The Pacifica features a variable-torque-split all-wheel-drive system composed of a viscous-coupling center differential and an open rear differential. Its engine, a 3.5-liter single-cam V-6 developing 250 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, is the most powerful of our three nouveau wagons, but its automatic has just four gears. Chrysler's AutoStick manumatic feature is standard. Like the Volvo, the Chrysler has a carlike towing capacity: 3500 pounds (3300 for the XC70).
The Pacifica's interior is less unified and elegant than its two competitors', with cheap-
If you don't need all-wheel drive, you can order the Pacifica with front drive and save $1750 off the sticker. (Likewise, a front-drive V70--non XC--with the 2.5-liter turbo starts at $2410 less than a Cross Country.) We think the extra cost is worth the enhanced wintertime capability and added traction on rain-slicked roads, though. Our well-equipped Pacifica checked in at $41,200. The new Volkswagen Touareg is really an SUV, and a smooth-looking one at that. It comes only with all-wheel drive and only with two rows of seating for five, but it's available in two flavors: The top model sports a 4.2-liter V-8 engine (310 horsepower, 302 lb-ft of torque) and a height-adjustable air suspension that makes the vehicle equal to Jeeps and Hummers in serious off-roading. But to keep this comparison fair and prices close, we stuck with the standard 3.2-liter 15-degree V-6 (220 horsepower, 225 lb-ft) and the standard, conventional steel-coil suspension.
If you need a wagon for towing, the Touareg is your ride. Its factory-rated capacity, whether you order the V-6 or the V-8, is 7716 pounds. Either engine is hooked up to a super-slick six-speed automatic transmission with manumatic control. A Dynamic Shift Program offers a sport mode that holds gears to much higher revs before shifting. The transmission sends engine power to the wheels via VW's 4XMotion permanent four-wheel drive, with a low-range gear and adaptive torque distribution. Our test model also had the optional $550 rear-differential lock. The Touareg comes standard with front buckets, a floor-mounted gearshift, and a three-passenger 60/40 split back seat that folds flat. The seat's center armrest also folds down to accommodate skis. As-tested price: $41,365.
By the Numbers
While the Touareg and the Pacifica are all-new models, we've tested the XC70 before. We first put it up against the Audi allroad in 2002, when both models made their debuts. In that comparison, the '02 allroad ($49,480 as tested) blew away the XC. But Volvo has since improved the Cross Country. Besides the extra horsepower added last year, the company has switched to ZF rack-and-pinion steering gear for the '04-model year. It's a terrific enhancement, eliminating previous on-center vagueness. In this test, the Volvo acquitted itself well. Even wearing Pirelli Scorpion tires that sported the most aggressive off-road pattern of the trio, the XC provided the smoothest, quietest, and most comfortable ride, without much of a handling compromise.
The Pacifica's raison d'etre is rear seating. Seats fold quickly and easily. Ingress to the third row is smooth, and a panel can fill the second-row gap over the console when seats are folded.