Chrysler Moves Pacifica Upscale

By Derek Price

Chrysler continues to raise the bar for what increasingly looks like the brand’s only relevant product: the Pacifica minivan.
While you can get a less expensive, decontented Chrysler van called the Voyager, along with the powerful but aging 300 sedan, the Pacifica seems to be the only place where meaningful development is happening under the venerable Chrysler name.
This year, it takes a two-pronged approach to reach new niches of minivan drivers.
One is the addition of an all-wheel drive version that finally gives the Toyota Sienna some competition. For years, the Sienna has been the only minivan to offer an AWD drivetrain, so minivan buyers in snowy or rainy climates effectively had one choice. Now their options have doubled.
The second is adding a luxury trim level to create the nicest van interior I’ve ever seen, called the Pinnacle. It slots above the previous top-end Limited and carries the eye-popping price of $53,390.
It creates an eye-popping cabin to justify it.
While I still associate minivans with crushed Cheerios and velour seats from my 1980s childhood, this latest Pacifica carries the air of a modern, sleek luxury car, at least from the inside.

The Chrysler Pacifica gets a new look for 2021, but the biggest changes are under the skin. An all-wheel-drive version and new, upscale cabin make it more appealing.

Everything about it evokes the same feelings as a luxury hotel — clean design to please the eyes, soft materials that feel supple on your fingertips, and even the rich smell of the thick, Carmel-colored, quilted leather and suede headliner. It’s the kind of cabin for people who can afford any car they want, but they choose a minivan because they like the space and flexibility.
My favorite Pinnacle additions, though, are the wonderfully frivolous quilted leather pillows for the second-row seats. That’s the kind of thoughtful touch you typically see in hyper-expensive Mercedes-Benz or Rolls-Royce models.
The Pacifica continues to have one of the most family-friendly cabin designs the world has ever seen, including the nifty Stow-n-Go seats that fold flat into the floor.
While the Pinnacle model and AWD system are the headline updates for the heavily refreshed 2021 Pacifica, there are a whole lot of evolutionary changes that make it more appealing.
It’s subtly restyled with a new grille, headlights, fog lights and tail lights, which are all LED now. There are six new wheel designs, plus more standard safety features, including automatic braking for pedestrians.
Even lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability are now standard on every Pacifica, a combination that means it can virtually drive itself for short periods of time.
If you don’t want to pay for all those fancy features, you can still get a Voyager — which is basically last year’s lower-trim Pacifica —for less than $27,000. The Pacifica is becoming a mode upscale product with a starting price around $7,000 more than the Voyager.

Quilted leather seats, beautiful wood trim, a suede headliner and custom leather pillows are among the many upgrades on the new Pinnacle luxury model. It’s priced over $50,000.

Also noteworthy, the 2021 Pacifica is the first Chrysler product with the new-generation UConnect 5 system, including a huge, 10.1-inch touchscreen and the ability to use Amazon Alexa just like you do at home. If you set it up, you can even tell Alexa to start, lock or unlock the van from your home or office.
Pricing starts at $35,195 for the Touring model or $38,495 for the Touring L. You can get either of them with the optional all-wheel-drive system for an extra $2,995.
The upmarket Limited and Pinnacle, which both come equipped with standard all-wheel drive, are priced at $48,390 and $53,390.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle AWD ($53,390). Options: None. Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $54,885
Wheelbase: 121.6 in.
Length: 204.3 in.
Width: 79.6 in.
Height: 69.9 in.
Engine: 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (287 horsepower, 262 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 17 city, 25 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 8
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
With a smooth, silent ride and family-friendly cabin, it’s a luxurious way to move people and things. The new Pinnacle trim has the nicest minivan cabin for sale today.

Posted in Chrysler

Rogue Gets Dramatic Overhaul

By Derek Price

Changes to crossover vehicles, America’s most popular new cars, tend to happen frequently and gradually.
If they’re already selling in crazy-high numbers, why mess with a winning formula? That seems to be the mantra of virtually every company selling family cars today, which is why so many new crossovers look and drive like the same bland metal blobs.
With the Nissan Rogue, though, this year’s changes seem sudden and dramatic.
Nissan’s best-selling model is completely new for 2021, and not in a “let’s not mess up the formula” kind of incremental way. It actually looks and feels like an all-new, very different car — a bold move for anyone’s most popular product.
It’s roomier, quieter, prettier and packed with more standard features than before, including a suite of no-extra-charge safety tech.
Outside, the new Rogue gets noticeably edgier, both literally and figuratively. It has handsome, muscular creases in the skin and an upright, more truck-like grille that adds some visual heft. Its new design seems modeled on a scaled-down luxury SUV, not a scaled-up economy car.
It leaves the same impression inside.

The Nissan Rogue is all-new for 2021, including a body that looks more muscular than before. Creased metal and a more upright grille give it a truck-like look in front.

While last year’s Rogue had a cabin that was merely adequate in this hotly competitive category, with too much hard plastic and flimsiness to qualify as world-class, the freshly designed 2021 interior shows some serious ambition.
Everything abut it feels more solid and substantial than before. Soft-touch materials and an abundance of digital screens — including options for a head-up display on the windshield, digital gauges behind the steering wheel and a 9-inch touchscreen on the center of the dash, the biggest in its class — make it look upscale and contemporary, two descriptors I couldn’t have used last year.
Nissan Safety Shield 360 is standard on every new Rogue, including the base models. It comes with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic emergency braking with the ability to detect pedestrians.
Every Rogue comes standard with the ability to monitor the driver’s alertness. It also will remind you when you might need to check on children, pets or cargo left in the back seat with a standard feature called Rear Door Alert.
Unfortunately, Nissan’s standard safety package does not include adaptive cruise control. You have to opt for the ProPILOT Assist system to get that, which works in conjunction with steering assist to somewhat autonomously drive the car in both highway situations and heavy city traffic.

