2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Mar 08, 2021

Introduction - Find the best Chrysler deals!

Chrysler Corporation invented the modern minivan segment in 1984. Today, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica remains one of the most popular vehicles in the segment, along with the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. Although a substantial number of former minivan owners have moved over to crossover SUVs, there remains a bedrock of loyal buyers who appreciate a minivan's superior people- and cargo-carrying capabilities, especially when it comes to ferrying kids, pets, and seniors.

The 7-passenger Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid adds impressive fuel economy to the minivan's list of charms. It is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), and it delivers up to 32 miles of electric-only range on a full charge of its lithium-ion battery. A Level 1 charging source, like a typical household electrical outlet, recharges the battery in about 14 hours. Switch to a Level 2, 240-volt power source, and the Pacific Hybrid's battery recharges in just over two hours.

When the battery reaches its minimum state of charge, the Pacifica Hybrid switches to gas-electric operation, continuing your travels for hundreds of miles. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the minivan averages 30 mpg in combined driving in this mode. Here's another money-saving plus: The Pacifica Hybrid is eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. And if you live in California, you get an additional $1,000 in cash in your pocket.

For 2021, the Pacifica gets a freshening with a new grille, LED headlamps, fog lamps, and tail lamps. The new front-end appearance helps differentiate the Pacifica from Chrysler's entry-level minivan, the Voyager, and it gives the Pacifica a slightly more substantial look in a bid to tempt buyers who might otherwise automatically default to a crossover SUV instead.

Chrysler also debuts a new range-topping Pinnacle trim. Among its many standard charms are:

  • Quilted premium leather seats with matching second-row seat pillows
  • A synthetic suede headliner
  • A larger center console
  • A triple-pane sunroof
  • 20-inch alloy wheels
  • A navigation system
  • A 20-speaker premium audio system
  • A rear-seat entertainment system
  • A surround-view camera
  • A semi-automated parking system

Opting for the Hybrid over the standard-issue, gas-only Pacifica means forgoing a few of the van's attractive features. Unlike with the non-hybrid Pacifica:

  • All-wheel drive is unavailable
  • The Hybrid also doesn't have second-row Stow' n Go seats that can fold into the floor to expand cargo capacity quickly
  • Hybrids also lack 8-passenger seating, power-folding third-row seats, and heated second-row seats
  • The charging apparatus stores in the spot where the nifty, in-van Stow' n Vac vacuum cleaner might otherwise reside
  • Run-flat tires are standard, replacing the temporary spare tire 

Also, Chrysler does not recommend trailer towing with the Hybrid. 

What Owners Say About the Chrysler Pacifica - Find the best Chrysler deals!

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

According to data collected from verified owners for the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 63% of Chrysler Pacifica owners are male (vs. 60% for the minivan segment), and the median age of a Pacifica owner is 61 years (vs. 54).

Owners say their favorite things about the Pacifica are (in descending order) the:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Powertrain

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Model or Segment are (in descending order) the: 

  • Driving comfort
  • Getting in and out
  • Setting up and starting
  • Infotainment system
  • Fuel economy

In the J.D. Power 2020 APEAL Study, the Pacifica ranked number two out of four minivans.

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid - Find the best Chrysler deals!

In the following sections, our independent expert gives an analysis of a top-of-the-line 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid with Pinnacle trim. It comes fully loaded with only dealer accessories available. The price of the vehicle came to $52,340, including the $1,495 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle Front Seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

Minivans are masters of easy entry, exit, and driving comfort. You just open a door and slide right in. They're also much roomier inside than all but the largest SUVs, equipped with three rows of seats legitimately suitable for adult habitation. In the Pacifica Hybrid, two people can ride up front, two can ride in the middle row, and three can fit in the third row. 

The Pacifica Pinnacle test vehicle's seats wore creamy Nappa leather, and the firm but comfortable front buckets had power adjustment, heating, and ventilation. The Hybrid's second-row seats don't fold into the floor like those in non-hybrid Pacificas because the big, 16 kWh lithium-ion battery lives there. Getting the van's maximum cargo room means you must remove the heavy second-row buckets, but the upside is the fixed-seat designs have better-shaped bottom cushions, making them more comfortable for adults on longer drives.

Power-assisted sliding side doors provide wide access to the rear seats for kids, seniors, pets, or bulky cargo without worrying about parking lot dings. The Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle has hands-free sliding side doors and a hands-free rear liftgate that can open with a wave of your leg as long as the key fob is in proximity.

Taking it with you is what minivans are all about, and in the Pacifica, storage space is abundant. A new, larger center console in the Pacifica Pinnacle bridges the gap to the dash and provides multiple cup holders, a large bin with USB and power ports, and a large open space under the console for a purse or tablet. 

Additionally, this minivan has a large glovebox, a covered bin under the center console armrest, and more stash space in open bins in the doors. However, the Pacifica Hybrid loses the nifty in-floor concealed storage ahead of the second-row seats, again because the battery lives there.

