By on September 22, 2005

Hi!  Remember me? The Pacifica is the original crossover, launched by Chrysler before sky high gas prices turbocharged the entire genre. The Pacifica combines the utility of a minivan (without the stigma of actually having to drive one), the raised seating position of an SUV (without getting dirty looks from drivers with "Proud To Be Vegan" bumper stickers) and the handling of a sedan (without the fuel efficiency). While it may not have everything it needs to roust suburban schleppers from their SUV's, the station wagon stilts is still the original and best shot over the SUV's bow.

In keeping with its multi-tasking mission, the Pacifica doesn't look like anything else on the market. With its dramatic belt line diving from back to front, the forward-leaning Pacifica's sheet metal has all the style of a Sinatra fedora. The details are equally compelling. Unlike its minivan competitors, the crossover's 17" wheels fit the wheel wells. The door handles aren't refugees from a bottomless parts bin. The bright work is deployed sparingly and with taste. In short, the Pacifica is the first pentastar product in a long time that doesn't look like it was designed by committee.

Plenty of room in the back-- especially for fish-eyed folk. Pacifica ads promise a luxurious sedan-like interior. In a stark break with industry tradition, it delivers. The Pacifica's cabin is simple and stylish; it's made from materials that wouldn't seem out of place in a mid-level Mercedes. In case you're not entirely convinced that a Chrysler can have class, the company's added a bit of technological whiz bang. In the flat world of navigation systems, the Pacifica's oversized display screen– sitting bang in the middle of the speedometer– is an ergonomic triumph. It's too bad Chrysler's sat nav software is easily disoriented and provides erroneous directions.

Our test Pacifica came equipped with four separate bucket seats (the base model has a minivan-esque rear bench). The fronts are more supportive than a third grade teacher, complete with fold down arm rests, power every which way (but loose) and memory. The rears are arranged theater-style. They slide fore and aft, recline and provide passengers easy access to separate controls for the air conditioning and optional DVD system (perfect for today's non-conversational kids). The seats in the way, WAY back are suitable only for children, dogs and in-laws. Although all the rear seats fold down, there's no way you can create a completely flat loading surface without an acetylene torch.

Look out!  The driver can't see you. While the rear passengers enjoy terrific vistas all 'round, drivers will find that the Pacifica's rear window bears an uncanny resemblance to a mail slot. When you look in the rear view mirror the entire window fills the frame. The window wiper looks the size of a pencil. Visibility wouldn't be worse if the door was made out of solid steel.

Chrysler teamed up with Infinity to create one of the world's best and most complicated audio systems. It's a farrago of oddly shaped buttons, rockers, sliders and a big plastic knob. Underneath the CD-equipped head unit there's… another CD player. The overall design is so ergonomically compromised that Chrysler just plain gave up and added two multi-function ICE-control buttons to the back of the steering wheel. Luckily, the helm-based switches offer a simple and effective alternative to the head unit's RTFM Hell.

A crossgrilled hurricane. You might think that 250 horses would be enough to motivate a two-ton vehicle. And it is. Kind of. The Pacifica ambles to 60 in a little under ten seconds. Shifting manually with the AutoStick gives you something to do to while away the time, but the system does little to increase the beast's acceleration. Once the Pacifica's 3.5 liter V6 gets rolling, the picture brightens considerably. The big crossover cruises effortlessly at 90mph. When you call down to the engine room at slower speeds, the powerplant answers authoritatively. Unfortunately, sloth does not equal frugality. Chrysler and our chronically over-optimistic pals at the EPA claim the Pacifica gets 17/23 mpg. Our test Pacifica turned in just 16.2.

At least it burned its fuel with grace. With struts up front and a five-link self-leveling suspension in the rear, the Pacifica errs on the fun-to-drive side. It turns in sharply, changes directions well and generally slings itself through the corners with more polish than you'd expect from a vehicle this generously sized. The Pacifica may be nothing more than a rolling chicane to an MX5, but Chrysler's crossover is hardly an automotive penalty box.

Looks great, gets lost. Buying a Pacifica is one of those rare instances where you really can have it all (assuming you have a spare $30k): the comfort of a luxury sedan, the practicality of a minivan and the psychological security of an SUV. All the Pacifica needs to mount a comeback, to capitalize on the current SUV exodus, is better mileage. The moment DCX installs a more fuel efficient engine is the moment the Pacifica will get the attention it deserves.

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6 Comments on “Chrysler Pacifica Review...”

  • avatar

    Hmmmmm….no comments on this vehicle, yet I see droves of them on the roads around here.

    I have never paid much attention to the Pacifica as it just seemed to blend into the SUV,CUV,Wagon,MiniVan land scape It is one of those vehicles that when you look at it you say “what the hell is it?” Not that it is a bad thing.

    As our Suburban aged and we had put on 100k miles on it, we wanted to replace it and desired something smaller, better fuel economy, yet we did not want to give anything up.

    There are tons of vehicles out there in this nitch, so choosing something was hard and the Pacifica never made the list, at least, until I drove one and we started talking numbers with the dealer.

    In the end, we purchased a loaded Limited model…AWD and all the works save for the navigation system. We left the lot for $8k less then sticker as it was a 2007 model. That put it at about $12k less then a similarly equipped Arcadia.

    The Pacifica is a great highway vehicle and just as solid around town.