The Rogue’s new interior is a dramatic upgrade over the outgoing model. It has a more solid feeling overall and delivers a quieter driving experience over the road.

The latest ProPILOT system has been massaged to provide smoother, faster, more natural feeling inputs than before. A version that links it to satellite navigation data also is available, which helps the system work even better around highway exits, in city traffic and on curvy roads.
A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine routes 181 horsepower through a continuously variable transmission, a drivetrain that — like most vehicles in this class, to be fair — feels barely sufficient and uninspiring.
That also represents a clear vision on Nissan’s part that this is a family car, not a sports car, and you can sense that in some of the thoughtful touches for family travel. It comes standard with three zones of climate control, for example, and has back doors that swing open exceptionally wide for easy ingress and egress. It even has optional pull-up sunshades for the back windows to help keep passengers cool and happy.
Pricing starts at $25,750 for the base S trim, up $550 from last year. The all-wheel-drive model starts at $27,150.
Pricing tops out at $36,930 for the fancy AWD Platinum trim with quilted leather seats and all the tech upgrades.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Nissan Rogue SL ($32,100). Options: Premium package ($1,320). Price as tested (including $1,150 destination charge): $34,570
Wheelbase: 106.5 in.
Length: 183 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 66.5 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter four cylinder (181 horsepower, 181 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Continuously variable
EPA fuel economy: 27 city, 35 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 6
Price: 8
Handling: 8
Ride: 7
Comfort: 6
Quality: 8
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
An all-new design makes Nissan’s most popular vehicle much more appealing. It looks, drives and functions better than before, with an unusually family-friendly feature set.

Posted in Nissan

New Cherokee Flavor

By Derek Price

Jeep has added a new trim level to the Cherokee that aims to satisfy bang-for-the-buck shoppers: the Latitude LUX.
Priced at $30,145, roughly in the middle of the lineup, this new trim combines some of the most popular Cherokee upgrades with a near-luxury feel.
It comes with Nappa leather seats and the latest UConnect infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has some of the most useful features for winter driving, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer and remote start.
For the price, it feels like one of the nicest SUVs I’ve driven in the past year.
Other than the new trim level, not a lot has changed for the Cherokee, which remains a visual and spiritual smaller sibling to the popular — and more expensive — Grand Cherokee.
It carries legitimate Jeep DNA, both in how it looks with its classic shape and purposeful stance, and in its off-road capability when you equip it for the job.

The Cherokee Latitude LUX is a new trim level for 2021 that aims to offer luxury features at a value-oriented price.

At its base level, the two-wheel-drive Cherokee is a comfortable family car like countless other crossovers on the market today. It has reasonable seating and cargo space, and it gets decent gas mileage of up to 31 mpg on the highway with a four-cylinder engine.
Where it stands out, though, is in serious off-road capability when you select the right options.
The Cherokee Trailhawk is built specifically for off-roading with skid plates, a taller suspension and spectacular 4×4 system that can tackle all sorts of terrain. A 51:1 crawl ratio lets it slowly creep over boulders, for example, while the Selec-Terrain traction control programming sets it up for driving in snow, sand or rocky conditions.
Three different engines are available, including the 3.2-liter V6 in my tester. It delivers meaty, truck-like grunt with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. It can also tow up to 4,500 pounds when you opt for the tow package.
A 180-horsepower, four-cylinder engine also is available, along with a smaller, 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that makes a whopping 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
With such a wide range of equipment choices, the way each Cherokee drives can feel dramatically different. The Trackhawk, with its stiffer, bouncier suspension tuned for off-roading, is the roughest and loudest of the pack, although still not too grating as an everyday driver.

The Latitude LUX’s interior comes with power adjustable Nappa leather seats, along with a long list of standard amenities.

The softer, more compliant ride of the other models feels more pleasant around town, and I thought the Latitude LUX tester was impressively quiet at highway speeds.
If you need the Jeep capability, the Cherokee stands apart from the seemingly endless sea of crossover and SUV competitors. It also has a heavier, more substantial, truck-like driving feel than most small crossovers, which is either a plus or a minus depending on what you prefer.
Pricing starts at $26,555 for the base 2×4 Latitude. Adding the 4×4 system, which I’d consider a “must” when buying a Jeep, is an extra $1,500.
The built-for-off-roading Trailhawk starts at $35,595, while the cool-looking High Altitude is priced from $36,985 for buyers who want to check all the luxury boxes.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude LUX ($30,145). Options: Premium paint ($245), comfort and convenience group ($995). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $32,880
Wheelbase: 107.1 in.
Length: 183.1 in.
Width: 74.9 in.
Height: 67.8 in.
Engine: 3.2-liter V6 (271 horsepower, 239 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 19 city, 27 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 8
Price: 9
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 6
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
It mixes Jeep 4×4 capability with on-road comfort and fuel efficiency. The new Latitude LUX trim is a great addition for value shoppers in 2021.

Posted in Jeep