Aft of the 60/40 split-folding third-row seat is a deep well that's perfect for stashing as many as six large grocery bags standing up. And if one of the bags tips over, no problem, as the bin will keep grocery items from wandering too far afield.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Uconnect 5 Infotainment System Review

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Pacifica is the first North American Stellantis vehicle to use a new Uconnect 5 infotainment system with an Android operating system. Chrysler says it offers a processing speed that's five times faster than last year's. It is standard in all 2021 Pacifica Hybrid models. 

Elements of the Uconnect 5 system include:

  • 10.1-inch high-definition touchscreen display
  • Bluetooth pairing for two phones simultaneously
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto
  • Up to 12 USB-A and faster USB-C charge ports (multiple ports in each seating row)
  • Wireless charging for Qi-enabled phones
  • Integrated voice command
  • Voice text reply (reads selected texts out loud and suggests simple responses)
  • SiriusXM 360L satellite radio 
  • HD Radio
  • Amazon Alexa compatibility

Chrysler's Uconnect 5 is one of the more user-friendly infotainment systems to use, and among minivan competitors, the Pacifica's 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen is the largest currently available. 

The system's large, brightly colored screen tiles are easy to read and select on the fly, even on bumpy roads. Simple analog rotary knobs on the dashboard beneath the screen make adjusting volume or station tuning a breeze. Or, you can use the stereo buttons on the steering wheel. The standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto clean up the mess of USB cords on the console and allows cellphones to be stashed away in a pocket, purse, briefcase, or glovebox where it can't present a driving distraction.

With Limited or Pinnacle trim, the Pacifica Hybrid includes embedded navigation by TomTom and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. When the system detected a traffic jam on one section of the interstate, it automatically alerted me and suggested alternative routes.

The Pacifica's standard Alexa capability allows users to perform tasks like locking or unlocking the minivan's doors and starting or stopping the engine from the comfort of home. Inside the van, the list of Alexables expands to include such things as selecting a radio station, playing a podcast, getting directions to a destination, or making the cabin warmer. I had no trouble with the system locating the nearest Thai restaurant or medical facility.

Aboard the Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle test vehicle was the minivan's top audio offering, a rich-sounding 20-speaker Harman Kardon stereo. Also standard with Pinnacle trim is Uconnect Theater, a kid-pleasing second-row entertainment system with a pair of 10.1-inch flat screens on the backs of the front seatbacks. It comes with a Blu-Ray DVD player, a 115-volt power outlet, separate USB ports and HDMI inputs, wireless headphones, and individual remote controls. It also comes prepackaged with more than a dozen games for both kids and, well, older kids.

One of the neatest features in the Pacifica is the Fam Cam. Ceiling-mounted cameras over the rear seats allow parents to perform visual surveillance of the aft quarters, displayed on the main Uconnect display screen. The FamCam even allows front seaters to zoom in on subjects for closer inspection.

The Pacifica Hybrid also offers access to a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotpot.

What It's Like to Drive the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

JDPA_2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Rear View Action

The short answer is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid drives like a comfy midsize sedan, with carlike handling and fuel economy but with the roominess and people-carrying capability of a full-size SUV.

The Pacifica Hybrid adds the turbine-smooth drive-off feel and instant torque only an electrified drivetrain can provide. It's whisper-quiet, too, when in electric mode. Newly added sound insulation plus extra-thick acoustic windshield and front-door glass help hush a noisy world as well.

Leave home with a full battery charge, and you'll travel about 32 miles running on electricity. For many families, this is enough to handle daily running around, especially if you plug in the Pacifica during downtime between errands.

The rest of the time, The Pacifica Hybrid seamlessly blends the urgings of a 3.6-liter gas V6 and the two electric motors to maximize fuel economy. The total system output is 260 horsepower, good enough to hit 60 mph from a stop in just under eight seconds. While the Hybrid accelerates a bit slower than the gas-only version, it's more than enough for confident freeway merging and overtaking on 2-lane highways.

The Hybrid Pacifica weighs about 500 pounds more than its gas-only counterpart due to the large, lithium-ion hybrid battery, but that weight is carried low in the chassis and doesn't hurt handling or road-holding. Ride quality is pleasant, and body roll in corners is kept well in check. The Pacifica Hybrid's steering, while not particularly communicative, has a satisfying heft that won't wear you out on long drives. The steering is also nicely precise.

It's no corner carver, but the Pacifica Hybrid delivers a daily driving experience that's easy to live with. The brakes are more linear than those in most other hybrids, with a slight two-step feel as the initial regenerative braking (which recharges the battery on the fly) transitions into the mechanical brakes the harder the driver pushes on the pedal.

Safety and Advanced Driving Assistance Systems Review

JDPA_2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Front Action

Chrysler doesn't have a fancy name for its collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) in the 2021 Pacifica Hybrid. While certainly no laggard in this area, the Pacifica doesn't offer quite as many of these ADAS as some competitors. For 2021, however, most of them are standard instead of optional. 