    BTW, the 6 speed auto trans is as smooth as butter. But, ifyou want good fuel economy, use the dam cruise control. The cars computer will ensure the best possibel milage. I get 25 – 26 when using the cruise, but it drops to about 19 – 20 if you do it yourself. Strange, but I have verified it.

  • avatar
    Samuel B

    I was actually quite surprised to see a favorable review of the Pacifica. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been at best equivocal on the car. I own a 2006 Pacifica FWD Touring. I recently was in a collision with it and didn’t realize how comfortable it was to drive until I had to drive a Sebring rental car for two weeks while my Pacifica was in the body shop.

    We bought the Pacifica after I totalled a Honda Insight in a collision with a deer. I have a fairly long commute to work, and my wife insisted that I have a safe car to drive. The Pacifica’s 4 star crash rating impressed us both, and the dealer slashed almost $7000 off the list price of the car. How could we refuse?

    I’ve found my Pacifica to be one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever been in. While it doesn’t match the likes of BMW or Mercedes-Benz for quiet, it comes close. I drive mostly on highways and my fuel mileage, which started out at 18 mpg when I first got the car, is up to 20 now. I use the cruise control religiously. I agree with the author of the review that the 3.5 liter V6 is no ball of fire, but it goes fast enough for me. What I disagree with him on is his comment about the the Infinity audio system being complicated. I had it figured out on the drive home from the dealership and it does sound great.

    Overall, I’m quite satisfied with my Pacifica. The only complaint I have is from the idiots who can’t tell the difference between a minivan and a crossover and think my car is the former. Too bad Chrysler ended up discontinuing it due to poor sales. I think it was one of their best kept secrets.

  • avatar

    We have a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica Touring AWD. Although 2008 is the last year for the Pacifica, they are being made until April 2008. The real shame of it all is the lack of advertizement of the Pacifica by Chrysler. This Crossover is the best kept secret in Chrysler’s history!
    With the entry of the 4.L engine and the 6 speed outomatic transmission the Pacifica has entered into a class of not only a safe well built, quality crafted vehicle, but a real fuel saving Crossover. In a world of exagerated fuel mileages the 2007 Pacifica with the 4.L and the 6 speed auto trans it truely gets 21 mpg in local traffic and as high as 27 mpg on the road. This is better fuel mileage than some Dodge Caliber’s!
    The inside of the Pacifica Touring is well finished and fit is excellent. Quality upgraded materials show inside and outside the Pacifica. The ride is comfortable and smooth. Brakes and steering are consistant and easy to predict.
    In the 2007 Fuel Mileage is equal with or without the cruise control. However a heavy foot will show up quickly. The 4.L engine is fast and powerful, and moves this 4,600 pound vehicle effortlessly.
    With the best warranty anywhere in the world, Chrysler’s LifeTime Powertrain with no mileage limit, this just might be the last vehicle I will own. The Chrysler Max Care Service Contract Warrnaty is Lifetime as well. No other mfg. is even close to such a warranty!
    When comparing other Chrysler products, be it Dodge, Jeep, or Chrysler the Pacifica was spared the cheap hard plastic which seems to be the way the other vehicles have gone. The Pacifica has the widest inside measurements and teh Longest body. Yes, even bigger than the Chrysler 300C.
    For whatever reason the Pacifica was not brought before the buying publics eye and without advertizement this great vehicle comes to a sad end. I am glad we took the time to actually see and drive one and buy a Pacifica. Perhaps one of the best vehicles Chrysler has ever built so far. I agree with samuel B “Too bad Chrysler ended up discontinuing it due to poor sales. I think it was one of their best kept secrets.”

  • avatar

    Ditto Samuel B and Farout62. We purchased a Pacifica this April, a Touring model with the 4.0 liter engine. The optional rear-view camera nicely solves the visibility issues with the rear windshield.

    I haven’t been this happy driving a car in years.

    With oodles of interior room, my 6’8″ tall husband can drive with the seat way back while the passenger behind him still has plenty of space.

    Considering it’s the last model year for the Pacifica, and because we are the type to keep cars until they’re no longer driveable, we covered our butts with extended bumper-to-bumper lifetime warranty.

  • avatar

    I bought a 2005 Touring model back when they first came out. It’s got all the bells and whistles except AWD – which I couldn’t find a need for.

    It’s now four years later and I’ve been very well pleased with this vehicle. It’s comfortable and easy to drive and gets amazing gas mileage for its size; 25+ on the highway consistently.

    No problems at all and I’m just now facing the first actual repair – it needs a new battery. Other than that it’s been absolutely trouble free.

    Chrysler made what people asked for – but it cost so much that people didn’t buy it. Too bad. There’s still nothing better for cross-country drives.

  • avatar

    This is one of my favourite vehicles we’ve ever owned. We had the optional 4.0L in one of the newer ones which I think was a vast improvement over any of the smaller engines, those 3.something liters made this thing a pig.

    Comfortable, stylish as heck, great powertrain. It won my heart very quickly.

    One night my band didn’t have access to our large van we use to bring our gear to and from shows. This once was local and all I could think of was the Pacifica. We loaded it up with 2 full size guitar 4×10 cabs, 2 guitar heads, a full drumset and 3 guitars in cases with the seats folded down. We were all amazed!

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