By: Michael Cooney
For those who like an SUV’s people and cargo carrying abilities, but also want a vehicle that can sip fuel with a straw instead of a garden hose, Chrysler may have the answer with its new Pacifica. While I usually state fuel consumption figures at the end, I’m moving them up front this time. The Pacifica’s EPA rating is 17-city, 23-highway mpg. In my mix of freeway, mountain and city driving (about 50% freeway) I averaged 20.5 mpg. Or, roughly twice as good as all those Hummer H2s you see out there.
Now for the rest. The Pacifica functions as both wagon and SUV (hence the “Crossover” title), with a few compromises. On the plus side, it carries six, the second and third rows of seats fold flat for cargo, and you sit fairly high for a good view.
With its lower-than-SUV roofline, though, cargo capacity is lessened, and third row seating access requires some serious stooping. And with a higher-than-wagon stance, its cornering may not be as flat as some well-suspended wagons. The Pacifica strikes a good balance, though, and ends up being as practical as most folks will need.
With rounded corners and fairly sleek lines, the Pacifica’s exterior is handsome in a conservative way.
Under the hood you’ll find Chrysler’s 3.5L SOHC V-6, rated at 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Its 4-speed automatic transmission features Chrysler’s AutoStick, which allows you to control shifts manually and hold the gear you want.
A few journalists have complained that the Pacifica doesn’t sprint quickly enough. I disagree. With 0-60 mph acceleration in the mid-9-second range, it’s entirely adequate for most needs. I put foot to the floor twice: once from a stop for reference purposes, and once for a highway pass. Both were adequate. If you’re carrying a full load in the mountains and heading uphill, just use AutoStick to downshift a gear or two to get the power you need—that’s what it’s there for.
The Pacifica’s interior is a great place to spend time. I liked the adjustable foot pedals, part of a luxury package. They help you get a perfect fit, which means your safety quotient is higher. Along with a tilt-wheel and a comfortable multi-adjustable driver’s seat, the Pacifica should fit nearly everyone.
If you like navigation systems, this one’s outstanding. Its map is contained under the semi-circular speedometer numerals, making it easy to read. However, you may find that its voice commands are so good you won’t even need to look. Driving to the San Fernando Mission, a place I’d never visited before, the voice commands got me there with perfect precision. Whenever needed, it gives you both the immediate change and the next one as well, such as “left turn, then immediate right turn ahead.” Impressive.
Freeway driving proved to be quite comfortable, thanks to a smooth and well-controlled ride. Winding mountain roads were a pleasant surprise however. You can fling the Pacifica from corner to corner faster than you might expect; its tires give adequate “squeal” warning to let you know when their traction limit is near.
The base “Premium” front wheel drive (fwd) model begins at $29,525, while the “Luxury” all wheel drive model starts at $32,980. My loaded fwd tester was priced at $36,495. All prices include destination fees.
Chrysler has hit an interesting niche with the Pacifica. It’s reasonably priced for a “crossover” SUV, has a high level of content, and performs well while being relatively easy on your fuel bill. You can add interesting options like a power liftgate, rear seat video system, and tire pressure monitoring too. Mine had all these and more. If you’re considering comfortable, practical and competent six-seaters, the Pacifica is worth a look.