"Load every rift with ore," Romantic poet John Keats advised his friend and mentor Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1820.
Shelley, famous for making his quill pen fly across the pages while munching soda crackers during all-night writing sessions, was rich, famous, a rock star of his age. He was a great poet but, had he followed his young friend's advice to polish, tighten, and rewrite — in writing, that's an echo — he might have loaded every clause with gold and attained Shakespeare's clarity.
What Shelley eschewed, Chrysler embraced with the Pacifica minivan. In the five years since it rolled out the replacement for the estimable Town & Country, Chrysler has worked out the bugs and refined its voluminous people hauler.
The 2021 Pacifica is smooth, powerful, and quiet. It offers more standard safety features than any competitor and is chock-full of people-pleasing goodies, such as the best infotainment system in the business and up to 14 USB ports, some of them the hyper-fast charging Type C.
Minivans on the rebound
Yes, yes, I know the common wisdom is that minivans are passé, but it turns out that millennials are finally having families and finding the vehicles that used to haul them to soccer practices and dance recitals to be spacious and utilitarian.
With carlike ride and drive characteristics, 197 cubic feet of cargo space, enough technology to please younger buyers, all-wheel drive and an optional plug-in hybrid system, the Pacifica is generally regarded as the best minivan you can buy.
That's not only my opinion, it's a view shared by reviewers I respect for their fairness, objectivity, and comprehensiveness. Consumer Reports and Car and Driver rate the Pacifica No. 1 while. U.S. News and World Report places the Pacifica one notch below the Honda Odyssey.
Edmunds puts the long-in-tooth Toyota Sienna among the elite, and so would I. Though it thirsts for a redesign (the last came 11 years ago), the Sienna is well-built and is powered by a reliable and buttery smooth V-6.
Wide range of prices
Chrysler has minivans that range from a budget-priced Dodge Caravan, starting at $27,530, all the way up to a Pacifica Pinnacle AWD that costs nearly twice as much. Our tester stickered out at $54,885, delivered.
That's a lot more than I ever dreamed of paying for a minivan, but the Pinnacle lives up to its name. Every rift is loaded with ore. From the moment one opens a door, the van exudes a sense of luxurious quality.
It is packed with premium appointments, such as Caramel Nappa leather seats with quilted seat bolsters and perforated seat inserts on all three rows, including the second-row captain's chairs. Unique, new, second-row comfort lumbar pillows feature an embossed Chrysler logo and match the leather seats with suede pillow backs.
Upfront, mid-century Timber Hydro bezels on the instrument panel deliver a "pop" of wood styling. Satin Chrome plating on the seat controls and sliding-door handles, high-end Berber-construction floor mats, and Satin Chrome door sill guards complete the interior.
The exterior stands out with new Platinum Chrome 20-inch wheels and Platinum Chrome grille surround, moldings, and exterior badging, including a new Pinnacle side model badge.
If you're gonna charge luxury prices, you gotta deliver luxury, and Chrysler does.
Standard on Pinnacle is Chrysler's Safety Sphere Package, which includes a 360-degree camera, and assistance for parallel or perpendicular parking.
A new FamCAM interior camera provides front-seat passengers a view of rear-facing child seat occupants in the second row and even allows the grownups to zoom in on passengers. Also standard is a Uconnect Theater with a Blu-ray player. A Harman Kardon Premium sound system with a 10-inch rear quarter trim subwoofer and 19-speaker system provides concert-hall music reproduction as true as anything in a Lexus or Mercedes-Benz.
AWD a first
Chrysler was late to the game with all-wheel-drive for its minivans, but that turned out to be a good thing. Taking technology from its many off-road vehicles, Chrysler gave the Pacifica the most advanced AWD system in its class.
A power transfer unit allows the front-wheel-drive vehicle to automatically shift all its torque to the rear if needed. A three-piece drive shaft can stop itself from spinning when not in use, which eliminates parasitic power loss, improves efficiency, and reduces emissions.
The system engages automatically, based on a variety of sensor inputs that signal when enhanced traction is beneficial. For best traction performance, AWD is engaged when the Pacifica begins to accelerate from a standing stop. Other inputs that signal AWD engagement include:
Cold exterior temperature
Use of windshield wipers
Slip detected at the front wheels
Heavy acceleration at certain vehicle speeds, such as overtaking during passing
Electronic stability control activation
Abrupt steering or sudden throttle inputs
Rough road conditions/grades
The Pacifica is not exciting to drive and it doesn't need to be. It is comfortable to drive, and that's the box it needs to check.
We think an EPA estimated average fuel economy is dreadfully low in today's environment (pun intended). The Pinnacle Hybrid is $50,845, will average 80 mpg, will last longer, and is eligible for a $7,500 federal income tax credit.
That fills all the rifts with ore.