By on November 13, 2019

There was a flurry of speculation earlier this year about a traditional people hauler, with whispering voices claiming that, in a bid to boost demand, Fiat Chrysler was prepared to offer an all-wheel drive version of its Pacifica minivan. Minivan sales aren’t doing too hot, as you know. Crossovers and the like…

While the automaker’s minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario did get a funding top-up in April, thus far the only byproduct of that $355 million cash dump was the creation of a new/old nameplate — Voyager — to stand in for lower-trimmed Pacificas. A new bit of evidence, however, does point to an eventual AWD Pacifica.

From Twitter user, um, Takuro Spirit comes this:

The rumblings this past spring were not confirmed by FCA, though Dave Cassidy, president of Unifor Local 444, did tell Automotive News that extended summer downtime was being planned to add an AWD Pacifica to the mix. Since then, nothing — FWD Voyager notwithstanding.

If the parts catalog peep-show turns out to be correct, Chrysler won’t be the first automaker to attempt to juice a model’s sales through the addition of all-wheel drive. It’s become the go-to remedy in a market where falling sales afflict almost everything that isn’t a truck, SUV, or CUV. Currently, only the Toyota Sienna offers minivan customers the option of four-wheel grip.

Whether or not an AWD Pacifica would actually lead to a dealership dash is debatable, though the overall package is a better stand-in for a CUV than the recent AWD sedans we’ve seen. Adding AWD didn’t seem to do anything for the revamped Mazda 3, nor did it set Nissan Altima sales on fire. Time will tell if the inclusion of a propshaft in the 2020 Toyota Camry and 2021 Avalon, both announced earlier today, aids in bringing more customers through the door.

Just how Chrysler — assuming an AWD Pacifica is on the way — intends to create an AWD minivan is an open question, too. Two options are on the table: a traditional mechanical linkup, which could necessitate body modifications, and an e-axle setup, where a small battery feeds power to an electric motor powering the rear axle.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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22 Comments on “Minivan (Sales) Magic to Commence Soon?...”

  • avatar

    Unless they also offer a Hemi option to compensate for the added weight, I say “mehh”.

  • avatar

    I’d take a FWD model with proper winter tires unless I had significant grades on my normal winter commute, unless I were leasing and didn’t want to waste money investing in tires on a vehicle I’m eventually turning in.

  • avatar

    I’ll reserve judgement until I see what the setup is like.

    All of us know that minivans are dang handy vehicles, too bad most of our wives wouldn’t be caught dead in one.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, what is it with women/wives and minivans? Are they that petty and vain. In almost every case where a minivan was not considered for a family vehicle it was the woman who put the kibosh to it. Clearly shows men are more practical. I think there are a lot of husbands out there who need to put their foot down.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        Funny, my wife LOVES her Sienna and doesn’t want a sedan anymore.

        • 0 avatar

          We are looking at Pacificas at my wife’s request. We just rented one for a 1500 mile road trip and it was much nicer than our CUV. one tank was close to 33mpg.

          As for AWD, if I had improved towing because of it I would consider it so we could get rid of our 194k mile Durango. We mostly tow a motorcycle trailer but sometimes a car.

          • 0 avatar

            What I like about the Pacifica is that it has a HUGE gas tank compared to most 3 row SUVs and solid highway fuel economy numbers.

            It would be a godsend for family vacations.

          • 0 avatar

            The 3500LB tow rating is one of the things holding minivans back.

            Increase it to 5000lbs, and it’ll be competitive with most CUVs.

            For myself, though, the Pacifica Hybrid is the only model that exists. The other Pacificas are are known as “I think they meant to buy a Honda Odyssey” in my house. So I’d like to see the 5000lb rating on the hybrid, too.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup Mike – my wife had a Sienna when we got married, then got a Scion when she wanted to try a stick for awhile, then a nice Acura sedan when she wanted more luxury. When she started talking about missing her Sienna, I offered to find her a nice example of the then-current Sienna (this was maybe 10 years ago), and THAT my friends is how I scored that Acura for myself LOL (but really, she has never had a problem driving a minivan at all, we’ve had several and still have an Odyssey as a spare car and she is fine driving it).

