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2004 New Car Review: Chrysler Pacifica AWD

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)



MODEL: Chrysler Pacifica AWD
ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 250 hp @ 6,400 rpm/250 lb-ft @ 3,950 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic with Autostick
WHEELBASE: 116.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 198.9 x 79.3 x 66.5 in.

Chrysler's Pacifica was probably the first of the new breed of crossover vehicles. I'd still call it a station wagon. I've always had a problem with the classification of crossovers, which means a mix between a minivan and a SUV. Well if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, call it a duck. This is a station wagon.

True, the Pacifica has all-wheel drive like a SUV, and it has three rows of seating like a minivan, but its styling is pure station wagon. Of course, to the Gen X and Gen Yers Chrysler is trying to attract to the Pacifica, "minivan" is a dirty word. They need a minivan for all their kids and stuff but won't condescend to owning one. That's why the PT Cruiser is listed as a truck, it has more appeal that way.

I flat out liked the Pacifica. It has a normal step-in height, so senior citizens won't have trouble entering or exiting it. It has "normal" hinged side doors so there's minimum confusion. And there are assist handles over three of the four doors, again to help senior citizens in entering and exiting.

Pacifica has comfortable seating for six or seven passengers. There are bucket seats in the front and second rows. All four of these seats have fold-up armrests and a center console that extends all the way back. There is storage and cupholders for both rows of passengers. The third row seat is a bench that can accommodate three adults in a pinch, three children handily, or two adults with better comfort. In any case, the seating is better than the rear-facing seats in my old full-size station wagon.

There are grocery bag hooks behind the front seats.

The third row seat folds flat for increased carrying capacity. With the seat up, there are 13.0 cubic feet of cargo volume. With the third row folded and the second row up, there are 43.6 cubic feet, and with the second and third rows folded there are 79.5 cubic feet. Good.

Access to the rear seats is fair. The second-row seats are heavy to move and it's a two-step process to tilt them forward enough to gain access to the rear.

The rear hatch is power-operated, which is a great convenience when you have a lot of groceries, for example. You can power it with the key fob or a switch located in the center roof console.

That fob is also used to remotely unlock or lock the doors. If you push it once, only the left turn signal lights, indicating that only the driver's door is open. Push it twice and both turn signals operate, indicating all doors are open. A nice touch.

Speaking of power, both front seats are power-operated, with door-mounted controls, a first for Chrysler.

Side curtain airbags for all three rows of passengers increase safety. The front and second-row curtains are installed in the B-pillar; the third-row bag is in the C-pillar.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 rated at 250 horsepower. The 3.5 V6 is Chrysler's "second string" power engine, right behind the Hemi V8 and Viper V10 engines. It's a good engine for this product and gave us all the power we needed. The engine and automatic transmission (with Autostick) are rated at 17 mpg city/ 22 mpg highway. We averaged 17 mpg for primarily urban driving.

Instrumentation is standard and attractive. What I particularly liked about the speedometer was first its 180-degree arc and second the navigation system readout enclosed within that arc. This eliminates the driver's need to look toward the center of the dash to find out where the nav system is leading him or her.

The Chrysler Pacifica is generally attractive. It's the kind of vehicle that, I guess, is right for the segment and a leader in that segment. I don't know if it will have the impact the first minivans had, but it's a great idea.

2004 The Auto Page Syndicate