Chrysler, the company that brought you the front-wheel drive minivan in 1983, now offers up a new kind of people hauler called Pacifica.
Pacifica looks quite sleek, even more so than the most contemporary minivan available today. Chrysler refers to its six-passenger Pacifica as a "sports-tourer".
While Pacifica is more about what's inside, Chrysler wanted to make sure its exterior design made it look less like a mom-mobile. I would say that Pacifica doesn't have even a slight bit of minivan DNA in its makeup.
Looking more like a crossover sport utility vehicle, and handling the road more like a luxurious sedan, Pacifica offers a nice alternative to the typical carpool vehicle.
Once you slip inside Chrysler's Pacifica you'll quickly realize how comfortable the cabin is and that this is nothing like you might expect.
Seating is for six (2+2+2) with three rows of seats. Large, convenient consoles separate front and middle row seats. The middle row seats, with almost four-inches of travel, are just as comfortable as the front row. The rear row seats, which require a climbing effort to get to, are more suitable for children.
The rear row seats neatly fold into the floor when not in use, but when used, there is only 13 cubic feet of cargo space behind them (43.6 cubic feet with rear seats folded).
The spacious cabin is very comfortable for four adults. And because the step up height is much lower than a typical SUV, older folks will find it easier to get in and out of.
All the gauges and controls are conveniently placed around the driver. My co-tester and I especially liked the fit, finish and feel of the interior. Everything appears to be high quality.
The optional navigation system ($1,595) features a screen built right into the instrument cluster. Using a technology called "thin film transfer", the navigation screen appears to float within the gauge cluster.
For those seated behind the driver an available flip-down roof-mounted DVD screen will make those long trips more enjoyable for everyone.
Powering both the FWD and AWD versions of the Pacifica is a transversely mounted 3.5-liter V6. The V6 makes 250 horsepower and is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.
Power is mostly adequate but it feels sluggish when loaded down with six adults or driving up steep grades. The transmission provides smooth shifts, but we would expect to see a five-speed automatic at this level.
For those that have towing needs, Pacifica is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds. On the road Pacifica feels confident and smooth. It feels well connected to the road and does a nice job of smoothing out bumpy sections of pavement. The ride is more sedan-like but it's obviously a bit clumsy when taking corners at fast speeds.
I felt a bit challenged when backing Pacifica into a parking space. It was difficult to judge the distance to the other vehicle. Chrysler will offer an optional rear parking assist system which will be available on 2005 models.
Chrysler's Pacifica doesn't have even a slight bit of minivan DNA in its makeup.
2004 Chrysler Pacifica AWD
Engine: 3.5-liter (250 hp) V6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Drive Type: AWD
Fuel Economy: 17 city/22 highway
Base Price: $32,300
As Tested: $36,060 (includes $680 for destination)