
On the Road
Like other plug-in hybrids, the Pacifica can be driven as a pure EV for at least 30 miles as long as the driver goes easy on the throttle. That said, we didn’t find it difficult to stay in electric-only operation — acceleration is reasonable and the Pacifica will cruise up to highways speeds without a problem. If more power is needed, the gas engine will seamlessly engage to provide additional oomph. For someone with a commute of less than 30 miles and a charge station waiting at the destination, it’s possible to use the Pacific Hybrid solely as an EV.
Typical Hybrid Operation
Once the battery has been exhausted, the Pacifica operates like a typical hybrid. The gas engine turns on and off seamlessly as needed while the battery recharges via coasting and regenerative braking. After a particularly long, steep descent during part of our test drive, the Pacifica Hybrid had collected enough energy for a few more miles of EV-only driving.
While driving in EV mode we remained diligent and as such were smooth and light on the throttle; however, on occasion it’s necessary to move quicky. Full throttle in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid draws power from both the gas engine and electric motor to deliver surprisingly strong acceleration.
The updated 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid also offers a slick parking system called Active ParkSense. When ready to park, the driver activates the system and indicates which side of the vehicle to look for a space, and if it will be a parallel or perpendicular spot. The display screen indicates when a space has been found and then instructs the driver to keep hands off the wheel. The Active ParkSense system handles the steering while directing the driver when to use the gas, brakes and gear shift as necessary to park automatically. The system does take a bit longer which might annoy drivers following immediately behind Pacifica, although the system’s ability to park the van in tight parallel parking spaces remains impressive.
When it comes to moving people and/or cargo, it’s hard to beat a minivan for convenience and comfort — and Pacifica Hybrid is one of the best on the market. With fresh styling inside and out and the latest in high-tech entertainment, communication and safety systems, the new 2021 Pacifica Hybrid continues to raise the minivan bar. Add in the extremely efficient and smooth hybrid powertrain and this minivan becomes a logical choice for any family.