By on December 30, 2019

Earlier this year, when rumors of a forthcoming all-wheel drive Chrysler Pacifica arose, the minivan segment seemed ready to birth a rival to Toyota’s AWD Sienna. Instead, Chrysler ended up debuting a stripped-down version of the FWD Pacifica called the Voyager.

AWD isn’t off the table, it seems, but the traditional form of all-wheel traction is. A new report claims the coming year will bring an electrified AWD minivan from Windsor Assembly.

According to sources tapped by MoparInsiders, 2020 will see the unveiling of a refreshed Pacifica with optional eAWD — a modern solution that avoids the often tricky process of sending a propshaft aft to the rear axle. This was the reason Fiat Chrysler didn’t offer an AWD Pacifica from the outset. FCA officials claimed adding traditional mechanical AWD would mean foregoing the model’s Stow & Go rear seats, which happen to be a key selling feature.

Adding an eAWD system that powers the rear wheels electrically, independent of the front-mounted engine/transmission (like that found in new Toyota crossovers and hybridized versions of the Jeep Compass and Renegade introduced in Europe), means the fancy disappearing seats can stay. Suddenly, the model can boast two attractive features.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: Chrysler

The forthcoming refreshed Pacifica and Voyager will appear later in 2020, MI claims, going on sale as a 2021 model-year vehicle. Besides the addition of an AWD hybrid model, the minivans will boast updated styling that hints at the soon-to-depart Dodge Grand Caravan. That model, a mainstay in the FCA stable, is expected to die at some point next year.

With the Grand Caravan gone, the Pacifica and low-priced Voyager will have to take on that minivan’s loyal customers. As such, the Chrysler duo’s grille is expected to grow larger and more pronounced, not entirely unlike the Chrysler 300. Headlights stand to become slimmer, with LED lighting standard at least on the Pacifica.

Will the creation of an AWD FCA minivan boost flagging sales? Perhaps for the Pacifica nameplate, but the loss of the Grand Caravan — by far FCA’s biggest minivan seller — will surely see the automaker’s overall minivan volume fall. Through the first three-quarters of 2019, Americans bought over 99,000 Grand Caravans and just over 70,000 Pacificas. Those year-to-date sales tallies are down 18 and 23 percent, respectively.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

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19 Comments on “Electric AWD on the Way For Chrysler Minivans, Report Says...”

  • avatar

    “This was the reason Fiat Chrysler didn’t offer an AWD Pacifica from the outset. FCA officials claimed adding traditional mechanical AWD would mean foregoing the model’s Stow & Go rear seats, which happen to be a key selling feature.”

    The hybrid already doesn’t have Stow & Go, because the space is used for its battery.

    Are we expecting an electric rear axle to be coupled with a gas-only powertrain up front? I’m not sure anyone’s tried that yet. The Toyota eAWD products (RAV4 Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid) have hybrid powertrains up front as well as the electric motor in back.

    In the Toyota application it works pretty nicely as long as what you’re expecting is “get me unstuck and give me a little extra traction on wet hills” AWD rather than anything comparable to the better full-time AWD systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Hamilton

      I think the most likely solution is to have the Hybrid Pacifica to add all wheel drive like a Highlander Hybrid and as you mentioned, the Stow N Go will be lost due to the battery location.

      • 0 avatar

        The SECOND ROW Stow-N-Go is already lost to battery on the hybrid Pacifica. If you want those seats gone, either you’re out of luck or you must physically remove them–I’m not sure which, I don’t own one.

        The THIRD ROW Stow-N-Go is what’s of concern. Put mechanicals back there, and it goes away. Not a good thing in a competitive market.

        If you can keep the third row stowing, PLUS give any kind of AWD (like what the Prius now has), then you have a competitive advantage to the Honda and the Toyota.

        I would expect the new Sienna to launch with this same system, since so many of their cars already have it.

        • 0 avatar

          The Sienna AWD has mechanically driven rear wheels via a driveshaft from the front and still manages the same size 3rd row, luggage, and fold-into-the-floor arrangement as FWD Siennas. They do lose the spare tire though.

          The current Pacifica hybrid has no room for 2nd row Stow-n-Go because it’s a plug-in hybrid and needs a fairly large battery to give it some all-electric range before the ICE kicks in. A non-plugin hybrid can get by with much smaller batteries.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t see why mechanical AWD would affect the third row. The third row storage well is entirely behind the rear axle. As noted, the Sienna AWD, with mechanical drive of the rear wheels, has the same folding third row as the FWD version.

          Stow ‘N’ Go usually refers to the second row.
          Chrysler had AWD vans before Stow ‘N’ Go debuted, and canceled the AWD in favor of Stow ‘N’ Go.

          The current Pacifica Hybrid has a folding third-row seat, but the second-row seats are removable buckets like those in the Sienna. (They are also much more comfortable than the gas Pacifica’s folding second-row seats.)

          • 0 avatar

            “Stow ‘N’ Go usually refers to the second row.”

