Some classify minivans as yesterday's news, SUVs as passe, and feel that traditional sedans don't offer the configurability or safety features many families want. Here's the latest budding, blending segment, the Crossover, and its newest entry, Chrysler's Pacifica.
Unlike others of this genre, the Pacifica grafts a new limb to the family tree, a branch Chrysler calls the "sports tourer" (thank goodness, there's no three-letter acronym for it--yet). They'd like us to think of it as a mix of minivan configurability, sport/utility functionality, and sport-sedan agility with a dollop of luxury. It sounds like a strange combination, but it works--extremely well.
Designed from the ground up, the Pacifica's styling has a fresh look, blending European cues with a dash of Chrysler design heritage. While it resembles Audi's allroad, with its Germanic strong edges, the Pacifica's tall, sweeping beltline is more pronounced. The familiar Chrysler "face" (replete with slightly overdone chrome eyebrows and HID or Xenon headlamps) makes the Pacifica stand out.
The sport-sedanlike cockpit places essential controls within easy reach of the driver. We're especially impressed with the DVD-based navigation liquid-crystal display imbedded within the instrument pod. The five-inch-diagonal screen is surrounded by a LED-based transreflective gauge cluster, which literally projects the dials into the pod.
Front- and second-row heated bucket seats are wonderfully sculpted and trimmed in supple leather, and both rows get their own console. While many SUV third-row seats are reserved for small children, the Pacifica's stern bench is easily accessible via flip-and-fold second-row buckets. There's good leg/head/footroom for people up to six feet in height. This interior, too, has lots of creature comforts: aluminum and wood-trim accents, front/rear-climate controls, and storage cubbies.