Ah, the minivan. For some reason, society has labeled the minivan as the soul-sucker of all cars, the one you “settle for” when you have no choice. And truthfully, today’s modern minivan is anything but a step down from other vehicles on the road. In fact, it’s a full level above them I’d say.
After a week behind the wheel of the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle AWD followed up by a week with the e-Hybrid version (which we took camping), we’re here to tell you that owning a minivan is actually good for the soul in so many ways.
The Pinnacle of Modern Family Transportation
There’s definitely a reason this particular version of the Chrysler Pacifica is called the Pinnacle. It is the absolute best of the best in terms of interior amenities, design and quality. Stepping into the Pinnacle is like stepping into a really big Aston Martin. No joke.
The diamond-quilted baseball tan leather seating, the two-tone stitching on the dash, the suede headliner and the second-row leather-wrapped pillows complete with the Chrysler logo etched into the front (and more diamond quilting) is shocking, but in a very good way.
Our particular Pinnacle model was equipped with the second row captain chairs, which are exactly the same size and comfort level as the front row seats. And in the third row, that same level of luxury continues - even with the ability to recline (but they sadly don’t get pillows).
Besides the luxurious leather coverings, the Pacifica Pinnacle is also equipped with a host of high-end gadgets designed to make your life as a driver and parent that much easier.
Fam Cam Jam and Onboard Games
By far the absolute best bit of tech found in the Pacifica Pinnacle is the nifty Fam Cam.
Located on the roof just after the second row, an aerial camera is mounted that allows the front seat passengers to check in and observe both the second and third row any time they like. Not only does it give an entire overhead look at all 5 (or 6) seats, but you can also zoom in on any specific seat should you want to take a closer look.
I wish I’d had a feature like this when my son was a baby and in a rear-facing seat. Sure, we installed a mirror so I could see his face in my rearview, but the peace of mind an overhead camera brings with a newborn is a real game changer.
It’s not just the parents that get cool tech to fiddle with in the Pinnacle.
The moment my 9-year-old got into his uber comfortable second-row captain’s chair, he’d flipped up his personal screen and was already involved in a game of hangman before we’d even left our condo parking lot.
The system isn’t just intuitive, it’s easy to use. And the hangman word game became our activity of choice for all drives, with both of us trying to guess the word. Of course, had there been a second passenger with Owen, they could have challenged one another via the two screens and played together there, as well.
DVD playback is a breeze, and the only thing you have to do as a parent is insert the movie up front. All other controls are handled by the second row occupants, and wireless headphones ensure the entire vehicle doesn’t need to hear what’s playing. And, the front seat can still listen to music/radio even if a movie is playing in the back.
This multifaceted minivan also features vacuum attachments in every row - and trust us when we say: this is a parent’s absolute dream. Having spent many a time digging Cheerios out of media car carpets, we can attest to how much easier it would have been had each car come equipped with its own cleaning equipment.
Drives as Smooth as it Looks
If there’s one thing we adore about all minivans it’s the ease of ingress and egress, as well as the visibility. The Honda Odyssey was always our favourite for entry and exit - the seat is perfectly hip height and we barely had to step up to get in. Well, the Pacfica has given it a run for its money.
Equipped with a 3.6L V6 the Pinnacle AWD produces a well-sorted 287 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque handled by a 9-speed transmission that we actually didn’t hate. Shocking, we know. And we can almost forgive it for having a knob as a gear shifter - however, it did happen more than once that we reached for the gear turn dial a few times in lieu of the volume knob!
So, it’s a good thing the Pacifica Pinnacle is also equipped with one of our favourite FCA features: volume and change buttons hidden behind the steering wheel at 9 and 3.
Now, we also had the pleasure of driving the Pinnacle e-Hybrid version. And while it’s also equipped with the 3.6L V6 it’s coupled with an Atkinson Cycle electric motor, as well. This particular combination sees the e-Hybrid produce less ponies (at 260), but that’s OK because the dual electric motors combine to allow the e-Hybrid to travel up to 51km on electric-only power. And it’s a plug-in, too.
The electric transmission was just as enjoyable to pilot as the 9-speed automatic, and truthfully we felt very little difference between the Pinnacle AWD and the Pinnacle e-Hybrid, which is immensely important when it comes time to convince gas-power-only drivers to cross that hybrid/electric line.
Obviously, the best part about driving the Pinnacle e-Hybrid was the gas mileage. We averaged close to 9L/100km in the hybrid version and over 11L/100km in the regular V6. Now, that might not seem like much, but it meant in the e-Hybrid my tank refill at the end of the week was much less.
At the top of its Game
Chrysler did a very smart thing in discontinuing the Town & Country nameplate and replacing it with the Pacifica. Immediately, FCA set its minivan apart from others on the road promising prestige, luxury, practicality and drivability. And it does all of that, and more.