Full Test: 2004 Chrysler Pacifica

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    American Smorgasbord

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    By Ed Hellwig
    Date posted: 06-19-2003

    When all-American Chrysler "merged" with German conglomerate Daimler, it seemed an unlikely combination. So it shouldn't be much of surprise that the first product to emerge from this strange brew is itself an improbable mix of minivan, wagon and sport-utility.

    Chrysler calls the Pacifica a "sports tourer," and while this may be just another example of the endlessly fertile minds of Chrysler's marketing team, the Pacifica does have a distinctly different personality compared to your average minivan or SUV. Its sleek lines certainly don't scream "mommy-mobile," but look inside and there are more than enough seats to qualify for carpool duty. Juxtapose this with the Pacifica's luxuriously appointed interior and high-end options, and it's easy to see why this vehicle is so hard to wedge into any one specific category.

    Although base front-wheel-drive models start at just over $31,000, our particular tester was a fully loaded all-wheel-drive version that came in at a very luxurylike $41,170. While the base price places it against mainstream vehicles like the Honda Pilot and Buick Rendezvous, our lofty bottom line placed it squarely against luxury-branded vehicles like Acura's MDX and the Lexus RX 330 — a challenge Chrysler feels that its new upscale crossover is up to.

    Our week with the Pacifica didn't dispel that notion, as its blend of size, power, handling and features impressed nearly everyone who drove it. We're not so sure that it's the revolutionary "segment buster" that Chrysler touts it as, but if you're looking for comfort and convenience in a stylish package, the Pacifica is a compelling crossover that deserves attention.

    Despite what its elevated ride height might suggest, getting into the Pacifica is actually easier than with most cars and SUVs. There's no stooping down or stepping up, you just open the door and the seat is right there to greet you. Power-adjustable captain's chairs for the driver and front passenger are standard, and with easy-to-reach door-mounted controls (a longtime Mercedes trademark), getting comfortable takes little time. Dual memory settings can be set to keep the driver's preferred adjustments, and two-level seat heaters are also available to warm you up on cold mornings.

    Much like those of our former long-term Dodge Grand Caravan, we found the Pacifica's seats to be more than accommodating. Their combination of soft leather, ample padding and just the right support renders them comfortable in an instant and continuously so after several hours behind the wheel. Tall drivers never complained for lack of room, and shorter drivers appreciated the standard power-adjustable pedals.

    The interior design manages to look upscale and modern without going overboard with gadgets and buttons, while a tasteful mix of wood trim and metallic accents adds color without looking tacky or overdone. The expensive look and feel is reinforced by the high-quality materials used throughout the cabin.

    One definite step forward is the optional DVD-based navigation system that's displayed on a screen within the gauge cluster. This arrangement allows the driver to see the electronic map without having to look off to the side, a potentially dangerous side effect of most systems. Our experience proved it to be a worthwhile benefit, as the screen is clearly visible just below eye level. We programmed the system to find a local restaurant in a nearby city known for its unorthodox streets and it guided us right to it with clear, easy-to-follow directions. The only drawback is the fact that the passenger sitting shotgun can't manipulate the system, but to some drivers this could qualify as its most enticing feature.

    Turn the key in the easy-to-find dash-mounted ignition and you're greeted by the pleasant hum of Chrysler's familiar 3.5-liter V6. This engine has been used in numerous vehicles over the last several years, and we've always found it a competent performer, if not a class leader. In this application, it generates 250 horsepower and is matched to a four-speed automatic transmission. The console-mounted shifter falls right to your hand and features the Autostick manual-shift system should you feel the need to pick the gears yourself.

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    Acceleration from a standstill is a little soft, but once the big V6 gets its wind, the vehicle moves out quickly. Shifts from the four-speed transmission are crisply executed, and it rarely misses an opportunity to grab a lower gear for more power. Our only minor complaint with the drivetrain is its level of noise and shrillness of tone at high speeds. It's excusable in a considerably less expensive sedan, but buyers in this category are likely to expect a little more in the way of refinement.

    No such lack of refinement comes through when it comes to ride quality, as the Pacifica delivers a confident over-the-road feel that most minivans, and SUVs for that matter, would find hard to match. While the majority of minivans feels completely detached from the road below, the Pacifica's steering provides solid feedback, and the suspension imparts a sense of surefooted control that borders on fun. We're not going to go too far out on a limb and call it "sporty," but for a vehicle that's specifically designed for family duty, it's surprisingly entertaining.

    Standard models feature front-wheel drive with traction control, while our tester was an all-wheel-drive version that splits power between the front and rear wheels depending on conditions. With only 5.9 inches of ground clearance, even all-wheel-drive versions lack the kind of height necessary to allow for off-road adventures, but if you encounter nothing more than slippery roads, the Pacifica's fully automatic system should provide all the traction you'll ever need.

    Other aspects of the Pacifica that impressed us were the powerful brakes and its well-insulated cabin. With standard ABS and four-wheel disc brakes, the Pacifica not only stops quickly but does so with a delicate pedal feel that allows for easy modulation of the power. At highway speeds, wind and road noise is minimal but severely rutted roads cause some occasional thumping inside the cabin.

