2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD Review: Winter Family Bliss In Troubled Times

2020 sucked, but the redesigned Pacifica didn't

2020 is rough, but driving the family in the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD helped – a lot.

I spent some quality time with my family and the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD (all-wheel-drive); it made for a brilliant addition to our family’s winter tradition. I honestly cannot think of a better vehicle for our annual family tradition of cruising by neighborhoods to look at holiday lights while listing to thematic music and sipping coco. I know, it’s cheesy. Seriously, it’s a family tradition that has had its ups and downs over the years.

I have yet to be forgiven for last year’s Suzuki Samurai holiday cruise of…where the family froze and they were less than comfortable.

The technical bits

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD comes with one powertrain option. It’s the 287 horsepower “Pentastar” 3.6-liter V6. It makes 262 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. A characteristic of the Pentastar is its need to be flogged to get maximum performance. A nine-speed automatic transmission, connected to FCA’s rotary dial gear lever is the only transmission option. This combination gives you an EPA estimated 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. In mixed driving, with a lot of slow-motion, neighborhood drive-bys, I averaged about 22 mpg. That’s okay, but the Toyota Sienna AWD with its new hybrid system is vastly more efficient.

The AWD system worked great on slippery, icy streets. It can, if needed, send up to 100% of its torque to the rear wheels. Ironically, the high-end neighborhoods surrounding Denver, Colorado, have poorly cleared streets. They melt a bit during the day, and turn to ice-sheets at night. While expensive SUVs slid, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD was resolute in its traction, despite wearing all-season tires. Sure, we slid from time to time, but the traction control system took good care of us during our sojourn.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD handling

Out of all the minivans I’ve driven in 2020, the Pacifica AWD is near the top for comfort and handling. The windows are huge, and mixed with the excellent camera systems, maneuvering is a snap. I had no issues slowly moving through icy parking lots, and bonding down highways. Steering response is good (for a minivan) and power is more than adequate for passing. It feels more connected than a equivalent Sienna, but the Honda Odyssey is more driver-friendly.

The accelerator is a bit touchy. You have to be ginger with it or it will charge forward quicker than you want. Also, the breaks are a bit grabby, so getting used to them takes time. It took me a full two days to get used to driving the Pacifica, but once I did, it was a breeze to drive.

The interior of the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited features the new Uconnect 5 system with a 10.1-inch touchscreen that is the largest standard touchscreen it its class, a new integrated Premium console that flows into the instrument panel and interior accents including Brushed Hydro bezels on the instrument panel.

Packaging, packaging and more packaging

As equipped, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica AWD does not outperform the Toyota Sienna mechanically. Aside from its pleasant road manners and AWD system, there is little to praise about its overall power or efficiency. What is truly amazing is the Pacifica’s remarkable utility. The return of Stow ‘N Go seating to their AWD minivan is a serious game changer. Fully folding the seats gives you almost as much cargo space as a behemoth 2021 Chevrolet Suburban. It gives you 140.5 cubic-feet of maximum cargo space, and a maximum tow rating of 3,600-lbs.

One note for parents: This Pacifica came with the FamCAM interior camera. This allows parents to view child seat occupants in the rear and even zoom in on passengers… my teen was NOT amused with this feature.

The seats were very comfortable up front, with the kiddos cozy using the second-row heated seats the whole time. Some say the second row’s padding is on the light side, but the kids never complained. Personally, I found the third row to be even more spongy than the second. I spent a good hour back there using it as a lounge as the kids folded the center row flat and laid on the floor. It was an ideal place for an indoor dinner picnic.

Despite the isolation requirements this year has forced upon everyone, we were comfortable, cheery and secure in the Pacifica.

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Limited AWD S features an all-wheel-drive system that is fully automatic and is the only one in the segment capable of transferring 100 percent of the available engine torque to the rear wheels.

Pricing and warranty

The base model 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Touring AWD starts at $38,040. Our Pacifica Limited AWD S Appearance (which is nearly top-of-the-line), came in at $50,180. For that price, you get eight-way power front seats (heated and ventilated), electric folding third row, heated second row and beautiful leather seating surfaces. Our model had the panoramic moon roof with a small, second moon roof over the third row.

To put that into perspective, the new high-tech Toyota Sienna AWD (which comes standard as a hybrid) is slightly less expensive.

Our Limited also had just about every conceivable safety system available, including UConnect-5 with a 10.1-inch display.

The 2021 Pacifica comes with a three-year, 36,000 mile limited warranty. It also has a standard six-year, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty. This new Pacifica is available on dealership floors right now.


If you think of the Pacifica as a luxurious minivan with AWD, and it is; you get the gist of what FCA was thinking. It is a little too expensive and inefficient to go toe-to-toe with the 2021 Toyota Sienna, but it has a much nicer interior. On top of that, it is more utilitarian and drives nicer too.

Being isolated sucks. We needed to continue our cheesy family tradition in the safest, most logical way. All of this, without sacrificing the festive spirit of the season. I can honestly say that there isn’t another vehicle out there that would work as well under the circumstances.

As a comfortable, secure, utilitarian, sure-footed family hauler, it’s hard to beat.