2020 Chrysler Pacifica Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jul 30, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Chrysler deals!

To own a minivan is to love a minivan, if only for that period of time when your kids and their friends and all of their stuff require non-stop shuttle service. Minivans combine the interior room of a full-size SUV with the fuel economy of a midsize crossover, making them perfect for daily driving and road-tripping. And even though most people think minivans are boring, the segment is about to get exciting.

In 2021, a redesigned Toyota Sienna arrives and comes only with a hybrid powertrain and front-wheel or all-wheel drive. In 2022, a redesigned Kia Sedona goes on sale blending SUV styling cues with the practicality only a minivan can offer. In the face of this new competition, the Honda Odyssey gets a few updates for the 2021 model year in order to keep it fresh. 

Chrysler isn’t sitting out this flurry of activity in the minivan segment. For 2020, it debuted a lower-cost version of the Pacifica wearing a classic minivan name: Voyager. Next year, the 2021 Pacifica gets a thorough refresh with improved styling, next-generation infotainment technology, a Pinnacle luxury trim level, and available all-wheel drive.

However, between now and then, Chrysler is clearing out 2020 Pacificas with big discounts and zero-interest financing. Is it worth grabbing one of these deals, or should you wait for the 2021 model?

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus Front View

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Pacifica Touring L equipped with the Advanced Safety Tec Group, the Wheel and Tire Group, the Premium Audio Group, a navigation system, and a panoramic glass roof. The price came to $43,915, including the $1,495 destination charge.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Chrysler deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Pacifica, it is helpful to understand who buys this minivan, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 63% of Pacifica owners are male (vs. 60% for the segment) and their median age is 61 years (vs. 54 years).

Owners say their favorite things about the Pacifica are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving feel, interior design, feeling of safety, and powertrain. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the minivan segment:

  • Exterior styling
  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Power of engine/motor
  • Audio system sound quality
  • Vehicle feel when started up

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Pacifica are (in descending order) the driving comfort, getting in and out, setting up and starting, infotainment, and fuel economy. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the minivan segment:

  • Vehicle protection
  • Getting in/out front seats
  • Rear seat comfort
  • Ability to hold personal items
  • Steering/handling: slippery conditions

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Pacifica ranked 2nd out of 4 minivans.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Chrysler deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

As far as minivans go, the Chrysler Pacifica does have a sense of style. And when you equip one with the S Appearance Package and 20-inch wheels with a “Black Noise” finish, no other minivan can match the Pacifica for good looks and a custom aesthetic. The white Touring L test vehicle wasn’t as compelling, but it did get decent-looking 18-inch aluminum wheels that cost $1,195 extra.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Rear View

Next year, the 2021 Pacifica gets new styling front and rear, resulting in a crisper, more tailored look.

Interior

Open the Pacifica’s doors and you’ll find an appealing cabin composed of organic, flowing forms. The test vehicle had black leather seats over light gray interior panels, resulting in an attractive, upscale appearance.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Dashboard

Controls are logically laid out, and Chrysler uses a rotary knob for the transmission shifter. It resides to the left of knobs for the stereo and climate controls, so make sure you don’t accidentally use the wrong one.

Quality is good, with soft-touch surfaces where you want them and hard plastic panels in areas prone to dirt and scratches. The light gray color hides much of this, giving you a second reason to consider it. As is true of any minivan, the Pacifica supplies a ton of in-cabin storage.

A new luxury-themed Pinnacle trim level is coming for 2021, and both Limited and Pinnacle trim get substantially improved storage solutions.

Getting In and Out

One of the biggest benefits of owning a minivan is the ease with which you can load passengers and cargo. Especially if you’re a parent with babies, toddlers, or young children who require assistance with child safety seats, the sliding doors are a gift that just keeps on giving every single time you take your offspring with you.

Unlike with many SUVs, you don’t step up and into a Pacifica. You slide over and in, easy peasy-style. Well, for the front seats, anyway. 

Most Pacificas have second-row captain’s chairs that fold and collapse into the floor in order to maximize space. While this certainly is handy, it also forces a design with narrow cushions and an overabundance of thigh support. This can make entry and exit harder than it needs to be.

Hybrid models do not have this same second-row seat design because this version of the van doesn’t offer Stow ‘N Go captain’s chairs. As a result, the Pacifica Hybrid is more comfortable for second-row passengers.

Getting into and out of the third-row seat is also challenging due to its steeply canted bottom cushion, and pass-through space with the second-row seat tilted forward isn’t particularly generous. Note, though, that with a child safety seat installed in the second-row seat, it can still tilt and slide forward to load people into the third-row seat.

Cargo space behind the third-row seat measures 32.2 cubic feet. Fold and tumble it into its storage well (assuming you don’t carry a bunch of junk there), and cargo room expands to 87.5 cubic feet. Maximum storage capacity measures 140.5 cubic feet.

Don’t expect major changes in these areas when it comes to the 2021 Pacifica.

Setting Up and Starting

Settle in up front, push the engine start button, and it’s time to set the Pacifica up to your personal preferences.

To do this, you’ll use the driver information system located between the gauges within the instrumentation cluster, and the Uconnect infotainment display screen. Both are intuitive and you can figure out what to do without opening the owner’s manual, but you might need that reference material when you decide to rearrange the icons on the Uconnect menu.

Choosing other vehicles settings is easy, too, and on some versions of the van a memory system saves your preferences to your key fob.

For 2021, the Pacifica adds new technology that could make setting up easier…or more difficult.

Infotainment System

The test vehicle had Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display, an optional navigation system, and an available 13-speaker Alpine premium sound system. 

