There was a time when the minivan was seen as the pinnacle of the automotive market, U.S. buyers snapping up more than 2 million of them annually. But these days, those people-movers are almost an afterthought, family buyers largely migrating to SUVs and CUVs.
“Maybe this segment needs to go after utility vehicles,” suggests Tim Kuniskis who, among his many duties with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, oversees passenger car operations. And that includes the automakers remaining passenger car models.
The eponymous Chrysler brand has scored a reasonable success rethinking the minivan formula with its Pacifica line – which was the first FCA product offered with an optional plug-in hybrid powertrain. Now, the brand is looking to take things up a big notch with the introduction of the new Pacifica Pinnacle model.
Appropriately, Pinnacle is the most lavishly equipped version of the Chrysler Pacifica line. It moves things up a big notch, offering, among other things, optional all-wheel-drive, which can direct 100% of the vehicle’s torque to the rear wheels when needed. Just as importantly, owners don’t need to give up the stow-and-go seating to get it.
The Pinnacle features as many as 116 different safety features. Of the 97 that come standard, that includes LED headlights and the new Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking system.
“For 2021, we’re going all-in on safety,” said Kuniskis, noting that as much as the U.S. market has changed over the years, safety is clearly a major factor for family buyers choosing their next vehicle.
For the next model-year, Pinnacle will feature what Chrysler refers to as a “more aggressive and a little more athletic” front end, with a new, diamond-style grille finished in satin chrome.
The minivan rides on 18-inch wheels, though 20-inch rubber also is available.
Inside, the emphasis is on functionality, as has long been the case with the minivan. There’s a total of nearly 228 cubic liters of storage space, for one thing. And a new console adds dual level storage and a large pass-through area.
The people-mover also becomes the first FCA product to adopt the new Uconnect 5 infotainment system which takes the technology up another big notch, as well. The larger 10.1-inch touchscreen is now sharper and boasts better contrast. The system is significantly faster and also boasts a completely redesigned interface intended to make it quicker and easier to locate features and apps – with the driver even being able to integrate smartphone apps and then personalize the display’s layout.
While there are plenty of other high-tech features, including FamCam, a camera system that monitors the back of the minivan, and includes the ability to watch children in rear-facing seats, and new USB ports, Pinnacle still addresses more traditional luxury touch points. That includes quilted and hand-stitched Nappa leather seating in all three rows.
In terms of powertrains, buyers will have two options on the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle:
· An update Pentastar V-6 making 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic and is available in either front or all-wheel-drive; and
· The plug-in hybrid, which uses a modified version of that 3.6-liter V-6 paired with a dual-motor electric drive system. That allows up to 30 miles in all-electric mode and delivers an EPA-rated 80 MPGe, or miles-per-gallon-equivalent.
Pricing for the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle will be announced closer to the third quarter when it becomes available for ordering. Deliveries will start in the fourth quarter.