Every time we turn around, it seems like a car company proclaims a totally new class of vehicle, one that will revolutionize the car. Well, that’s what Chrysler is saying about its new Pacifica Sports Tourer. They claim that this segment buster is like no other vehicle. Sound familiar? Remember the 1984 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, the first front wheel drive minivans? So, Chrysler does have a good track record. But is the Pacifica really that innovative?
It certainly is if you count style as part of the equation. The 2004 Chrysler Pacifica continues Daimler-Chrysler’s tradition of strong, eye-catching designs. But what is a segment busting ‘‘Sports Tourer’‘ anyway?
Well, cross the low, wide stance of an aggressive four-door sedan with the tall hoodline of an SUV, and stick it on a profile that could come from an ultra-sleek minivan or station wagon. Then, for good measure, blend in fat 17-inch tires, all-wheel drive, and a luxurious 6- passenger interior, and voila, you have a ‘‘Sports Tourer.’’ Innovative? Well, the Pacifica is an even posher way to travel than the Lexus RX330, and it makes no pretense about going off road like the Acura MDX or BMW X5. So, okay, for a crossover vehicle, it’s innovative. But first and foremost, great looking. The front end, with its wide, bright egg crate grille, and projector beam high intensity headlights, is both retro and modern. The high beltline and crisp full-length character line, along with side glass that flows to a vanishing point, says strong and solid, as does the rear, with its wide, aerodynamic liftgate with optional power assist.
The robust styling mixes with glamour on the inside, with aluminum and wood accents that parallel the belt line, and a wide, arched, yet elegant wrap-around dash, which features a well-thought-out gauge cluster, with the screen for the optional DVD-based navigation system intelligently positioned inside the speedometer. Controls for the available DVD entertainment system are located up front to maintain parental control.
The roomy Pacifica is outfitted for six, but in three rows of two individual seats each. Think flying first class. While the interior may feel as large as an SUV, the step in is as low as a family sedan. That allows even shorter drivers to slide easily into a supportive bucket seat with heater and 10-way power adjust. Our car’s leather is optional.
For enhanced comfort and safety, add in standard adjustable pedals and a knee airbag for the driver, also side curtain airbags for all passengers. That’s a first. Optional entertainment features include an Infiniti digital surround sound audio system, with SIRIUS satellite radio. A useful and smartly done console separates the front and second row bucket seats. There is a decent 13 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat, a generous 79.5 with second and third row folded into an upward sloping floor.
The 4,700-pound Pacifica is motivated by the 3.5-liter single-overhead-cam V6 borrowed from the Chrysler 300M. Output is a reasonable 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. It’s linked to a 4-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shift mode and feeds either to the front wheels with traction control, or to an all-wheel-drive system that sends power to the rear wheels only when needed. With all-wheel-drive and AutoStick engaged, the big Pacifica hits 60 in a respectable 9.5 seconds, and finishes the 1/4-mile in 17.2 seconds at 83 miles-per-hour. The V6 engine is smooth off the line, with a very healthy midrange and fine exhaust note. But it does become loud and buzzy under constant hard acceleration. Both auto and manual upshifts are smooth, but downshifts are rather abrupt.
The Pacifica’s long 116.3-inch wheelbase chassis rides on a MacPherson strut front and a multi-link rear suspension that owes everything to the Daimler Chrysler merger. It’s derived from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The sophisticated suspension gives the Pacifica a tight, muscular feel. Handling is much sharper than you expect from any utility vehicle. Such touring sedan feel also demands good steering feedback, and the Pacifica delivers. Ride quality is very Germanic. The rear suspension soaks up mid-corner bumps well. Our only real complaints are a touch of body shudder and too much tire noise on rough secondary roads.
The Pacifica’s brakes are 4-wheel discs with ABS. They stopped the big sports tourer from 60 in a good average distance of 125 feet. Pedal feel is a little on the soft side, but overall stability is first rate. Fuel mileage is estimated by the EPA at 17 city/22 highway. We averaged 18 miles-per- gallon in mixed, if spirited, driving. That’s more efficient than most mid-size sport-utes, but still a bit thirstier than the best minivans.
The front-wheel-drive Pacifica carries a base price of $31,230. Our all-wheel-drive tester begins at $32,980, and carried a well-optioned final price of $37,510. That’s premium pricing, but for a vehicle with the style, design, and driving dynamics no sport-ute or wagon-minivan can match. So, maybe there is something to being a sports tourer after all.
While the 2004 Chrysler Pacifica may not be as revolutionary as the company’s first minivans, it is one very clever and intriguing people mover. One that will surely appeal to family buyers searching for a luxuriously appointed yet versatile daily driver with a distinct difference!
Engine: 3.5-Liter Sohc V6
Torque: 250 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 9.5 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 83 MPH
60-0 MPH: 125 Feet
EPA Mileage: 17 MPG City 22 MPG Highway
Motorweek's Mileage Loop: 18 MPG Mixed City/highway