This system equips the Pacifica with Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and SiriusXM Guardian connected services. Highlights of the SiriusXM Guardian package include SOS emergency calling, Family Drive Alerts for when you’ve got teenaged drivers in the household, a vehicle finder service, and remote door locking and engine starting using a smartphone/smartwatch app.

Generally speaking, Uconnect remains one of the easier systems to use. In part, this is because the stereo and climate controls are largely divorced from the screen. Radio station pre-sets are still embedded into the system, though, as are the heated and ventilated seat controls.

Nevertheless, on an East Coast road trip the Pacifica kept the whole family entertained while supplying clear instructions to destinations from the Boston area all the way to Washington D.C.

Next year, Chrysler will add its next-generation Uconnect 5 infotainment system to the 2021 Pacifica, dramatically improving an already good offering.

Keeping You Safe

With a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and 5-star ratings in all crashworthiness assessments from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2020 Chrysler Pacifica feels safe because it is safe.

However, the standard safety technology offering is skimpy, amounting to a blind-spot warning system. This changes for 2021, when Chrysler says it will add 14 features as standard equipment including a new automatic emergency braking system that stops when it detects a pedestrian in the van’s path.

In the meantime, at least the Advanced Safety Tec Group, which contains numerous advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), is quite affordable at $995. In addition to forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, and more, this upgrade installs adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, automatic high-beam headlights, a semi-autonomous parking assist system, and a surround-view camera system. Front and rear parking sensors come in the package, too, complete with automatic braking to prevent bumper scrapes.

During a road trip, these systems worked as expected the majority of the time, though truth be told I preferred to drive with some of them shut off. It sure is nice that Chrysler provides both standard and adaptive cruise control, because sometimes you want the former but not the latter.

Powertrain

Two powertrains are available with the 2020 Pacifica. The most popular one is a 287-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. It powers the front wheels, though toward the very end of calendar-year 2020 a short run of Pacificas will offer an optional all-wheel-drive system.

You can also get a Pacifica Hybrid, which is eligible for up to a $7,500 federal income tax credit plus any state and local incentives. This is a plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) based on the 3.6-liter V-6 engine. It offers up to 32 miles of purely electric driving, and when the battery runs down the powertrain automatically switches to gas-electric operation and returns an estimated 30 mpg in combined driving. 

Chrysler says this powertrain offers a total of 260 horsepower and, of course, the benefit of instant electric motor torque. But the PHEV components add plenty of weight, potentially dulling performance.

The test vehicle had the standard V-6 engine, which supplies plenty of power. Whether loaded with family and luggage, or taking three rows of people to the beach, the Pacifica easily handled its role as a people-mover and effortlessly cruised Interstate highways.

Toward the end of the 2020 model-year run, a small batch of Pacifica AWD Launch Edition models will introduce the all-wheel-drive system that will be more widely available in the refreshed 2021 version of the van.

Fuel Economy

During testing, most miles were driven on highways and freeways. As a result, the Pacifica averaged 26.7 mpg over hundreds of miles, most driven with two adults and two kids aboard, a week’s worth of luggage, and the air conditioning blasting. For reference, the EPA rates a Pacifica to return 19 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg in combined driving.

Assuming that your daily driving will come closer to 22 mpg, on average, given the Pacifica’s 19-gallon fuel tank you should be able to cover 418 miles on a tank. Most likely, though, you’ll get gas at the 375-mile mark or sooner.

Also, for what it’s worth, Chrysler says the Pacifica Hybrid offers as much as 520 miles of total driving range.

Driving Comfort

Over the course of hundreds of miles of driving, the test vehicle’s front seats proved comfortable, in part due to the inclusion of an 8-way power adjustable front passenger’s seat in the Premium Audio Group. The air conditioning system was also mighty effective in high-heat, high-humidity situations. And the acoustic windshield that comes with the Advanced Safety Tec Group cut down on wind noise on the highway.

Though our pre-teen children did not complain, the second-row Stow ‘N Go seats are perhaps the least comfortable captain’s chairs offered in any minivan. They are narrow, making them less accommodating of larger people. They have exaggerated thigh support due to the bottom cushion design. And they can be hard to get into and out of.

The third-row seat suffers from the same steeply angled lower cushion. Here, though, the added thigh support is a bonus. Gracefully hoisting yourself out of this seat, however, can prove challenging.

Driving Feel

Aside from its satisfying drivetrain, the Chrysler Pacifica is agreeable to drive. Obviously, such a vehicle isn’t designed to reward enthusiasts seeking to take every curve and corner with maximum speed. But in the real world, the way most people drive, it’s just about perfect.

Brake pedal calibration and steering effort levels are tuned for effortless driving, while the suspension supplies a smooth ride coupled with capable handling. The Pacifica feels solid and secure on the road, even with the added weight of a full house of passengers.

Nothing about the Pacifica makes you want to drive it for the sake of driving. At the same time, nothing about the Pacifica makes you dread driving it when you need to go somewhere. This is exactly what many people want in a vehicle like this one. 

Final Impressions - Find the best Chrysler deals!

In the next couple of years, the Chrysler Pacifica will face new competition in the minivan segment. However, by offering AWD and plug-in hybrid powertrains, high-tech safety and infotainment systems, new styling, convenience, and luxury features, and more, the updated 2021 Pacifica will be up to the fight.

In the meantime, the heavily discounted 2020 Chrysler Pacifica remains worthy of your consideration. Stylish, safe, and thoughtfully outfitted for family-hauling duty, it is chock-full of value as Chrysler closes the model-year out.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals. This review is based on impressions of a 2018 Pacifica model. Chrysler has made no significant changes to the vehicle since that time.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2020 J.D. Power

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