    The quiet ride contributes to what is an already serene cabin environment. Optional leather upholstery covered all three rows and the good-looking materials found up front extend to the rear quarters as well. Second-row captain's chairs provide nearly as much comfort as the front seats and an equally accommodating entry height. Satellite climate controls and an optional rear DVD entertainment system further contribute to the first-class feel in back.

    As much as we liked the Pacifica's setup, however, we did notice a few details that some parents may find frustrating. With the second-row seats pushed so far back, attending to a small child from the front is quite a stretch, and without a bench seat, you don't even have the option of plopping yourself down between two kids in back on longer trips. Another editor noticed that the rear doors don't open wide enough to provide good access when you're trying to secure a pesky child seat.

    Space in the standard third row is expectedly tight, with head- and legroom at a minimum. We did appreciate the fact that the seat isn't on the floor like most third-row setups and that the seat itself is nicely contoured, but overall the accommodations are kid-size at best.

    Cargo space behind the third row is on the small side at just 13 cubic feet, but folding both sides of the 50/50-split bench opens the area up to a more usable 43.6 cubic feet. The second-row chairs fold easily as well, bringing the total available cargo space to 79.5. Compare this with the MDX at 82 cubic feet and the RX 330 at 85 cubic feet and the Pacifica is competitive, if not on the smaller side. Our only other gripe concerns the rearward slope of the load floor, as this tends to send anything you're carrying sliding toward the tailgate with every takeoff. On the flip side, our Pacifica's optional power-operated tailgate made hands-full loading considerably easier.

    Crash protection is one area where the Pacifica gives up nothing to its competitors. In tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Pacifica received five out of five stars for all four of the rated categories. Advanced features like side curtain airbags and even a knee airbag for the driver help it achieve such impressive ratings.

    The real question, of course, is what kind of ratings buyers will give the Pacifica. We found it hard not to like its combination of upscale amenities, sharp handling and non-traditional styling. Add to that an elevated driving position, supremely comfortable seats and top-notch safety scores and it's easy to see why Chrysler believes that it has created a whole new category. "Sports tourer" might be a little optimistic, but if the worst aspect of the Pacifica is its pretentious title, then we would consider that a vehicle well done.

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    Ups: Exceptional comfort for four, drives more like a sedan than a minivan, top-notch safety scores, upscale interior.

    Downs: Average room for six, not as family-friendly as most minivans, gets expensive when you add high-end options, fussy climate and radio controls.

    The Bottom Line: We still don't know what a "sports tourer" is, but we do know that the Pacifica offers an enticing blend of performance, style and comfort that any family is sure to find appealing.

    MSRP of Test Vehicle: $41,170

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  2. poopies4u

    poopies4u Active Member

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  3. pixel804

    pixel804 yabba dabba do

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    holy shit that thing is expensive!
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    But I've never seen any plain models for sale here, they're all around $33k-$35k.
     
  5. 93CivicEX

    93CivicEX Charming, Dashing, Rental car bashing

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    call a spade a spade and sell that POS as a fucking station wagon.
     
  6. ///TRASH

    ///TRASH Hideously Erect

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    damn that interior is nice!

    i'll take a used ml320 though :o
     
  7. ZAQ786

    ZAQ786 BMW: The reason Lexus is still 'In the pursuit of

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    That is one nice looking car. :cool:
     
  8. ///TRASH

    ///TRASH Hideously Erect

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    i mean ml430
     
  9. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    Front wheel drive for 31k. Yeah, okay.
     
  10. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    GET a FORESTER!
     
  11. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    The three you listed are more SUV than minivan, IMHO.
     
  12. ZAQ786

    ZAQ786 BMW: The reason Lexus is still 'In the pursuit of

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    The MB influence in stlying is showing :cool:

    also, the MB influence in price is showing :greddy:
     
  13. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    Interior is funky. That steering wheel is very :ugh:
     
  14. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    It is attractive for what it is. Simple and clean lines. MUCH better than any other recent chrysler products.

    But I have no use for one.
     
  15. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    I should've pointed this out, too.
     
  16. Supreme Allah

    Supreme Allah The terrorists won.

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    FX45 > that
    FX35 > that, too, also as well
     
  17. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Most of OT doesn't, it's a family hauler.

    And not a bad looking one at that.
     
  18. Grass Jelly

    Grass Jelly Guest

    :werd:
    I was about to say it doesn't look half bad, but look at the price tag. :ugh:
     
  19. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    I like how they kept the Chrysler emblem off the grill...makes it look nice and clean.
     
  20. BLoG

    BLoG Scented Meat

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    in performance, but not in looks
     
  21. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    I happen to think the Infiniti FX is a GORGEOUS automobile (in the right color)
     
  22. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    If that's what you use to qualify something as an SUV.
     
  23. ZAQ786

    ZAQ786 BMW: The reason Lexus is still 'In the pursuit of

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    SUV= Soccer Moms.
     
  24. cynderacid

    cynderacid Haribo macht kinder froh

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    I DROVE ALL NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHHHTTT
     
  25. Chadder007

    Chadder007 OG Diamond Member

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    They are $40,000 around here.... :ugh:
     

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