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Pacifica finally gets AWD – and many, many other new features

by David Zatz on

After years of rumors, stretching from before we even knew its name, the Chrysler Pacifica will finally get all wheel drive. It’s also getting numerous other new features, and a new model at the pinnacle of the range — the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinacle.

All wheel drive

The full-time, automatic all wheel drive was cleverly developed in a way that makes it compatible with the Stow ’n’ Go folding seats.  If wheels lose traction, the Pacifica’s AWD system automatically transfers all available torque to the wheels with more traction.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD minivan

The power transfer unit, driveshaft, and rear drive module  disconnect when AWD is not required, stopping the driveshaft from spinning to reduce drag and improve efficiency. While Toyota offers this on the 2020 Highlander, it hasn’t reached the Sienna yet.

AWD will be available on 2020 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Launch Edition, which opens for dealer orders in the second quarter of 2020 and begins arriving in dealerships late in the same quarter. It will also be available on any model of the 2021 Pacifica—but not with the hybrid powertrain.

Details.  The first Chrysler minivan AWD system since 2004, it uses  technology already proven on other FCA vehicles; it also had over a  million customer-driven-equivalent miles of testing.

The system uses the nine-speed automatic with a power transfer unit for routing torque to a rear wheel drive model over a three-piece driveshaft. The rear drive module uses an electronically controlled wet clutch to manage torque to the rear wheels—a second-generation single-speed module.

The AWD model has a rear sway bar and revised tuning for the front and rear suspension, to compensate for a 20-mm (0.78 inches) higher ride height.

The setup uses a brake-lock differential system to help enhance traction, with automatic torque distribution between each wheel. If one wheel on an axle loses traction, the system applies the brake to the low-traction wheel, redirecting torque through the differential to the wheel with more traction. The 18-inch brake package for AWD uses larger vented front and solid rear rotors and calipers with more capacity.

AWD engages on launch, and can also come on with the windshield wipers, cold ambient temperature, wheel slip, heavy acceleration at some speed ranges, stability control activation, sudden steering or throttle, steep grades, and rough road conditions.

Minivans with AWD can’t use a spare, so they will have self-sealing 235/60-R18 Michelin Premier All-season tires (or, with 20-inch wheels, optional Pirelli self-sealing tires [late availability]; or non-self-sealing Falken tires).

Electronics

One of the major advances is the new 10.1 inch screen, which replaces the 8.4 inch center screen on top models. This will be the first North American vehicle to use the new system, described more completely in our UConnect 5 article; it has the largest screen of any minivan, more services and features, faster processing, Alexa, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, more-personalized home screens with six user profiles (which link to seat settings and other preferences), and the ability to connect to two phones at once.

uconnect 5 profiles

For the first time in any minivan, the Pacifica has USB Type C ports which allow faster charging—with up to 12 Type A and Type C ports. A new ten-inch rear quarter trim subwoofer has a 23-liter sealed enclosure and more dynamic bass from a dual-voice-coil setup.

Being a minivan, it also has a new FamCAM™ interior camera, to show the rear-facing child seat occupants, with a split-view display and “zoom-to-seat” feature.

Safety

New safety features—standard on all models—include new LED headlights and automatic emergency braking to prevent collisions with pedestrians. Standard safety features include blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, rear parking assistance, adaptive cruise control that can come to a stop, lane departure warnings, and eight airbags.

The LED headlamps claim to minimize glare on oncoming traffic while doubling the light output directly in front of the vehicle. Side lighting is activated by steering wheel angle input or turn signals.

2021 pacifica minivan

Other standard features include forward collision warning, rain-sensing wipers, auto high beams, brake assist, safety glass, stronger A-pillars and B-pillars, better performance on the IIHS passenger-side small offset rigid barrier test, turn signals in the mirrors, LED gots, and third row lockout.

A new Safety Sphere Package (part of a new Premium Group Package) includes a 360° view camera, 10.1 inch screen, parking assistance (for parallel and perpendicular parking), and front and rear parking sensors (which can stop the car when backing up).

Looks

Updates to the exterior design expression are designed to be modern and athletic, taking after SUVs, and are a hefty departure from the originals. It has a  “heroic” 3D diamond-style grille,  with painted gloss black upper grille textures and a new bright chrome grille surround. The Chrysler wing badge is chromed with a gloss black insert. The slimmer lower grille mirrors the appearance of the upper grille.

New, standard LED headlamps have a more aggressive, linear design and increase light projection. Larger LED fog lamp bezels complement sportiness. A new rear all-LED taillamp runs the entire width of the Pacifica. The taillamp is cleanly and precisely integrated with the backup camera and aerodynamic functions in the single, simple housing.

A large variety of wheels are available. 17-inch wheels can be Silver Litho or have Baltic Gray pockets (new finishes); there are four new 18-inch wheels; and 20-inch machined wheels with gray pockets for the S package.

