Chicago Auto Show 2020

Chrysler launches major Pacifica refresh for 2021, offering AWD option

Chrysler has thoroughly refreshed the Pacifica for the 2021 model year innculdig a new available all-wheel drive system.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler is launching a major refresh of its Pacifica minivan by offering an all-wheel-drive model, improving the styling, adding new technology, and making a host of advanced safety features standard equipment.

The improvements in the 2021 Pacifica, unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show on Thursday, are apparent at first glance.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica The new 2021 Chrysler Pacifica (shown here in the Pinnacle model) will offer America's most capable minivan with all-wheel-drive and the most standard safety features in the industry. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The grille is accented by converging hockey stick-shaped LED daytime running lights. That same hockey stick theme is carried through in the body sculpture along the side panels back to the rear of the van. It repeats again in the lighting that now stretches across the length of the rear hatch. The styling mutes the van design and provides a sense of fluid movement.

The 2021 Pacifica is the first van from Chrysler to have an all-wheel-drive option since the 2004 Town & Country. Chrysler designed the system so that it saves fuel by turning on only when vehicle sensors detect a need. Drivers don't have to push any buttons or change settings. It delivers hard acceleration, indicating a need for more grip and power, when the electronic stability systems starts to detect slipping or a loss of control, or in fast, tight turns where extra torque is required. The system also looks for other cues, such as cold exterior temperature and windshield wiper use.

Chrysler will make the AWD option available in the current Pacifica through the end of the model year to satisfy customer demand for the option.

The new Pacifica gets a dramatically improved interior highlighted by a 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen, the largest among minivans. That's 20-percent bigger than the current model. It will be the first of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' vehicles to get the fifth-generation Uconnect infotainment system.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Chrysler has managed to make the Pacifica more serene with a new Pinnacle trim level that features near-luxury level appointments.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

To keep track of passengers, the minivan has a camera that provides a view of rear-facing child seat occupants, split-view display and unique "zoom-to-seat" feature. The Honda Odyssey currently has similar camera technology, but without the split-view display and zoom feature.

Chrysler is addressing customer complaints by making the van quieter by adding acoustic windshield glass and thicker sliding door glass to all Pacifica models. The Limited, Pinnacle, and all plug-in hybrid models get acoustic front side glass.

With its refreshed design, the automaker's strategy is to give the Pacifica a makeover so that it looks more like an SUV – the most popular segment of the U.S. auto market. Chrysler, which invented the minivan and has sold more than 15 million over the decades, is trying to add some emotion to the segment.

The automaker also wants to create some distance between the more upscale Pacifica and its budget-friendly minivan sibling, the Chrysler Voyager.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica The Pacifica Pinnnacle comes with pillows for rear seat passengers. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

It's not that the company expects consumers to trade their SUVs for minivans. Rather it's targeting buyers who are looking to replace sedans but want a practical family hauler that looks interesting and provides both amenities and comfort.

Part of this strategy includes launching the Pinnacle trim line that can compete with the interiors of three-row luxury SUVs.

The interior features quilted Nappa leather bolstering in the seats. Stitching accents the elegant caramel color leather of the seating and interior panels. The rear seats come with additional stitched leather pillows.

Exterior touches include a satin carbon grille and platinum chrome on all exterior edgings, moldings, and badging. A new Pinnacle side door nameplate in the Pacifica font is also platinum chrome.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica The new 10.1-inch infotainment touch screen is seamlessly placed in the dashboard. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

There are 12 USB Type A and Type C ports to keep a bevy of devices charged. And there's plenty of small item storage space that is prime for those devices.

The Pinnacle comes with what Chrysler is calling an "ultra" console. It provides 13.65 liters of overall storage, about a third more than the current Pacifica. Almost 90% of that area is covered. Additionally, there are second-row storage bins in the floor.

Chrysler is packing the Pacifica with what it says are the most standard safety features in the segment. Those include forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking. The braking also works when sensors detect pedestrians in front of the vehicle. There is also adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, the latter of which taps the electronic power steering to assist the driver with corrective action if the vehicle starts to drift.

2021 Chrysler Pacifica Chrysler will offer the 2021 Pacifica with multi-angle view cameras that keep an eye on passengers.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Engine choices won't change for the new model year. The van has a V6 gasoline engine that delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. There also is the plug-in hybrid powertrain that offers an all-electric range of more than 30 miles and a total range of more than 500 miles.

The 2021 Pacifica will go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year. Chrysler will release pricing information closer to start of sales.

