2020 Chrysler Pacifica review: Still a great option
The 2020 Chrysler Pacifica is probably the best minivan you can buy today. We've had two Pacificas in our long-term fleet, both a standard gas-powered model as well as a plug-in hybrid. After extensive testing, we loved each one. If you're in the market for a three-row family-hauler, there's really only one reason not to get one of these minivans right now, and that's because the vastly updated 2021 model is set to launch later this year.
If you just can't wait, the current Pacifica is still an outstanding product. Not only does it have the most versatile interior in the minivan segment, thanks to its Stow 'n Go second-row seats, it's also graced with an upscale interior, has a superb multimedia system, and offers features aplenty. Beyond all that, it's a seriously attractive machine, dressed in elegant, almost windswept styling. You may not be a fan of the minivan form factor, but it's hard to argue with what this product delivers.
Feels like quality
Generally, Chrysler has not had an enviable reputation for quality. In spite of this, the Pacifica feels rock solid. Nothing about it is frail or flimsy. Tug on an exterior door handle and it's sturdy. The rotary shifter is reassuringly robust as you click through the gears. This minivan's buttons and switches all seem built for the long haul.
Not only does the Pacifica Limited I'm testing here exude quality, it looks the part, too. Its dashboard design is flowing and smooth, dressed up with attractive materials and French seams. The leather is soft and offset by contrast-color piping. Even the care designers put into crafting this minivan's instrument cluster is apparent. The analog tachometer and speedometer are embellished with icy-blue accent lighting, which looks rich.
The Pacifica may not be as historically reliable as a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna, but in many ways this Chrysler feels more thoughtfully designed and artfully crafted than either of those competitors.
Embellishing my tester's already handsome styling is Chrysler's S Appearance Package, a modestly priced $795 extra. It includes things like Nappa leather, black trim both inside and out, special badging and a roof rack. Beyond that, this minivan is fitted with optional 21-inch wheels, which help give it an almost sinister look. Those rollers cost $1,095 and come wrapped in Falken all-season tires.
A people-pleasing cargo carrier
When it comes to passenger comfort, the Pacifica deserves plenty of praise. Its front buckets are supportive enough that even cross-country drives shouldn't leave you feeling like you fell down a flight of stairs.
This van's aft-most bench seat is also more than hospitable, with ample space for heads and legs. Even lanky adults should have no trouble fitting or being comfortable for hours. Making it a breeze to get back there, the second-row buckets tip forward in one smooth motion, providing a wide pathway for easy access. In my tester, passengers relegated to steerage still receive a first-class experience, treated to amenities like sliding sunshades, power-reclining backrests and reading lights. There's even a USB port for keeping today's all-important mobile devices juiced up.
Increasing this van's versatility, at the push of a button, that split third-row seat folds into the floor automatically. The mechanism and motors make all kinds of crunching and whirring noises, but in just a few seconds you can transform the Pacifica from a people-hauler into a cargo-transporter.
But between this minivan's first and third rows is where the magic really happens. Stow 'n Go is an ingenious bit of engineering that allows the Pacifica's second-row buckets, which also recline and can be heated, to quickly and easily fold away, leaving a flat floor in their place. It's almost like Chrysler built a minivan with a basement. You can store stuff beneath passengers' feet, but as required, those second-row buckets tuck away, folding up like a piece of origami. The only real downside to Stow 'n Go is that the front seats have to be moved all the way forward before you can drop those second-row chairs, but this is a minor annoyance compared to what competing minivans make you go through.
The Pacifica's second-row seats are slightly less comfortable than what you get in an Odyssey; however, Chrysler's solution is still far superior. If you need maximum cargo space in the Honda , you've got to completely remove its second-row seats, and they're real backbreakers, clocking in at around 70 pounds apiece. Then, after herniating a disc or three in your back, you've got to clear a spot in the garage to store the damn things. Yeah, no thanks.
But there's much more to the Pacifica than just comfort and storage space. This minivan offers plenty of technology as well.
The Limited model I'm testing here comes with a range of amenities like power sliding doors and an automatic lift gate. Keyless entry with push-button start is included as well, ditto for remote start, which is perfect for preconditioning the Pacifica's cabin in adverse weather while increasing your carbon footprint at the same time.
A Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, integrated navigation and support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard fare on Limited models. Per usual, it's responsive and easy to use, plus it includes 4G LTE connectivity and has an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot for on-the-go connectivity.
A 20-speaker Harman Kardon sound system ensures everyone gets a concert-quality listening experience. This extra is totally worth the $695 Chrysler charges for it.
Keeping messes to a minimum, a Stow 'n Vac in-vehicle vacuum is included here. It's mounted along the driver's side of the vehicle next to the second-row seat. It should be super-handy for cleaning up all the messes that tend to come with minivan ownership, things like dirty footprints, dropped fruit snacks, animal cracker crumbs and the like.
Amusing second-row passengers is the Uconnect Theater entertainment system. With a pair of screens, a smattering of ports, a 115-volt power outlet and even a Blu-ray player, it should keep folks of all ages from going stir-crazy on long drives. This options group adds $1,995 to the sticker price.
Finally, no modern vehicle is complete without a raft of driver-assistance technologies. Here, the $995 Advanced Safety Tech Group throws features like rain-sensing windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and more into the mix. It also includes automatic high beams, which are some of the most responsive in the business, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. This last item works extremely well, being both quick witted and smooth, even in dense traffic on the highway.
Six cylinders, nine speeds
Smooth is also an adjective that describes the Pacifica's drivetrain. This minivan is powered by a potent and refined 3.6-liter V6 engine. With variable valve timing and lift, it delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, all of which gets routed to the front tires through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
That ZF-designed gearbox is mostly smooth, shuffling through its ratios without drawing much attention to itself. The only problem is the transmission can be a little reluctant to downshift. Getting it to drop a few gears requires a big ol' prod of the accelerator and some patience as it sorts out your request.
The Pacifica's acceleration is strong, moving with enthusiasm when you give it the spurs. Even as the tachometer needle reaches the upper end of its range, the engine remains relatively quiet, with minimal vibration making its way into the cabin.
The standard stop-start system is also super-smooth, halting combustion when waiting at a red light or while stationary in a drive-through lane. Lift your foot off the brake pedal and the Pacifica's engine is up and running again in an instant. Naturally, this feature improves around-town fuel economy. Expect 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on highway trips. Combined, this van is rated at 22 mpg.
The Pacifica's steering wheel is chunky and nicely detailed, with large buttons, perforated leather and a contract-color accent piece running around the rim's circumference. As for handling, the tiller is nicely weighted and surprisingly accurate for a vehicle that weighs more than 4,300 pounds. Overall, it's more comfortable and far better to drive than the Land Rover Discovery Sport I recently tested, though it's also nearly as expensive.
Buy now or hold out?
The fully loaded Pacifica Limited seen here checks out for a substantial $51,515, including the above-mentioned options and $1,495 in destination charges. To be certain, that's a lot of scratch, but at least it buys you a lot of vehicle.
The current-generation Pacifica has been on sale for about four years now. This means it's right on schedule for a refresh, which the automaker is slated to deliver. If you want the latest and greatest Chrysler minivan, hold out until the fourth quarter. You'll be able to get a Pacifica with an even more impressive infotainment system and all-wheel drive. But, if you're content owning something a little older, a product that's still an excellent choice, grab the 2020 model. Either way, you really can't go wrong.