By on March 6, 2019

2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package, Image: FCA

Toyota —er, Fiat Chrysler may add an all-wheel drive version of its Pacifica minivan next year, if a report out of the model’s hometown of Windsor, Ontario pans out.

According to two named — and two unnamed — sources, the automaker wants to take a page from a certain Japanese company known for its hybrid vehicles and sweeten the minivan pot with all-wheel traction, casting a wider net for buyers. In other words: going the extra mile to woo the crossover crowd.

Toyota recently introduced an all-wheel drive version of its Prius hybrid, announcing a hybrid version of its Corolla sedan at the same time. The automaker, heeding the cries of Northeastern buyers, decided to make its vehicles more things to more people, and this seems to be what FCA’s up to, as well.

AN‘s piece cites Dino Chido, national auto director for Canadian autoworker union Unifor, which represents workers at the Windsor plant, and Joe McCabe, CEO AutoForecast Solutions. Chido said the automaker is looking at the possibility of an AWD Pacifica — a claim backed up by two unnamed sources, one of them a supplier employee tasked with designing a part to accommodate such a layout. The source was told he’d be working on a “Chrysler minivan.”

“FCA has not provided us with any intel with regards to future product, but they are looking at the viability and being able to bring that to market,” Chido said, adding that, as far as he knows, FCA hasn’t made a decision.

The automaker reportedly examined a business case for AWD before the model’s launch, but ultimately nixed the idea.

McCabe, drawing on industry sources, told AN that FCA plans to start production on an AWD Pacifica in the second quarter of 2020. “It’s going to help them with their leadership of the product,” he said. “It adds some relevance to it other than what a minivan is defined as.”

The minivan’s popular Stow ’n Go seating, McCabe said, could prove a sticking point, as the fold flat seats might not work with the addition of a propshaft sent to the rear wheels.

Currently, the only minivan offered with all-wheel drive in North America rolls out of a Toyota factory. While the Sienna stands alone in the shrunken segment, the perk of available AWD hasn’t helped it rise to the top. FCA’s ancient Grand Caravan, which uses its spacious cargo area to haul boxes marked “unbeatable value” to buyers across North America, remains in possession of the minivan sales crown.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica - Image: FCA

The Pacifica, offered in a plug-in hybrid variant the Sienna and all other minivans lack, outsold its rival last year — 118,322 to the Sienna’s 87,672. And, while the Sienna’s sales fell 21.4 percent in 2018, Pacifica volume held steady.

FCA contacts wouldn’t say whether the sources’ claims hold water, though Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning at FCA Canada, did admit that AWD would probably prove popular with Canadian customers.

“I think it’s definitely an opportunity with our market,” he said. “If you look at some of the competitive vehicles, maybe not the traditional minivan, but even some of the bigger duty [trucks] you can get front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive take rate generally is quite high in all those offerings; I do think it would be an opportunity for us.”

Toyota Canada claims 58 percent of the Siennas it sold north of the border last year were all-wheel drive, bolstering FCA’s business case.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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22 Comments on “Report: Chrysler Pacifica Could Gain All-Wheel Drive in 2020...”

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    It’s a good move. Personally I thought the Pacifica was too wide for our garage, as was the Pilot. That and resale value.I’d re-up for another AWD Sienna , if they put the hybrid AWD from the Highlander in it. But this will likely be our last minivan as this was spec’d to be a keeper.

  • avatar

    Pacifica is great, but massive. I think a great way to woo crossover customers would be… with a crossover. Take a Cherokee, make it wider and bigger, apply Chrysler styling and badges… call it a 200X. Truthfully, that’s probably what the 200 should have been in the first place.

  • avatar

    It’s about time, I know they’ll sell a lot more in my neck of the woods if they offer AWD

  • avatar

    I think it’s a good move. Here in the Northeast anyway. I know it was just this reason that I passed on the Pacifica hybrid. Only front wheel drive available.

  • avatar

    When the Pacifica first came out, I read comments from FCA officials that they had considered an AWD powertrain and figured the market demand was not sufficient to justify the expenditure. Those same officials also scotched the idea of a Pacifica based SUV.

    But the Journey refuses to die.

    Offer an AWD Pacifica as a substitute when they stick a fork in the Journey?

    • 0 avatar

      Journey was supposed to be a substitute for the “short wheelbase” minivan. (A segment that is basically dead.)

