Minivans are not hip or cool or in chic. I understand why that is, but I also tell as many people as possible, don’t discount minivans just because you don’t want to be a “soccer mom” or “soccer dad.” Minivans are awesome for families and are full of technology. Are they fun to drive? No. But do they present more interior space and more family usefulness than most of the SUVs on the road today? Absolutely.
Enter my tester this week – the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica. This minivan is available as either a standard engine or a hybrid one. My tester is the 3.6-liter gasoline engine, but have driven the hybrid version in the past. To be honest, I like the way the gasoline version drives better than the hybrid, which had a lot of body roll and drove heavy.
However, my tester this week gave me, an empty nester, that nostalgic feeling of being a “soccer dad.” I’ve never been hip or cool, so I was fine with driving around this minivan as inside it was full of lots of luxury.
Outside, it looks the part of a minivan. And with that comes all the previously referenced stereotypes. The looks aren’t bold or imaginative but more utilitarian. The longer body indicates just how spacious the interior will be. I still am a huge fan of the Chrysler emblem and logo. It adds a bit of elegance and prestige and on the grille it looks good. Without a doubt the most distinctive feature of the Pacifica is the front end and the hood with chiseled lines running toward the windshield. Otherwise, the rest of the Pacifica is wholly ho-hum (but remember it is a minivan).
The Pacifica’s engine is a bit of a throwback (without the hybrid). It’s a 3.6-liter V6 with available all-wheel drive (a nice added feature). The nine-speed automatic transmission does an adequate job but can be a little slow on the shifting and at times mimics the annoyance of a CVT transmission, where shifts are held back. The engine is good for 287 horses which feels like just enough power. It’s not a sloth off the line, but it’s also not exhilarating. To be fair, it’s not supposed to be exhilarating either.
Inside is where the Pacifica rises toward the top. Space and comfort lead the way. Far too often SUVs are billed as hip and great for families while minivans remain an outlier. However, sit inside the Pacifica and you’ll be blown away with the comfort, legroom and headroom. It really is an ideal family vehicle. Kids won’t be on top of each other and have plenty of personal space. And there’s still plenty of cargo room to make the Pacifica quite useful.
The Pacifica has 32.3 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row and can expand cargo room by folding various seats, including all rear seats, to 140.5 cubic feet. That’s impressive.
Additionally, the Pacifica has all the technology you could want including a great and intuitive infotainment system. The 10.1-inch touchscreen is responsive and integrates well with all smart phones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Individual screens in the back give rear passengers access to their entertainment options, including games. And for parents, there’s a stow away vacuum that’s great for cleaning up messes. The Pacifica is ideal for families as such.
There are three trims for the Pacifica, all with AWD options – Touring, Limited and Platinum. My tester was the Limited trim, with AWD. Base price of my tester was $48,390 and the final price was $50,880. If minivans could come down a little in price, they might win back some of the SUV buyers out there.
Fuel economy for the AWD version is 17 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway with an average of 20 mpg.
There are not many minivans out there anymore. And even at their peak, they were never cool. I totally understand, but since most people buy a vehicle for its usefulness and less for its cache, I’ve not fully grasped how minivans got so pushed aside by the gelatinous, all-too-boring SUV segment. Perhaps the Chrysler Pacifica can lead a minivan resurgence.
Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.
2021 CHRYSLER PACIFICA LIMITED
- Price/As-tested price................................................ $48,390/$50,880
- Mileage.......................................... 17 mpg/city; 25 mpg/hwy
- Engine............................................. 3.6-liter V6
- Horsepower................................. 287 hp/262 lbs./ft.
- Transmission................................. Nine-speed automatic
- Drive Wheels................ All-wheel drive
- Final Assembly Point................ Windsor, Canada