Standard ADAS for all Pacifica Hybrid models include:

  • Forward-collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Automatic high-beam assistance
  • Backup camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Reverse parking collision-avoidance assistance 
  • Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Rear cross-traffic warning
  • Reverse parking distance warning

Pinnacle trim adds standard:

  • Front and rear parking distance warning (beeps faster the closer you get to obstacles)
  • Forward parking collision avoidance assistance (automatically brakes to avoid a collision when nosing into a parking space)
  • Surround-view camera (gives an overhead 360-degree view of the Pacifica and its immediate surroundings)
  • Perpendicular and parallel parking assist system (when activated, can detect and steer into and out of a parking space but does not operate the gear selector, accelerator, or brakes)

The Pacifica Hybrid is not available with lane-centering assistance, a safe exit warning system, a driver attention warning system, a rear-seat reminder system, or blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, as in some other 2021 vehicles.

In use, one bugaboo that becomes less irksome with familiarity is the location of the lane-keeping on/off button. Instead of locating it with the adaptive cruise control and following distance setting buttons on the steering wheel, Chrysler nestles the lane-keeping control among buttons for non-related functions on the center of the dashboard below the infotainment screen.

When using lane-keeping assistance, the system genuinely complements the adaptive cruise control experience. It lets the driver move around in the lane to dodge potholes, semi-truck tire treads, and other obstacles and only intervenes if the vehicle starts to wander out of its lane. If that happens, the system applies gentle corrective steering torque to nudge the Pacifica back between the lines. Otherwise, it stays in the background and makes keeping one's hands on the steering wheel feel more natural.

Keep in mind that this technology can be a real life-saver but is no substitute for an alert driver with both hands on the wheel and full attention focused on the road.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid FAQ - Find the best Chrysler deals!

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Cargo Space

Photo: Ron Sessions

How much cargo space does the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid have?

The Pacifica Hybrid offers the same commodious cargo space as the standard-issue Pacifica. You get 32.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats, 87.5 cu.-ft. behind the second row, and a maximum of 140.5 cu.-ft.

However, because the Hybrid does not have the retractable Stow' n Go second-row seats that fold down into the floor, maximizing volume in this version of the van requires extra effort. You must unlatch the Pacifica Hybrid's second-row bucket seats and remove them. That's a two-person job as the fixed Hybrid seats are heavy. You also need to find a place to store them.

Most Pacifica Hybrid owners won't need to bother, though, since space is abundant inside, even with the second-row buckets in place.

Does the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid get good mileage?

The short answer is, for a vehicle as roomy and accommodating as the Pacifica Hybrid, the fuel mileage is good. 

According to the EPA, the front-drive 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is rated at 82 MPGe in combined city and highway driving for the first 100 miles. That's because the Pacifica Hybrid runs solely on the 16 kWh lithium-ion battery for up to 32 miles before its 3.6-liter V6 engine fires up. When the Pacifica Hybrid operates in conventional hybrid mode, the EPA says to expect 30 mpg in combined city/highway operation. 

After a week of driving, 80% of which was on 75-mph interstate and 55-65 mph secondary highways, the onboard average fuel economy display indicated 35.6 mpg. With the (smaller) 16.5-gallon fuel tank in the Pacifica Hybrid, that pencils out to a theoretical driving range over 575 miles. We recharged the van each night, helping to achieve this figure.

Is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid safe?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2021 Pacifica Hybrid a 5-star overall rating. The van earns 4-star frontal-impact and rollover resistance ratings, coupled with 5-star side-impact tests.

As this review was published, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had not named the 2021 Pacifica a Top Safety Pick because it hadn't yet assessed headlight and ADAS performance. In crash-test assessments, the minivan earns the highest possible ratings.

How much is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid?

Prices for the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid are $39,995 for the base Touring, $42,295 for the better-equipped Touring L, $45,620 for the feature-packed Limited, and $50,845 for the range-topping and new-for-2021 Pinnacle. All Pacifica Hybrids are front-wheel drive only. The destination charge for all models is $1,495.

What are the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid competitors?

In the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study (IQS), the Kia Sedona was the minivan segment's highest-ranked model. The Chrysler Pacifica did not rank higher than the segment average.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study (APEAL), the Honda Odyssey was the highest-rated model in the van segment for overall appeal. The Chrysler Pacifica was the second-highest-ranked model.

The other major competitor to the 2021 Pacifica is the redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna. Next year, the all-new 2022 Kia Carnival replaces the Sedona and will be a competitor to the Pacifica.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Chrysler deals!

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Pinnacle Rear Quarter

Photo: Ron Sessions

Despite an overall trend favoring small and midsize crossovers and SUVs, there remain a half-million or so U.S. vehicle buyers who purchase minivans each year. While the segment is significantly smaller than in the past, there's a core demand for vehicle attributes only minivans can fill. Chrysler, which arguably invented the front-drive, car-based minivan segment nearly four decades ago, remains a significant player in the segment.

The 2021 Pacifica's goodness reflects Chrysler's longstanding focus on minivans. Five years since its 2017 introduction, continuous improvement, and updated product features keep the Pacifica relevant to its customers. And the Pacifica Hybrid, currently the company's only electrified product in the U.S., is also the only plug-in hybrid minivan money can buy.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

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. © 2021 J.D. Power

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