  • avatar

    If this is traditional AWD, the AWD version will lose Stow ‘n’ Go, like the current plug-in hybrid version (which uses the space for its battery pack).

    Perhaps Chrysler could take a page from Toyota, use its hybrid powertrain but not in plug-in form, and add a rear motor. I don’t know if there’s enough space for the motor, a small hybrid battery, and Stow ‘n’ Go. Seems tight.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe only some of the Stow-N-Go is forfeited? Either give up the folding back bench or one of the middle row seats for all the hardware. I tend to fold down the middle two captains more often than the back bench in our Caravan, simply because of how easy it is to access cargo via either sliding door.

      • 0 avatar

        With 2nd row captain chairs, there is a gap between the seats that doesn’t necessarily mean that 2nd row SnG must be forfeited with AWD. Rear SnG should be unaffected.

  • avatar

    Very interested to see how this develops. More and more I can appreciate the logic of the AWD in the Sienna. Every modern V6 minivan I’ve driven is very apt to light up the front tires in even very slightly damp situations. We’ve got snow tires on our Town&Country since it’s the primary family car/baby hauler and we’ll be traveling a lot to in laws this winter.

    I also get a mild tinge of regret when I get a ride in a courtesy shuttle Pacifica (I was just getting snow tires put on the van, don’t get too excited!), it’s so much “tighter” feeling and more modern to sit in compared to our Town & Country.

  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    I know when we purchased our T&C six years ago, I was sorely tempted by the optional all wheel drive on the Sienna. Given that we were living in Buffalo at the time, I would 100% have sprung for the option had it been offered on the Chrysler.

    Of course, it would have been pretty useless. I’ve never had an issue that required all wheel drive, but perhaps I am a gullible schmuck because I’m certain I’d have purchased it. If Chrysler wants to drive up margins, this is one way to do it.

    • 0 avatar

      How has the van been for you? I know you took a bit of flak for buying a Mopar van.

      • 0 avatar

        Certainly well-travelled!

      • 0 avatar
        Thomas Kreutzer

        The only issue I have ever had with it was the transmission failure a year or two after we purchased it. I’m still not sure what caused that, but a week or so before it died I was backing it up a hill and it juddered a lot. My thought at the time was that the failure might have been related to the “hill start assist” option so I deactivated it. I’m not sure if that was the problem, but since it was rebuilt under warranty there have been no issues.

        Today, the T&C has about 40K miles on it, so we haven’t exactly used it hard. Other than one set of tires and regular maintenance – oil changes every 5K miles with all synthetic and air filters every second or third change – I haven’t done a thing to it.

        Outside it’s fine. We got the van out of the salt when we moved away from Buffalo after the first winter. I assume it’s because we had it rust proofed at the time I see zero issues today. It lived in a garage for the first couple of years and has been outside the rest of the time. The paint is still beautiful. I keep it fairly clean and wax it once or twice per year.

        Inside it has help up extremely well. Carpets and seats are all in fine shape despite the three kids. One thing that did happen was I broke the plastic panel on the side of the seat bottom – probably because I like the seat cranked up high but slide in and out of it and put a lot of weight on it. I broke some clip and can’t get it reattached but I repaired with a zip tie several years ago.

        The way it’s going, barring an accident or something, I expect to have the van at least 10 years and probably closer to 15. I paid it off years ago so it’s like money in the bank. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more. It has been a great rig.

        • 0 avatar

          It is nice to hear a follow up on vehicles that are actually purchased by auto-journos.

          Glad it worked out well for you.

          Side note: Dad’s Grand Caravan has the same issue with the side panel. Mom’s does not. Probably for the same reason.

  • avatar

    AWD couldn’t hurt. We’ve got it on our Sienna. Best “big wagon” ski car currently available.

    It looked like the new Ford Transit AWD could take away the crown, but Ford, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the Passenger Van version would no longer offer the hot rod, trailer dragging, EcoBoost V6.


  • avatar

    FCA has announced that the third shift will continue now until March 31, 2020. So I guess Grand Caravan production will hang on for a while longer?

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