Check out a peek inside the Pacifica from the floor of the Chicago Auto Show:

www.youtube.com

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The 2022 Lexus ES will debut next week.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

The meat and potatoes of the Lexus sedan lineup, the ES, is due for a refresh, and it will get one. The 2022 Lexus ES will be shown publicly for the first time this Sunday as part of the festivities of the Shanghai auto show.

While the photo doesn't tell a lot, there's some things you can bet on in the 2022 ES. For starters, look for all the improvements that the auto has gotten over the last two years to carry over into the new model. That includes the addition of all-wheel drive to the lineup and standard blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.

The ES Black Line may not make its way to the 2022 version of the midsize sedan. Generally, blacked out editions are available only at the tail end of a model run ahead of a refresh or generational redesign. However, the blacked out elements could become available as part of a package.

The headlight photo that Lexus has offered as a teaser shows a housing that is not dissimilar to the one that the Lexus IS wears. However, the daytime running light is on the bottom here, instead off the top. Like the IS, there are strong hood lines.

At the back, the preview video shows a vehicle that is very similar to the current model. It's taillights, a strong chrome line that runs the width of the year, and rear lip spoiler all look mostly same as before.

As for what to expect underneath the body of the car, there's not a lot of indication from the teasers, which leads one to believe that's where the biggest changes are coming. There's a good chance that we'll finally say goodbye to the Lexus touch pad in favor of a touch screen display that's within a comfortable distance.

It's also likely that Lexus will fine tune the dynamics of the ES in a similar fashion to how the Lexus IS got more performance-focused driving dynamics in its latest redo.

Stay tuned for more specifics are the curtain is pulled back on April 19 in China (April 18 in the U.S.).

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Honda is working with Verizon on self-driving cars technology.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

The Mcity campus was designed to be a proving ground for new technologies. Honda and Verizon are utilizing it as such as they partner to explore how Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband and 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC) can be used to ensure quick and reliable communication between road infrastructure, vehicles, and pedestrians.

The 5G technology leverages cloud technology to deliver lower latency, a large amount of bandwidth, and improved communication. This communication includes the way that vehicles interact with ther cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and emergency vehicles to improve threat detection and avoid accidents when seconds matter most. That's where the "V2" in acronyms like "V2V" (vehicle-to-vehicle) and "V2X" (vehicle- to-everything).

Honda and Verizon Test How 5G Enhances Safety for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles www.youtube.com

Honda has been working since 2017 to develop a technology that will help to create a collision-free society. The technology, called Safe Swarm, uses V2X communication to enable vehicles to communicate with other road users and share key information such as location, speed, and vehicle sensor data.

There are some obstacles, not the least of which is the need to outfit each vehicle with onboard artificial intelligence capabilities. The use of 5G helps move the AI capabilities from the vehicle to the MEC, reducing the need for AI onboard each vehicle.

"The ability to move computing power to the edge of our 5G network is an essential building block for autonomous and connected vehicles, helping cars to communicate with each other in near real-time and with sensors and cameras installed in streets and traffic lights," said Sanyogita Shamsunder, vice president of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. "When you consider that roughly 42,000 people were killed in car accidents last year and 94% of accidents are caused by human error, our new technologies including 5G and MEC can help drivers 'see' things before the human eye can register and react helping to prevent collisions and save lives."

Three safety scenarios have been explored as part of the testing:

  • Pedestrian Scenario - A pedestrian is crossing a street at an intersection. An approaching driver cannot see the pedestrian due to a building obstructing the view. Smart cameras mounted in the intersection relay information to MEC using the 5G network. Verizon's MEC and V2X software platforms detect the pedestrian and vehicle and determine the precise location of road users assisted by Verizon's Hyper Precise Location services. A visual warning message is then sent alerting the driver of the potential danger.
  • Emergency Vehicle Warning Scenari - A driver cannot see an approaching emergency vehicle and cannot hear its siren due to the high volume of in-vehicle audio. Verizon's MEC and V2X software receive a safety message from the emergency vehicle and send a warning message to nearby vehicles. The driver receives a visual warning.
  • Red Light Runner Scenario - A vehicle fails to stop at a red light. Using data from the smart cameras, MEC and V2X software detect the vehicle and send a red-light-runner visual warning message to other vehicles approaching the intersection.

You can watch the video of Honda and Verizon's Mcity tests at http://honda.us/5GResearch.

Honda isn't the only company exploring what 5G communication can offer. Pirelli has installed the tech in its tires and BMW recently updated its My BMW app to make it compatible with the new technology. Audi is working on similar technology out on the road in Virginia and Georgia.

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