      If an AWD Minivan was going to substitute for the Journey… Well there’s no way it could be made cheaply enough to match the current Journey.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. The AWD Pacifica would probably be a premium vehicle for middle-class buyers. The Journey, AWD or not, is a bargain-basement proposition.

      • 0 avatar

        “If an AWD Minivan was going to substitute for the Journey… Well there’s no way it could be made cheaply enough to match the current Journey.”

        The priority for all the big three is higher transaction prices and higher profit margins, because that is what Wall St wants. The zombies, Journey and Caravan, don’t fit that scheme by selling on a cheap price, but, for the time being, they persist because they keep the plants running and help cover fixed costs.

        The Journey is built in Toluca, same plant that builds the Compass.

        Jeep sold 171.167 Compasses in the US last year, and another 73.941 Toluca built Compasses in Europe. On top of that, Dodge sold 94.096 Toluca built Journeys in the US. That’s 339,204 cars out of that one plant. Toluca is a relatively small plant, 1.6M sqft vs 3.5M for J-NAP, for instance. The people in that plant must be losing their mind at that production rate.

        Meanwhile, FCA sold 151.927 Caravans and 118.322 Pacificas, a total of 270249, all built in Windsor’s roomy 4.4M sqft.

        FCA is looking at adding the Compass to the production slate at the Melfi plant in Italy to take some of the pressure off Toluca.

        Replacing the Journey with an AWD variant of the Pacifica would give FCA higher transactions prices, increase capacity utilization at Windsor, which has spare capacity, and make more capacity available at Toluca to build more Compasses, while not spending half a billion on another set of Compass tooling for Melfi.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler could have designed the Pacifica with AWD but there wouldn’t be space for the stow ‘n go seats. I think they were right at the time that having foldable seats that no other mini van has would attract more sales and be more useful to people than AWD that only one other mini van has.

      I’m guessing the AWD will only be offered on the hybrid without the stowable seats to make room for batteries under the floor, and have the rear wheels driven by an electric motor like in the AWD Prius.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I could see plenty of people trading Stow-n-Go for AWD on the Pacifica. You already lose the second-row Stow-n-Go on the PHEV Pacifica, because that’s where they store the battery.

    Sounds like a good business move.

  • avatar

    This is an application where an electric motor driven rear axle would be ideal. They already have packaging for a battery, just stick a electric motor in back and you have AWD that is adequate for snow and light gravel use, and allows them to keep the stow and go seats.

  • avatar

    Never thought I’d be interested in a minivan but with a toddler now and baby on the way I’ve started to see these slick tinted out Pacificas with 20 inch gunmetal wheels and realizing that the minivan look is starting to meld with crossovers and therefore not look so..lame minivan. I’d trade my cramped Accord in a second for one. AWD a major plus. Cousins with 3 kids bought the Sienna primarily because of AWD. No brainer for a family in the northeast.

    • 0 avatar

      Power sliding doors are an incredible blessing with small children. There’s really no comparison, if you can live with the image, the van is the way to go.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised so many people on TTAC seem to prefer the Pacifica when Honda offers the sliding-door sports car.

    • 0 avatar

      While the Honda is quicker, the reviews I’ve read seem to like the handling and chassis in the Pacifica more. Even the older Grand Caravan was updated a few years back and was reviewed here for riding great.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure how the 2018 is, but quite frankly I found the interior of the ’11-’17 Odysseys pretty nasty and didn’t care for how the dash was laid out at all. The Pacifica is a clear winner in aesthetics inside and out as far as I’m concerned, and IMO doesn’t give up anything in dynamics. Reliability though is no contest: Odyssey wins hands down (although the new 2018 has gotten dinged quite a bit on this front).

    • 0 avatar

      It turns out that “Sliding doors” are no more compatible with “sports car,” than “automatic transmission” is.

  • avatar

    I’m more interested in knowing what FCA’s going to replace the Caravan with. It is the only minivan larger than a Ford Transit Connect that’s not an over-equipped luxobarge.

  • avatar

    Suspension lift, plus cladding.

    That’ll shift units.

  • avatar

    If it includes a spare tire, I’m in when it’s time to replace our AWD Sienna.

    It’s our appliance vehicle. I wouldn’t even need to drive it or look at it. AWD with spare tire, and I’d be collecting firm quotes.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      If it’s the Pacifica Hybrid that gets e-AWD, then no, as the spare tire well behind the drivers side is consumed by the charging system.

      I’m guessing that the upcoming TNGA Sienna will feature a hybrid-eAWD configuration like the Highlander Hybrid, can’t get them separately.

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