The Chrysler Pacifica is a "crossover" vehicle that combines attributes of a sedan, minivan and sport-utility vehicle. It got a rocky start after its debut early last year because it offered $30,000-plus versions many folks thought were too expensive.
DaimlerChrysler learned its lesson and thus offers an entry 2005 front-drive Pacifica for $24,315. The all-wheel-drive entry version goes for $27,315. Both come with two-row seating for five occupants.
The entry Pacifica is fairly well equipped but can't be had with such items as leather upholstery, power tailgate, sunroof, traction control or rear-seat DVD entertainment system, which are standard or optional on other versions.
There's also a new top-line, $36,315 Limited all-wheel-drive model equipped with everything but the kitchen sink -- along with mid-range front- and all-wheel-drive Touring models that cost $27,570 and $30,370.
The entry Pacifica has fold-flat second-row seats for more cargo area. The Touring and Limited have three-row, six-passenger seating with fold-flat second- and third-row seats.
The Limited is a deluxe number, with such things as exclusive interior trim featuring first- and second-row heated leather seats, side curtain air bags, big 19-inch (versus standard 17-inch) chrome-clad wheels, power adjustable pedals and a power tailgate and sunroof.
The Pacifica is a family vehicle, so side curtain air bags are optional for other models, and there's a special driver air bag to help prevent leg injuries in a collision.
DaimlerChrysler is disappointed that lots of folks didn't go for the higher-priced, well-equipped 2004 Pacifica because it was billed as a "premium sports tourer breakthrough'' vehicle.
Chrysler couldn't pull off the higher prices with much success because it doesn't have the nameplate prestige of automakers such as Cadillac, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
However, the new Chrysler 300 sedan is helping build the prestigious image the Chrysler nameplate enjoyed from the 1930s through the late 1950s. That image vanished because Chrysler lacked the resources of larger, more affluent U.S. automakers, although it got a new lease on life after it was bought by Daimler-Benz in 1988.
The base front-drive Pacifica is powered by a 3.8-liter, 215-horsepower V-6, which offers average performance above 65 mph because this vehicle is pretty big and heavy, starting at 4,383 pounds.
The weight can be felt during such things as quick maneuvers, but the rather heavy steering is quick and the Pacifica handles as well as most carlike minivans. In fact, the Pacifica is about as long as an extended-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country minivan, although it's lower and wider. The ride is smooth, and braking is strong.
All-wheel-drive Pacificas are heavier, but get a more sophisticated 3.5-liter V-6. Although smaller than the 3.8 V-6, it generates 250 horsepower and additional torque.
Both engines work with a responsive four-speed automatic transmission, although a more modern five- or six-speed automatic would be welcome.
So would Chrysler's 5.7-liter, 340-horsepower Hemi V-8, which is offered for the Chrysler 300 and DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Magnum.
I tested the front-drive Touring version and found the 3.5 V-6 provides good acceleration above 65 mph, at least with only a driver aboard, although it's rather noisy when asked to work hard.
Fuel economy of any Pacifica model is so-so, being in the mid-teens in the city and low 20s on the highway. After all, this is a big, strong, roomy vehicle with average aerodynamics.
The body looks distinctive. High window sills are meant to impart a feeling of security to occupants, but might cause shorter ones to feel a little confined. At least the rear windows lower all the way.
It's easy to get in and out, with the low-floor and wide-opening doors. Occupants sit higher than they would in a car, but lower than in a sport-utility vehicle. Front seats are especially large and supportive, and the sliding second-row bucket seats in the three-row models are comfortable. However, it calls for extra effort to reach the third-row seat, even if you're a kid.
The interior is filled with cup and bottle holders, and the front power seats have Mercedes-style controls. The ignition switch is conveniently on the dashboard. The available navigation system is fairly easy to operate, with its screen directly ahead of the driver in the speedometer face. However, the screen and controls are only for driver use.
The cargo area is roomy in all versions with the seatbacks flipped forward, but there isn't much cargo space with the third-row seatbacks in their normal position.
Lower prices should help sales of the Pacifica. So should increased popularity of crossover vehicles.
2005 CHRYSLER PACIFICA
Expanded lineup with new lower-priced model and new top-line version. Roomy. Decent handling. Smooth ride. Luxurious.
Third seat for pre-teens. Base engine just adequate. Where's the Hemi V-8?