            No, Chrysler has been using it generically, to include stowing the third row like Honda does, for quite some time now.

    • 0 avatar

      “Are we expecting an electric rear axle to be coupled with a gas-only powertrain up front? I’m not sure anyone’s tried that yet. ”

      One supplier, GKN alone, has supplied exactly that to very very many car models that have been on our roads for years. You’re not on the map, dude.

      Mitsubishi Outlander (though this one also has an electric motor up front, it has the same system as the models that follow meaning it can just as well be electric in one end only), Porsche 918, BMW i8, BMW 225xe, Mini Countryman Cooper S E All4 hybrid, Volvo’s XC90, V90, S90, XC60, V60, S60, and many MANY MANY other models on the way…

    • 0 avatar

      “The hybrid already doesn’t have Stow & Go, because the space is used for its battery.”

      They’re talking about the THIRD row, which stows today on every minivan–the stowing of which would go away if a mechanical drive to the rear were put in place.

      So driving the rears with electric allows the third row to stow. What you would get is comparable to an Odyssey, where the second row seats must be physically removed if you want them gone, but the third row seats stow flat without having to remove them.

  • avatar

    Routing a propshaft is hard, but routing electrical wires is much, much harder – probably impossible – which is why this will never work. Ever.

    ICE forever!

    (Everyone knows that higher voltage needs thicker wires – good luck sourcing a 4-inch thick copper conductor and routing it along the frame rails to the rear wheels. Will there be multiple humps in the back floor now? These EV things are such a joke. If this was a good idea, Ford would have already done it.)

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      I almost peed my pants reading your post.
      You da Man!

    • 0 avatar

      It already DOES work in Toyota and Lexus AWD hybrids like the Highlander and RX400h.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, and higher voltage DOESN’T need thicker wires; higher amperage will allow equal power to be transmitted via thin wires. That’s why the wiring for a 240V/15A home appliance outlet has thinner wires than the 120V/20A outlets in your kitchen and bathroom. And also why the auto industry is moving from 12V to 42 or 48 amp electrical systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If an electric minivan in any form was a worthwhile investment, Tesla would have offered it. So I’ll Poo Poo it until such a point Tesla offers it at which point, no matter how ridiculous it is, it will be the greatest idea ever and I’ll go buy it…as soon as I am done standing in line for the new iPhone and swilling my basic B!+ch latte!

      • 0 avatar

        The ass-kicking Ford took in the minivan segment (cried uncle in 2007) was a valuable preview of what would happen with Ford sedans eleven years later.

        la834, you seem to be familiar with household wiring. If the breaker in my garage trips when I’m charging my son’s Leaf and trigger the welder, is that related to ampacity? Wiring size? Voltage drop? Or did my builder sell me a piece of crap? (Asking for a friend.)

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not sure what you mean by “trigger the welder” – does the welding power supply actually turn on when charging the car? Or do you mean the breaker for the car charger trips if you fire up the welder which would make more sense. I’m assuming the two devices are each on their own circuits, and that the panel or subpanel can handle the combined draw of both devices.

          I should point out that, odd as it might seem, a electrical panel doesn’t need to be rated at the full capacity of all the breakers in it. That’s because typically you aren’t running every circuit in the house at max capacity all at the same time. However, a car charger normally draws nearly full power available on its circuit whenever the car is charging (at least at 80% or lower charge), and a welder can also draw most of the available power. Welders vary considerably for power draw, but its typically comparable to high-draw electric appliances like ovens and stoves. This means the panel must be sufficiently sized for several circuits that will frequently be run at full capacity.

          Anyway, a circuit breaker trips when current beyond its rating occur from being overloaded or due to a short circuit. While the wiring should be sufficiently thick to handle the breaker’s amperage rating, wiring that’s too thin isn’t likely to directly cause a tripped breaker (the wiring will overheat though, causing other problems). A voltage drop can be caused by excessive draw through a circuit, which can trip the breaker since the drawn amperage will become higher than the breaker rating . I am not an electrician, and in any case can’t diagnose the problem over the internet with scant information regarding the setup.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          What I did in this situation was take my welder back and purchase the 240 one I wanted in the first place. Then I had an electrician run a dedicated 240v circuit for the new welder, which does rig as a bonus. Not the cheapest solution, but decent welders cost money and this set up affords me the ability to weld spring perches on the rear axle of my latest project and I’m not poor so I’m cool with it.

          Incidentally my kid with the Leaf now has to buy a real car since he got into college and the range won’t even get him to the local college. Hopefully his brother can use it for a couple of years while he can get by with a car that doesn’t really do car stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          And I’m surprised any friend would ask you this stuff. I mean if I needed to know who had the best pumpkin spice beer, the current seasonal latte, or Justin Bieber’s last hit maybe…you know…basic b!+ch stuff. Not useful things

  • avatar

    Since you don’t really need AWD while tooling down the highway it makes sense to do it this way. Especially if they use the tech from the eTorque models that don’t use a very large battery, unlike the plug in hybrid Pacifica.

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