When its segment-shattering minivans rolled into the marketplace in 1983, rewrote history, and earned a place in the Smithsonian, Chrysler followed up with another successful creation, the notable PT Cruiser in 2001. Chrysler hoped for a similar huge hit with the Pacifica.
The Pacifica--Chrysler calls it a "Sports Tourer"--is a crossover vehicle, something in between a minivan and an old-school station wagon. The Pacifica's interior and exterior are gorgeous; its crisp, rising wedge shape should stay fresh for years. The big smiley face may be over the top, and the D-pillar might be on the swoopy side, but the Pacifica is nonetheless a good-looking beast. The best angle may be the rear, as it looks wide and substantial. Surface development and detailing are ideal, though, on the downside, the D-pillar design leaves a blind spot in lane changes and parking and begs for a rear-parking-assist option.
Materials and fit and finish set new highs for a domestic vehicle with switchgear that's logically placed and perceived quality approaching that of VW and Audi, although some would argue this point and say it's not quite up to the level of, say, a similarly priced Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Most of our editors like the in-cluster nav system, although some did note it didn't allow the driver to share navigation duties with the passenger and, when wearing polarized sunglasses, it's just about impossible to use. The system is, as one staffer put it, "laudably easy to program," and once underway, the cluster display minimizes the time eyes are off the road compared with a center-dash-mounted screen.
Passengers in the back, especially the attention-challenged sort, will enjoy the rear entertainment system, and second-row passengers the ability to adjust legroom, although the third-row seats aren't exactly easy to access. Folding the seatback is easy enough, but swinging the entire unit up and forward is another story. The seat on our long-termer hesitated to unlatch, and when it eventually did, it was a slow and heavy process--it was easier to climb over the collapsed seatback rather than fight the bulky unit.
Freeway ride quality is good, with the suspension absorbing most bumps, cracks, and ripples, although some thought it a bit too floaty, with handling that leaned more toward the minivan than the sports tourer, and many commented about the numb, but precise steering. Road noise is as good or better than in many of its SUV competitors.
Only one engine is available: a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a four-speed automatic transaxle with AutoStick. We were unanimous about the lack of power from the 250-horse engine relative to the 4692 pounds the Pacifica's all-wheel-drive version has to lug around (a front-drive variant weighs 4393). The engine proved adequate enough, though some of our staffers called it slow, sluggish, and strained; but with 300 pounds less weight, it may not have been as much of an issue. Part and parcel of a luxury vehicle is the luxury that comes from rich power on demand, and this 3.5-liter often didn't feel up to the task. Tip-in response is fine, but once underway the car feels lifeless at anything less than wide-open throttle that, unfortunately, reveals a shrill engine note.
Another cog in the transaxle could've helped, with closer ratios allowing the engine to stay in the fat part of its powerband. And while some may think of the AutoStick as gimmicky, our logbook entries comment about how it does come in handy for holding gears, as when descending hills.
Overall, the quality of our long-term Pacifica was good, with the exception of the two airbag clock-springs replaced during our first two service visits. The remaining service schedule went smoothly with the usual lube, oil and filter change, tire rotation, and visual inspections every 6000 miles. The 12,000-mile service also included replacement of the cabin air filter. The total amount we'd have had to spend on the three services would've been $210, but we didn't. Free maintenance was included with the early Pacifica as an incentive to offset the high initial price for the vehicle.
For reference (2005 prices), Chrysler's Town & Country minivan has a base price of $22,065 while the Dodge Magnum SE (new-aged station wagon) starts at $22,995. Pacifica base price is $25,345. Our 2004 Satin Jade Pearl Coat AWD Pacifica started at $32,300 with our out the door price at $38,515--not exactly chump change. By mid-2004, Chrysler lopped $1700 off the price of the front-drive models. Base price on the AWD like ours remained unchanged, but, for 2005, Chrysler introduced Touring and Limited models. Without a deep dive into equipment specs, it looks like our 2004 would match up to a 2005 Touring model, which based for $1375 less than our 2004. A lower price could've changed our value perspective.
