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First Drive Review: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica stuns in new Pinnacle trim level

Chrysler introduced the Pacifica Pinnacle to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Minivans are usually relegated to mommy duty. They get used and abused by children of all ages, and they can take the beating. In the U.S. there are no luxury minivans. The segment is dominated by comfortable but rather utilitarian vehicles that deliver exactly what the average customer is expecting - and there's nothing wrong with that.

But then someone (maybe two someones, or three) at Chrysler had an idea. What if they pushed the Pacifica further into premium territory, offering a near-luxury version of a minivan? Would people buy it? The answer, after one solid day behind the wheel is, "they should."

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica received a new front end for 2021.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a facelifted version of the van that debuted for the 2017 model year. It continues to be an attractive model, as far as minivans go. This version of the Pacifica has a more muscular aesthetic, shying away from the elegance of the previous three years. The sides and back are great but I honestly can't decide if I like the front or not, but it does remind me more of the Chrysler 300 than the previous iteration did.

New for 2021, all-wheel drive (AWD) is offered, bringing the Pacifica to the table that's been occupied solely by the Toyota Sienna for a long while. It's the first AWD minivan Chrysler has sold since 2004 and something buyers have been asking for since the Pacifica debuted, according to company insiders.

The Chrysler Pacifica itself is already in a position to go luxury. It's certainly already gained premium model status based solely on the Voyager-Pacifica split which saw Pacifica's lower cost grades become Voyager models, which were then modified for fleet and commercial use. The Voyager also effectively replaced the Dodge Grand Caravan in FCA's lineup as a cost-effective minivan solution.

This left room for the Pacifica Pinnacle, a new top-tier trim level that really shows up for the premium buyer. Not only is the Pacifica Pinnacle's design just as practical as the other models in the lineup, it goes the extra mile with comfort, soft-touch materials, and classy finishes.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Pacifica Pinnacle models are the top of the heap for minivans buyers.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Like the revised 2022 Kia Sedona, the Pacifica has a flat dashboard. In the Pacifica, it's anchored by a largest-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen (the same size as the screens in the rear entertainment system but higher resolution). The lower half of the center stack is tilted toward the console and houses the shifter and climate controls. As tested in the Pinnacle trim, there was an abundance of Piano Black plastic trim with wood accents and real metal surrounds that easily make it the poshest new minivan on sale right now. Quilted leather seats, sueded center row pillows, and Beber floor mats complete the upscale look.

Unlike others in its class, the Pacifica doesn't appear lightweighted for efficiency to the point of cheapness. The doors have a well-weighted feel and close with a commanding thud. The thuds of road travel, surrounding vehicles' music choices, and engine noise are kept at bay thanks to new windows, seals, and insulation.

The minivans seats are comfortable and spacious. Unlike in other minivans, the center console and surrounding storage does not make the front row seats feel isolated from each other.

As tested, the Pacifica Pinnacle was powered by Chrysler's 3.6-liter V6 engine, that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It was equipped with AWD, which is standard for the trim level, unless you opt for the hybrid.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The new infotainment system in the Pacifica Pinnacle runs smoothly and is a pleasure to use.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

As it does with other vehicle's the Pacifica's AWD automatically acts when a set of conditions are met. With the Pacifica this means it works when it senses a temperature slip, when the electronic stability control is activated, while driving on a rough road, when a grade is steep, if conditions are slippery, when the steering wheel movement sways back and forth, or when there's a full throttle request on the powertrain.

If the AWD system senses that you're driving on a highway, or in conditions that don't require its use, it will deactivate automatically to improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency. This activation and deactivation process is so smooth you probably won't even notice it happening. However, you can feel the wheels engage and demonstrate the system's engineering when the conditions require it.

Having the AWD system doesn't mean that you have to forego Chrysler's Stow 'n Go storage system. Power-sliding rear doors, three-zone climate control (which still blows to circulate air even in the off setting), power first- and second-row windows, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, Stow 'n Go bucket seats with in-floor storage bins, driver's side Stow 'n Assist, and a Stow 'n Go third-row bench seat are all standard equipment. The Pacifica's seats don't have the extensive forward and aft travel the Toyota Sienna does, but the Stow 'n Go seats tumble into the floor to allow for flat loading. The Pacifica Pinnacle offers best-in-class total storage of 227.6 liters.

FCA's new Uconnect 5 infotainment operating system runs in the background of the Pacifica's screens. The system is graphically appealing, is quickly responsive, and features clean design. Though the system could stand to have a head-up display paired with it (Chrysler does not offer one in the Pacifica), the navigation is easy to use and read on the fly, and reroutes rapidly, even in urban settings with tall buildings surrounding the van.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica Pinnacle's seats are finely upholstered and come with two pillows.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler has given its Pinnacle model FamCam, an interior monitoring camera similar to what is in the Honda Odyssey, that takes in-cabin camera tech a step further offering the segment-exclusive rear-facing child seat view split-view display, and zoom-to-seat feature, among traditional camera functionality.

