2007 Chrysler Pacifica

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2004 Chrysler Pacifica

This 2004 review is representative of model years 2004 to 2008.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.75

Bottom Line:

Chrysler creates a new, alternative family hauler to the minivan. Think of the 2004 Pacifica as a tall station wagon with three rows of seats, available all-wheel drive and a good number of safety features.
Pros:
  • Good road manners
  • Seats arranged in 3 rows
  • Upscale look to the interior
Cons:
  • Could use more power
  • Not exactly family-friendly pricing
  • Watch low roofline at door openings

Chrysler officials call it a "sports tourer." I call it a newfangled station wagon.

Call it what you will, the 2004 Chrysler Pacifica is an intriguing new vehicle for America's families.

Nearly as long in overall length as a long-wheelbase Chrysler minivan, the Pacifica doesn't have a minivan shape or, best of all, a stodgy minivan image.

It doesn't particularly drive like a sizable family hauler, either.

It does offer what many families are looking for: Good room for up to six people and cargo, many same comfort and convenience features found on today's minivans, respectable V6 power and many safety features including curtain airbags for three rows of seats.

Substantial and heavy
Very nearly as long in overall length as Chrysler's long-wheelbase minivans, the Pacifica is, surprisingly, heavier than Chrysler's traditional family vehicles like the Dodge Grand Caravan.

In fact, the Pacifica, even the front-wheel-drive model, weighs more than 4,300 pounds. So, there's no lightweight, flighty feel in this vehicle. Even the doors close with a solid-sounding thud.

Engine is OK, but…
The Pacifica is powered by a 250-horsepower 3.5-liter single overhead cam V6 that's also used in the Chrysler 300M large sedan.

Torque is 250 lb-ft at 3950 rpm, and the Pacifica uses the 300M's 4-speed automatic transmission with shift-it-yourself AutoStick function.

However, the substantial-feeling Pacifica weighs about 900 pounds more than the 300M. So while acceleration in the front- and all-wheel-drive Pacificas is pleasant and acceptable for many mainstream drivers, there's no instantaneous power surge for sporty-minded drivers.

The estimated fuel economy of the all-wheel-drive model is more SUV-like than car-like. In fact, the 17/22 city/highway mile-per-gallon rating matches that of the Honda Pilot SUV.

I heard the Pacifica's engine on acceleration only, and scarcely heard nearby cars and trucks during the test drive because the Pacifica's interior is impressively quiet.

There wasn't noticeable wind noise, either. The test vehicle did not have a roof rack on it.

Good road manners
Handling in the all-wheel-drive model was commendable with the Pacifica's body motions nicely managed, and the vehicle feeling as if it's much shorter and more nimble than expected. The ride doesn't come across as firm, nor is it truckish or floaty. It's somewhere in between.

Note that self-leveling shock absorbers are standard at the rear. Tires are 17-inches and help give the Pacifica a substantial, stable appearance.

Rack-and-pinion steering has decent on-center feel, and most of the time, even the all-wheel-drive Pacifica travels with power going primarily to the front wheels. When slippage is detected, power is automatically routed to the rear to help out, and a driver might not notice that the system has engaged.

Upscale interior
With the exception of the stereo faceplate and controls, which are the typical Chrysler shape and look of recent years, the interior of the Pacifica has a European sense.

The front four bucket seats have sculpted backs and looked ritzy in leather. As I rested on them, I sunk in just a bit.

At 5 feet 4 inches tall, I sort of just turned and sat onto the seats in the Pacifica, not having to pull myself up into the vehicle. I did have to make sure I ducked my head to keep from hitting the lower roof edge. This was true at all four doors.

The Pacifica's luminescent gauges are Lexus-like, with bright red needles seeming to float, rather than connect mechanically, to the gauges.

The faux wood trim on the dashboard looks good; it's better than the cheap-looking, satin-finish silver trim that's at the top of the doors, around the door handles inside.

How interior room works out
Note that headroom and shoulder room in most rows of the Pacifica's seats is less than, for example, in a Chrysler minivan.

Legroom in the first and second rows of the Pacifica is better than it is in the comparable rows of the minivan.

The third-row seat's 29.9 inches of legroom is approximately 7 inches less than what's in a Chrysler minivan, and my hair brushed the ceiling as I sat back there.

There's a commendable 43.6 cubic feet of storage space behind the Pacifica's second row seats, and the Pacifica's third-row seats fold flat into the floor with one-hand operation, so there's no lugging the seats outside and leaving them behind.

Heck, the Pacifica is even offered with power liftgate at the back, which is the same feature that Chrysler pioneered on its minivans.

I wished the Pacifica's four front-hinged doors opened wider to make entry into the vehicle easier.

Watch as you back up in the Pacifica. The high back window may not afford a good view of low-to-the-ground items. Chrysler officials said they planned to add a rear park assist feature in the future.

Priced for families?
Unfortunately, initial pricing isn't family-friendly. At introduction, a base 2004 Pacifica with front-wheel drive carried a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $30,000.

Chrysler officials promised that before summer 2003 would end, a Pacifica with an under-$30,000 price tag would be available.

My test Pacifica, an up-level all-wheel-drive model with options like power sunroof and leather seats, topped out at nearly $36,000 and showed just how pricey a Pacifica can become.

Unique navigation system
One of the Pacifica's additional-cost options is a noteworthy navigation system.

While lots of vehicles have nav systems now, the Pacifica becomes the first vehicle to incorporate its nav display in the center of the speedometer, so it's not in a separate display screen somewhere in the dashboard between the driver and front passenger.

Chrysler officials said consolidating the nav system into the instrument panel means it should be easier for a driver to keep eyes on the road.

I found it prevents the Pacifica's front-seat passenger from helping with navigation duties. When I peeked over at the nav system from the passenger seat, the scrolling up of the map among the gauges over there sort of made me carsick.

Sirius satellite radio is also available.

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BB04 - 9/20/2014 3:08:05 PM