All in, the Pacifica has a number of shortcomings. But in terms of being an upmarket, family-friendly multitasker that gives the driver the highly regarded command view of the road, it makes a lot more economic sense (in terms of MSRP and mpg) than many of the pricier/thirstier luxury SUVs purchased to serve the same needs. Some us don't agree on this point, but let's just say we agree the Pacifica is no segment-buster.
•Stylish design should hold up well over time
•Interior design and materials are first rate
•Cooler than a sport/utility
•Lack of performance
•Pricey when loaded
Navi screen on instrument cluster
Not a meter-mover, a but a good family piece
|From The Logbook|
|"The interior is the strong suit. There's plenty of versatility, and it's easy to raise and lower the third row. Interior design also is top-notch for this category and has the style and appearance that would surprise those who haven't seen a Chrysler in a while."|
"The one-touch (okay, two-touch) hatch release is a convenient feature when holding a baby and bags of groceries, and auto-down is great also."
"After living with the packaging of the Pacifica, it seems to make many concessions due to its shape rather than add usefulness (e.g., blind spots, difficulty getting to the third row, and fuel economy). Is the Pacifica the answer to a question nobody asked? I don't care what the marketing says, it's still a minivan, and there are better choices out there for less $$."
"Overall the Pacifica's idea is great: combine the best aspects of a car, minivan, and SUV into one friendly package, kind of the Swiss Army knife of family vehicles. Chrysler has done good but unfortunately I don't think the Pacifica does one thing great, but it does most things well."
"There are dozens of luxury cars I'd rather drive and even a few minivans that feel lighter on their feet (not to mention leagues more useful in everyday life) than this good-looking but somewhat hugely disappointing crossover. I think something (a lot of things actually) got lost in the crossing."
|2004 Chrysler Pacifica AWD|
|Drivetrain layout|| Front engine, AWD|
|Engine type ||V-6, alum block/heads|
|Valvetrain ||SOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement|| 214.7 cu in / 3518 cc|
|Compression ratio|| 10.0:1|
|Power (SAE net)|| 250 hp @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)|| 250 lb-ft @ 3950 rpm|
|Weight to power|| 18.8 lb/hp|
|Transmission ||4-speed automatic|
|Axle / final-drive ratios|| 4.28:1 / 2.95:1|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Steering ratio|| 17.8:1|
|Turns lock-to-lock|| 3.2|
|Brakes, front; rear ||12.5-in vented disc; 12.5-in disc, ABS|
|Wheels|| 17 x 7.5, cast alum|
|Tires ||P235/65R17 103H M+S, Michelin MXV4 Energy|
|Wheelbase ||116.3 in|
|Track, f/r ||66.0 / 66.0 in|
|L x W x H 1||98.9 x 79.3 x 66.5 in|
|Turning circle ||39.8 ft|
|Curb weight (f/r dist)|| 4692 lb (55 / 45%)|
|Towing capacity ||3500 lb|
|Seating capacity ||6|
|Headroom, f/m/r ||39.2 / 40.4 /35.4 in|
|Legroom, f/m/r ||40.9 / 38.9 / 29.9 in|
|Shoulder room, f/m/r ||60.8 / 60.5 / 58.0 in|
|Cargo vol behind f/m/r|| 79.5 / 43.6 / 13.0 cu ft |
|Max cargo floor length ||75.0 in|
|Width bet. wheelhouses ||43.0 in|
|Cargo lift-over height ||30.5 in|
|Acceleration to mph |
|0-30|| 3.1 sec|
|1/4 mile|| 17.0 sec @ 81.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph|| 125 ft|
|600-ft slalom ||62.0 mph avg|
|Lateral acceleration|| 0.75g avg|
|Base price ||$32,980|
|Price as tested ||$38,515|
|Stability/trac control ||No / no|
|Airbags ||Dual front, driver knee, f/r head curtain|
|Fuel capacity ||23.0 gal|
|EPA mpg, city/hwy ||17 / 22 mpg|
|Basic warranty ||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty|| 7 yrs/70,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance|| 3 yrs/36,000 miles|