Fathom Blue color will be available for the 2021s. “The new hue beautifully travels between light and dark color tones, celebrating the sculptural qualities of the refreshed exterior.”

The S package, introduced in 2017 and now chosen by one of every three Pacifica buyers, continues in 2021 with new exterior Anodized Ink finishes on the grille surrounds and badging, and a new “Foreshadow” finish on the wheels. The Pacifica Red S Edition, introduced in the 2020s, will also continue as an option for owners looking to customize their Pacifica Limited S from the factory.

Reaching the Pinaccle (and other models)

The Hybrid is no longer a separate model series, but is now an option on all of the regular four Pacifica models. Every model has a seven-inch digital cluster and second row sunshades.

There are four 2021 Pacificas, not counting the Voyager series: Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle™. The latter is “a premium people mover that offers a modern living room on wheels loaded with luxury features and content,” according to Chrysler.

The Pinnacle has an integrated “Ultra console,” which flows into the instrument panel. Its storage totals 227.6 liters, enough to store 60 gallons of milk, if that’s your idea of fun. The Limited has a new integrated “Premium” console with dual-level storage and a large pass-through storage area; it has 13.7 liters of storage, with 12 liters of covered storage.  The caramel and gloss black color theme is unique to the interior; seats are done in caramel Nappa leather with quilted seat side bolsters and perforated seat inserts and seat backs on all three rows, including second row captain’s chairs, adding an elite premium touch point.

Two movable lumbar comfort pillows for the second-row captain’s chairs match the style and color of the leather seats; they have an embossed Chrysler logo on one side, with a suede pillow backing on the other.

The instrument panel has a new mid-century Timber Hydro bezel with wood styling. The interior includes a vehicle-length black suede headliner and high-end Berber-construction floor mats. Unique finishes outside include a satin carbon grille and platinum chrome on all exterior surrounds, moldings, and badging in place of standard bright chrome.

The Limited has a revised console as well, which is more compact but has a wider, longer tamboured door. It has 7.6 liters of storage (three more than the 2020 Limited).

The Super console from the 2020 Pacifica Limited moved to 2021 Pacifica Touring L models, while the 2021 Pacifica Touring model carrys over the Mid console.

Elite interior features become standard equipment more than ever before for the 2021 Pacifica lineup, including a seven-inch digital cluster, a soft-touch instrument panel with accent stitching and second-row sunshades.

Other additions

Uconnect Theater’s  dual 10.1-inch seatback touchscreens add more games to keep both adult and child passengers entertained. An optional Harman Kardon premium audio adds the aforementioned ten-inch subwoofer to the 19 speaker system (20 speakers on hybrid). The subwoofer was altered to work better with the minivan’s storage.

Wind noise has been reduced with new or upgraded glass, including acoustic front side glass for the Limited, Pinnacle, and all PHEV models; acoustic windshield glass on all Pacificas; and thicker sliding door glass for all Pacifica models. Seals were improved throughout the minivan, and road noise was cut by using higher roof bow stiffness and improved body sealing for a 6-8% increase in speech intelligibility.

2021 chrysler pacifica minivans

Power ratings remain the same. The hybrid’s transmission is dubbed eFlite. The Pacifica Hybrid is one of the top five best-selling PHEVs.

Colors are Billet Silver, two whites, black, Ceramic Grey, Fathom Blue, Granite Crystal, Maximum Steel, Ocean Blue Metallic, and Velvet Red.

The full list of new items:

    • Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking
    • 14 new-as-standard advanced safety features
    • Safety Sphere Package (available)
    • Front fascia (standard)
    • Grille (standard)
    • LED headlamps (standard)
    • LED fog lamps (standard)
    • LED rear taillamp (standard)
    • Black Chrysler Wing badge insert (standard, except for PHEV)
    • Six wheel designs/Various finishes
    • exterior paint color (Fathom Blue)
    • top-of-the-line Pinnacle model
    • Consoles: Pinnacle Ultra and Limited Premium
    • Hydro Bezels: Mid-century Timber (Pinnacle) and Brushed (Limited)
    • 7-inch digital cluster and soft-touch instrument panel with accent stitching now standard
    • Premium and Family Convenience Package bundles
    • Uconnect 5 system with 10.1-inch touchscreen
    • FamCAM interior camera
    • Segment-first USB Type C ports
    • Wireless charging (Qi, optional)
    • Four games for Uconnect Theater
    • 10-inch Harman Kardon subwoofer
    • S adding Anodized Ink exterior accent finish and “Foreshadow” wheel finishes
    • Exterior side mirrors auto fold in Park (Limited and Pinnacle)

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica will be built in Windsor, Ontario. Orders open in the third quarter of 2020, with the vehicle available in dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2020. AWD also will be available on the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica Launch Edition, which opens for dealer orders in the second quarter of 2020 and begins arriving in dealerships in late second quarter of 2020.


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