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NEW FLAIR: 2021 CHRYSLER PACIFICA PINNACLE PHEV

When it comes to the minivan market, the Chrysler Pacifica ranks a little higher than some of the others. Despite the challenges minivans are facing against the vastly over competitive crossover segment, the need for an ultimate family hauler remains relevant. With the Pacifica hitting its 4-year itch, several key elements have been updated to keep it competitive against some of the newer rivals like the Kia Carnival and Toyota Sienna.

Naturally, things have to be complicated here. Now that Chrysler has split the Pacifica into two parts with, the lower L and LX trims being called the Voyager, the Pacifica badge holds its place for the more upscale Touring and Limited models, including an all-new, hierarchy trim level called Pinnacle. However, when it comes to the latest changes introduced for 2021, the Pacifica sees all the major upgrades while the Voyager gets held back a grade.

On the outside, the Pacifica is much more grown up – it carries a more premium stance with smaller LED headlights and a larger, form fitting grille. Similar updates are seen in the rear as well with a new, signature full-width LED light strip that connects the two taillights together.

With the Pinnacle sitting at the higher end of the Pacifica spectrum, it offers trim specific details like unique 19-inch wheels and side body cladding on the exterior. Inside the Pinnacle, feels more like a first class experience on British Airways with beautifully rich caramel quilted leather seats that offers rear passengers suede and leather throw pillows. Fancy Smancy.  The Pinnacle option also received an upgraded center console that spans from the dash between the front seats giving a more separated feeling while both the Limited and Pinnacle received upgraded insulated front and side windows for a quieter ride.

As for the rest of the Pacifica’s lineup, Chrysler incorporated the larger 10.1-inchtouch screen infotainment option as standard equipment with the latest Uconnect 5 software. Taking a slice from Honda’s cake with an onboard camera that allows the driver to view over the passengers, the Pacifica has incorporated something similar called FamCam. It’s now easier to watch over passengers and see who really gets the punishment when they get home.

The biggest news however isn’t equipped on our particular tester. The Pacifica now offers all-wheel drive at a mere $2995 option. With all-wheel drive being unavailable on the all-new Kia Carnival and Honda Odyssey, this option competes against the all-new hybrid-only Toyota Sienna. Unfortunately for the hybrid options on the Pacifica, its drivetrain is left solely to its two front wheels and since our particular sampler was a plug-in hybrid we were succumb to the grueling fuel saving ways of its 33-mile range battery and 80-mpge fuel consumption. Such torture.

As much as we’d like for this to be our first go around in the Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid, it isn’t. Nor our second. In fact, we’ve tested the plug-in hybrid three times, with each time we get more and more impressed. Its 260-combined horsepower from its 3.6-liter V-6 and hybrid electric motors provides ample performance for the daily grind. It may not be quick like a Hellcat Durango but it’s far from slow either with 0-60 in roughly 7.5-seconds.

Within the plug-in hybrid life, patience is something we’d have to get used to – I’m not a parent so it doesn’t come naturally for me. Charging times can vary depending on power source – a charging station can take a little over 2-hours to refill the battery from empty where a home outlet can take upwards of 8-10 hours. At least it has a contingency plan holding 350-miles of gasoline in its tank. Should one have the full patience to get to 100% charge, the Pacifica is capable of performing upwards of 33-miles on a single charge. Highway cruising may squeeze an extra mile or two, but the city driving is where it drains faster than a toddlers Christmas toy.

As we always note, the Pacifica doesn’t really feel like a minivan – it’s agile in competent. It handles more sophisticatedly than it should with well-managed body rolls while maintain a comfortable cabin space. Unfortunately for the plug-in hybrid version we do lose out some of its minivan qualities like the stow-in-go seating that would typically allow the seats to fold flat into the floor. What is more important to you, 30-mpg’s or storage space?

In the interim, the Pacifica still holds dear to our hearts with all of its greatness. These significant changes are enough to keep it competitive and relevant in a newly competitive segment. But then again, we haven’t sat behind the wheel of the aforementioned newly arrived rivals.

VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS

Vehicle: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Plug-in Hybrid
Base Price: $40,295
As-Tested Price: $52,340

PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6 & Hybrid Electric
HP: 260-Horsepower
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Drivetrain: Front-Wheel Drive
MPG: 30 | 82e (Combined | Combined Electric)
As-Tested MPG: 42.2-Combined | 75e-Cominbed Electric)
Fuel Range: 502 miles | 32-electric miles
0-60 MPH: ±7.5 seconds

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