The Pacifica proves a capable hauler. Fold the third-row seats down, and there's plenty of room for luggage for four, or drop the second row (creating a flat load floor) for most lumberyard needs. Similar to the Town & Country, the optional power rear liftgate is handy when arms are full of parcels.

The Pacifica offers a six-disc CD/DVD changer and Dolby 5.1 surround sound, a first in a production vehicle. A seven-inch rear-console-mounted screen eliminates common outward visibility problems associated with roof-mounted systems. To help keep the peace within the family, a single CD slot (and optional Sirius satellite radio) is provided so parents can listen to their own tunes while the kids watch the latest Disney flick, with or without the standard-issue infrared headphones. To say that this system kicks would be an understatement--it beats some home-theater units.

Powered by the same 250-horse SOHC V-6 found in the 300M, and coupled to a four-speed automatic transaxle with AutoStick, the Pacifica is a nimble performer in FWD or viscous-coupled AWD form. The engine is wholly up to the job, but the trans lags a bit on downshifts. And why only four and not five or six ratios? Struts handle the front underpinnings, while a load-leveling five-link (architecture borrowed from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class) handles the duties in back. Suspension tuning is taut without being overbearing and smooth with no hint of mushiness, creating an appropriately comfortable ride. How cush? A passenger fell asleep in our AWD tester.

From the onset, Chrysler designers wanted to create a safety capsule for the Pacifica's occupants. Multistage front airbags are standard, as well as pretensioners on front belts. A driver's Knee Blocker airbag helps deflect leg injuries in a frontal impact and reduces the tendency of knees to slide under the dash under hard deceleration. And, like Volvo's XC90, the Pacifica incorporates side-curtain airbags for all three rows of passengers. Crash ratings haven't been generated, but the engineers predict five stars for frontal impact.

Chrysler execs expect the Pacifica to be cross-shopped against luxury SUVs like the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 300, Volvo XC90, and Buick Rendezvous. We'd add the Audi allroad and Volvo Cross-Country wagons to that list. Pricing is yet to be determined, but we figure a base FWD model will start at $31,230, while an AWD will clear $32,980. Regardless of configuration, for the family seeking a do-it-all sport/utility /sedan/minivan/something-or-other, the Pacifica earns a look and a test drive.