This past week, the Chrysler brand launched its 2021 Chrysler Pacifica lineup and showcasing Pacifica’s new all-wheel-drive (AWD) – the first AWD system offered on a Chrysler or Dodge minivan since 2004. As America’s only minivan to offer AWD, the Chrysler Pacifica is pushing past the minivan segment and competing against many of the market’s best crossover and sport utilities (SUVs).
So what are the key mechanical components of the new AWD system, that will be featured underneath the Chrysler Pacifica…
- Power Transfer Unit (PTU): Splits torque from the nine-speed automatic transmission and routes it to the rear-drive module
- Three-piece Drive Shaft: Connects the power transfer unit and the rear-drive module. Even with the additional driveline components, the Chrysler Pacifica AWD retains its second-row Stow ‘n Go seating storage
- Rear Drive Module: Houses electronically controlled wet clutch that manages torque to rear wheels; second-generation one-speed drive module optimized for weight and low-speed drag torque reduction
Other mechanical changes resulting in improved driving dynamics include the addition of a rear sway bar and revised tuning for the front and rear suspension. Ride height is increased by 0.78 inches (20 millimeters).
Pacifica’s seamless, fully automatic AWD system is the only one in the segment capable of transferring all available engine torque to the rear wheels, or whichever wheels have more available traction. The Pacifica AWD system, the most capable AWD in the class, is also able to sense and stop the driveshaft from spinning when AWD is not required, a class-exclusive feature in the segment that improves efficiency and reduces emissions.
The AWD system also employs a brake-lock differential system to help enhance traction, with fully automatic torque distribution between each wheel. If one wheel on an axle loses traction, the system applies the brake to the low-traction wheel, redirecting torque through the differential to the wheel with more traction. The 18-inch brake package for AWD features larger vented front and solid rear rotors and calipers with more capacity.
The AWD 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 Chrysler 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
When the Chrysler Pacifica’s drivetrain detects that AWD is not needed, it disconnects the power transfer unit and the rear-drive module automatically to stop the driveshaft from spinning, reducing driveline drag and improving efficiency.
The Pacifica AWD will feature new, standard self-sealing 235/60-R18 Michelin Premier All-season tires for 18-inch wheel applications, with 20-inch wheels offered with optional Pirelli self-sealing tires (late availability) or non-self-sealing Falken tires.
The Pacifica with its advanced AWD system will be featured on gasoline-powered models (sorry Hybrid fans). The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the 2021 model year to get a Pacifica with AWD. The current gasoline-powered Pacifica lineup will get the system this spring.