The 2021 Wards 10 Best UX winners are being revealed in random, non-alphabetical order one per day until Nov. 3. This is the second winner profile. Winning design teams will receive their trophies Nov. 17 during Automotive TechWeek in Novi, MI., where winning vehicles will be on display.
Top-grade minivans already offer a great user experience given their easy ingress and egress, comfy captain’s chairs, rear-seat entertainment systems and abundant soft surfaces.
But their numerous features typically are geared more toward creating a great user experience for passengers, not drivers.
Not so with the ’21 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle (pictured, left), winner of a 2021 Wards 10 Best User Experience award. This Pacifica refresh gets an all-new center console and significant infotainment upgrades.
While the second-row passengers may have soft leather-and-microsuede lumbar pillows, the driver gets a slew of easy-to-reach controls and bright, clear display screens that are well organized.
With potential distracting commotion from kids in the back, Stellantis interior designers wisely chose to keep lots of features easy to access via physical switchgear on the minivan’s center stack, rather than relying on touchscreen menus.
Dials are large and easy to grip, and we continue to love and appreciate the rocker buttons on the back of the steering wheel. A holdover from the Daimler-Chrysler era, they make tuning through dozens of satellite radio stations and adjusting the audio volume a snap.
What is available via the main touchscreen is easy to access, with most selections a one- or two-step process. For instance, all audio source choices are always shown on the media page. That beats having to open a drop-down menu, as most infotainment systems require, if you want to switch from AM to FM.
A row of virtual buttons at the bottom of the screen are always present (pictured below), offering easy access to main menu categories of Media, Comfort, Navigation, Phone, Vehicle, Apps and Home.
Some on-screen features surprise with their level of detail, such as, after pairing a phone, being able to see your last three recent calls and whether they were incoming or outgoing displayed on the main page.
The clear, high-resolution digital cluster is packed with features (Audio, Messages, Screen Setup, Speedometer, Tire Pressure, Vehicle Info, Driver Assist, Fuel Economy, Trip Info and Stop/Start), but it’s all well organized and easy to access from the steering-wheel controls.
Should you want to use spoken commands to access the numerous features available on the top-grade Pacifica Pinnacle, the voice-recognition system works well. Our commands to change various satellite radio stations were understood quickly. Voice also can be used to access some climate, navigation and phone functions.
The updated Chrysler minivan can pair a smartphone lightning fast, and it offers virtually every advanced driver-assist technology you could ever want, including standard, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control that functions from a standstill up to highway speeds. There’s also an available front-park assist system that can apply brakes.
A slew of USB ports and outlets are inside for connecting or charging devices.
Four USB ports (two USB-A and two USB-C) are up front under the center stack, while second-row passengers get a bunch of the same, plus HDMI ports and a 115V AC outlet. Even the third row has USB ports.
The Pacifica Pinnacle has wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as WiFi and Amazon Alexa.
However, its ultimate feature may be the Fam Cam (pictured above), a ceiling-mounted camera above the second row so parents can see what their kids are up to, and find out the answer to that most elusive question: who touched whom first?
Says judge Bob Gritzinger: “This is a rolling high-tech living room, and a very comfortable and highly functional one at that. This is, as they call it, the Pinnacle of minivans.”