Chrysler has always been at the forefront of the industry when the minivan is concerned and the 2021 Pacifica lineup is no different. At the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler revealed an updated Pacifica with new exterior/ interior styling, additional powertrains, updated technology, and more standard safety features. While the plug-in Hybrid variant of the Pacifica has been around for a few years (since 2017), the 2021 model receives all of the same benefits of the non-hybrid versions. Several months ago I reviewed the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and highlighted all of those updates. This review will focus specifically on the new Hybrid variant of the Pacifica.
The Pacifica Hybrid is powered by a 3.6L V6 engine and two electric motors backed up by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery with a combined 260 horsepower. It is exclusively available with front wheel drive and is mated to a continuously variable transmission. While the overall horsepower is less than the non-hybrid V6 (287 HP) the electrification gives it some zip off the line with estimates of a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds. It seamlessly transitions between gas and electric modes without any hesitations or jerkiness. The added weight of the battery in the van seems to ground the Pacifica more making you feel more connected to the road. The ride was extremely smooth absorbing road imperfections and was very quiet. Even when transitioning from gas to electric, the noises are kept to a minimum. Be cautious of 16-year-old drivers who could easily sneak out with this van without making any noises as it rolls out of the driveway.
The real value in this model is with the fuel economy. When the Pacifica Hybrid arrived with a full 19-gallon fuel tank, it displayed a range of 520 miles. EPA estimates are 82 MPGe combined city/highway or 30MPG if you're only using the gasoline. The all-electric range estimate is 32 miles. Comparatively, the AWD gasoline version of the Pacifica I drove in December had a combined rating of 20 MPG and when full offered a range of 300 miles. Charging time on the battery will vary depending on the source. In a standard 120V outlet at my house, it took approximately 10-11 hours to get its full charge, but when hooked up to a Chargepoint 240V quick charge station, that time frame was reduced to a little over two hours. After a week of my normal commuting and use of the Pacifica, I still had nearly 150 miles left in the tank whereas most vehicles ranges have been depleted and required a fill-up.
Unlike other plug-in hybrids that will let you choose which mode you'd like to drive in, the Chrysler chooses for you. For example, when I was driving the Volvo XC90 Recharge I had the option to select a pure electric mode for around town and then could save the electric power and drive it in gasoline mode on the highway. In the Pacifica those choices don't exist, but you can adjust your driving while watching the gauges to be an eco-friendlier driver (more gradual in acceleration and less harsh on the brakes). Generally, the Pacifica has mastered this shift between electric and gasoline so the average driver won't ever realize which mode they are in nor do they need to worry about making those drive mode choices while driving.
Outside, the exterior of the Pacifica Hybrid looks like any other model with the exception of the eHybrid badging and the additional plug port on the driver's side fender. It's available in four trim levels, Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle (new for 2021). Gone from the hybrid lineup are the 35th Anniversary Edition and the Red S trim level. All of them receive the same updated front fascia with a new grille and LED headlights. And around back, the taillamp runs the entire width of the hatch with LED lighting that lights up the entire back giving it an updated, modern look. One exterior feature that is not available on the Hybrid model is a trailer tow.
If you're minivan shopping, one area that is likely very important is the interior space and features. The Pacifica Hybrid offers a 10.1" touchscreen at the center of the dash that is paired to Chrysler's updated Uconnect 5 infotainment system. The system is intuitive and easy to use. It integrates with Amazon Alexa, and offers wireless connections for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The home screen can be personalized with up to six profiles and the Bluetooth can connect to two devices at the same time. Enhanced Hybrid Electric Pages and Smartphone Control 2.0 provide support for up to three customer-defined charging schedules.
One feature that's new for 2021 is the FamCAM interior camera. This is available across the lineup and gives the driver a view (that can be zoomed in) on each of the seats in the second and third row. For parents with infants that are rear-facing, this gives them an opportunity to see them directly on the screen rather than through a double mirror set-up with the rear-view mirror. Speaking of technology, as those little ones get older, the Pacifica Hybrid provides a class exclusive rear seat entertainment package. Behind both the driver and passenger seats are flip up screens that are loaded with games such as concentration, matching, 'Chrysler says', educational activities, spot it, and more. My five-year-old thoroughly enjoyed these screens and was able to collaboratively play games with his sister in the next seat.
There's a lot of passenger space inside the Pacifica and it's easy to access both the second and third rows with the hands-free dual power sliding doors. Hybrid variations only come with the captain's chairs and 7-passenger seating. The second-row captain's chairs will fold and slide forward for easy access to the third row if you do not want to climb through the middle. Opting for the hybrid model also means you lose a few other interior comfort features such as the third-row power folding seats, stow 'n vac (built in vacuum), heated second row seats, spare tire, and perhaps one of the most popular options, the second row stow 'n go seating/storage. The second-row seats, however, are still removable... but must be lifted out the old-fashioned way. Also available in the Pacifica is full panoramic glass roof which extends from the front to the second row. And an additional fixed position glass roof sits above the third-row seats.
Cargo capacity is 140.5 cu.ft. behind the first row, 87.5 cu.ft. behind the second, and 32.3 cu.ft. behind the third row. Those number are fairly average to good compared to competing minivans. When compared to other hybrid/EV crossovers though, the space in the Pacifica exceeds them and proves why the minivan segment still has a place amongst families.
Safety continues to be a priority for Chrysler with over 97 standard features in the 2021 Pacifica which Chrysler says is the most in the industry. For 2021, Pacifica has added 14 new-as-standard safety features across the lineup which include things such as new LED lights, pedestrian automatic emergency braking (PAEB), forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane sense lane departure warning and much more. As daylight in Chicago is minimal in the winter, I really appreciated the LED lighting as they provide better visibility in addition to looking good when lit up. The new PAEB system works with the latest generation of the radar, forward camera, and braking system to activate when a pedestrian is in the path. The system works similarly to collision mitigation system for vehicles, but this system is fine-tuned to apply the brake even when it's a pedestrian in the path. Most of the driver assist features such as the park assist, lane departure warning, auto start/stop etc. can all be adjusted to driver preferences or turned off completely. The Pacifica has scored above average in NHTSA safety tests and gets an overall five-star rating.
When the Pacifica Hybrid first came out, it was the only hybrid option in this segment but now directly competes with the all hybrid 2021 Toyota Sienna. The minivan segment has seen an overhaul for 2021 with the all-new Sienna Hybrid added to the mix as well as the all-new Kia Carnival (non-hybrid) and a re-freshed Honda Odyssey (non-hybrid). Chrysler remains the originator of the minivan and is still a top contender as it stays just far enough ahead with technology and the plug-in hybrid options. Hybrid models start at $40,295 for the Touring model and can get as high as $51,225 for the Pinnacle top trim. Touring L and Limited models fall in the middle of that range. Non-hybrid variants of the Pacifica range from $35,045 to $53,390. The Pacifica Hybrid is a solid option for families that offers all of the minivan essentials while still saving you at the pump while being kind to the environment.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Limited
Exterior Color: Maximum Steel Metallic
Interior Color: Deep Mocha Nappa Leather Notable Options: Uconnect Theater Family Group ($2,495)
Price as tested: $49,835 (with destination charge)