The Chrysler Pacifica comes standard with 97 safety features, and in the Pinnacle trim level that number swells to 100.

At over $53,000, the Pacifica Pinnacle is well into premium territory on price tag alone. However, it tops out in similar territory to its rivals, but is far more luxurious. Plus, it has AWD.

Look, it's not an SUV, but if you get around the "I'm not a minivan mom" mindset, the reality you might find is that the Pacifica Pinnacle is just as nice as a luxury three-row SUV, but with more and better functionality for everyday family life. Plus, it drives just as well.

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The final versions of the McLaren 620R have been delivered to the U.S.

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automotive
McLaren recently shipped its last Sports Series cars to the U.S., marking the end of production of the popular models that have been staples of the luxury carmaker's lineup for the last half-decade. Over 8,500 cars were sold globally.

The Sports Series debuted in 2015 with the 570S, and also included the 540C, 570S Spider, 570GT, 600LT coupe, 600LT Spider, and 620R. The final examples of the series were built at the company's Woking, U.K. headquarters at the end of 2020. The 620R was the last off the line.

The McLaren 620R is a road legal version of a race car. It's based on the McLaren 570S GT4 and uses motorsport technology without the restriction of racing regulations. It is the most powerful Sports Series model ever, with a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 producing 611 brake horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque.

Final examples of the McLaren 620R

Photo courtesy of McLaren Automotive

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The 620R shares aerodynamic hardware with the 570S GT4, creating 408-pounds of downforce at 155 mph. It can handle the road (and you can hear it coming) thanks to its wider track, carbon ceramic brakes and center locking wheels, and low-exit stainless steel sports exhaust.

"As the McLaren range has matured, we've tailored our North American model line-up to closely match customers' requirements, with a car suitable for every personality," explained Tony Joseph, President, McLaren, the Americas. "Limited-numbers models with the highest levels of performance – cars like the 620R, which feels like a race car on the street or at a track day - are in demand not only because of the driving experience they offer but because they have even greater exclusivity. You can see how this has played out with the 765LT as well, with all of the available volume sold."

Of the 225 examples of the 620R produced, only 70 were slated for the North American market. All North American 620R models come with a special MSO upgrade package that features a gloss finish Visual Carbon Fibre roof with a roof scoop to maximize engine intake and exhaust sound, MSO Defined gloss finish carbon fibre roof cantrails and the McLaren Track Telemetry system with lap time function and three cameras to record on-track performance.

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New driver assist technology is coming to the Lexus lineup later this year.

Photo courtesy of Lexus

New Lexus Teammate driver assistance technology will debut on the 2022 Lexus LS 500h later this year. Its availability is constrained to all-wheel drive models.

The technology was developed based on the Mobility Teammate Concept. This automated driving concept is unique to Toyota sough to enhance communication between drivers and cars, "enabling them to reach out to each other for mutual assistance". The concept sees cars and humans interacting and partnering rather than having automation take over for drivers. This approach allows drivers to enjoy the experience of driving but allowing the vehicle to take over some functions of driver's duties at times. In this way, the tech works as both guardian and chauffeur.

2022 Lexus The company's flagship sedan will get the technology first.Photo courtesy of Lexus

2022 Lexus LS 500h

On the 2022 Lexus 500h, Lexus Teammate will offer two functions: Advanced Drive and Advanced Park.

Advanced Drive is design to "accurately detect driving conditions to plan and execute acceleration, braking, and steering commands to maintain the vehicle within the lane, follow other vehicles, change lanes, navigate certain interchanges and traffic jams and overtake slower vehicles." It's a Level 2 functionality that "allows for driving on limited-access highways with partial hands-free, eyes-on-the-road operation".

This description makes it sound a lot like the suite of lane keeping, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control technology that Hyundai offers rather than true Level 3 technology that General Motors's Super Cruise delivers.

Lexus will show operation of the technology on a screen with information displayed like this.Photo courtesy of Lexus

Advanced Park operates similar to how the Genesis GV80's hands-free parking assist technology works. The Lexus tech automatically controls steering, acceleration, braking, and gear changes with parallel parking or backing into a parking space. It uses a combination of 360-degree sensing technologies and a bird's eye view display to perform the task while allowing the driver to monitor progress.

"We are very proud of Lexus Teammate, which is the culmination of five years of close collaboration between our technical centers in Japan and the US. We conducted simultaneous development and rigorous testing in both markets with the goal of achieving industry-leading advanced driver assistance functionality," says Derek Caveney, executive engineer at Toyota Motor North America's Integrated Vehicle Systems team.

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