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2004 Chrysler Pacifica Full-Size Wagon

Base MSRP Range: $30,550 to $32,300

Base Invoice Range: $28,045 to $29,602

MSRP As Tested: Not Available

Versions: Front-Wheel Drive, All-Wheel Drive

Vehicle Category: Full-Size Wagon

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive or optional All Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: Standard 3.5-liter, Single Overhead Cam, 24-valves, V-6 cylinder, 250-horsepower at 6400 rpm and 250 lb-ft torque at 3950 rpm.

Transmission As Tested: Standard 4-speed Automatic.

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): Estimated 17/22.

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger, front and side curtain airbags, ">Antilock Braking System power adjustable pedals, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitor, Traction Control.

Competition: Mitsubishi Endeavor, Nissan Murano, Volvo XC90

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- On palm-fringed Prospect Avenue in La Jolla -- the ritzy seaside enclave of suburban San Diego where super-rich residents steer mega-bucks car candy with labels like Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini -- we observe that more than a few of the sidewalk shoppers pay unusual attention to our vehicle with their heads turning and fingers pointing as we roll by.

What these spectators see is a new kind of car that looks like nothing else on the road. It's large -- as long as the biggest sedan and equally wide, with a prominent hood and broad grille consuming the face between corner clusters of projector-style headlamps. It has lots of doors.

There's a pair of portals on each flank below what looks like one extremely long and narrow window stretching from the windshield clear back to the tail.

Also, a top-hinged liftgate at the rear swings high for access into the cargo bay.

The profile vaguely resembles one of those big American mid-century station wagons, although the stance of this contemporary car seems like it's hiked much higher than the vintage wagon and the beltline atop side doors rises much taller.

Inside there are three rows of seats with individual buckets for rows one and two and a split bench in back that cradles two comfortably or three in a pinch.

Layout of the large cabin mimics the plan of an old station wagon, but it's also similar to the cab of a modern minivan or even a three-seat sport-utility vehicle.

And the overriding concept behind this design seems to merge attributes of the station wagon, minivan and SUV.

Chrysler builds it as a 2004 model under the badge of Pacifica.

Consider it a new crossover vehicle -- the platform comes from a conventional full-size sedan (Chrysler's 300M flagship) and the body resembles either a high-hiked station wagon or dropped-down SUV but the function combines traits of the wagon, sport-ute and minivan.

Chrysler even coined a new car category for Pacifica, calling it a Sport Tourer.

The sport end of the title stems from performance characteristics and the driving manners of a tautly-tuned sports sedan.

The tourer title comes from the European tradition of calling a wagon-type vehicle the touring model.

End result becomes a vehicle with practical attributes of a wagon but the fun-to-drive nature of a sports sedan.

Chrysler is making two versions of Pacifica, one oriented with front-wheel-drive (FWD) and the other with on-demand all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.

First to market is the Pacifica AWD packing premium equipment plus luxury gear for the MSRP of $32,300.

Following later will be the Pacifica FWD with its MSRP chipped down to $30,550. Beneath the aerodynamically smooth hoodline, Pacifica AWD packs a progressive 3.5-liter V6 with single cam configuration and four valves in each cylinder.

Specific tuning boosts the output to 250 hp at 6400 rpm, with torque skewed to 250 lb-ft at 3950 rpm.

This Chrysler engine delivers dynamic power yet still can operate on regular-grade 87 octane gasoline. It also earns respectable fuel economy figures -- 17 mpg for city driving and 22 mpg on the road.

The plant teams with an electronically-controlled automatic four-speed transmission. To animate the action, Chrysler adds an AutoStick, which brings shift-it-yourself choices like a manual stick only without having to ply a clutch.

Rack the console-mounted shifter lever back to AutoStick mode, then push it to the right to move up the gear box one step at a time or tap it to the left to run down the gears.

The suspension, independent at all four wheels with a multi-link arrangement in front and five-link design in back, produces a smooth ride quality.

That long wheelbase and wide track forge a road stance that's impressively stable, even when tortured through a tight set of turns.

Of course, Pacifica's AWD system enhances tire grip.

The center differential viscous coupling combined with an open rear differential splits the engine's torque between front and rear wheels infinitely depending on wheel slip, with anywhere from zero to 90 percent of the power directed to the wheels up front.

Then factor in Pacifica's load-leveling rear suspension mechanism, which adjusts to varying weight for passengers and cargo to optimize the ride quality.

For safety, Pacifica contains multiple air bags, from frontal air bags for the two front seats and a small air bag tucked below the dashboard to shield the driver's knee to vast side curtain-style air bags that extend above the side windows and cover all three rows of seats.

Chrysler's designers aimed to create a first-class experience for passengers riding in Pacifica's cabin.

Good feelings begin when entering the compartment.

Whereas a typical tall SUV requires the passenger to climb aboard and a low sedan demands a step down plus the resultant body flop, Pacifica's chair-height seats seem just the right level so you can slip aboard laterally without needing to climb up or step down.

Each bucket seat feels quite comfortable in spacious quarters that appear outwardly expansive, thanks in part to Pacifica's optional glass skylight that extends the full length of the roof.

The cabin contains first-class equipment, including first and second row center consoles with seat-mounted armrests, power controls for the front buckets and a comprehensive memory for the radio and driver's seat plus outside mirrors and adjustable pedals, dual-zone climate controls and a 150-watt sound system with CD deck.

Options reach to leather seats, heat elements inside the first and second rows of buckets, power controls for the sunroof and liftgate, a navigation system integrated into the instrument panel, Infinity surround-sound 385-watt audio system with six-disc CD changer and a DVD video entertainment system.

Editors' Ratings



Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: X
  • Performance: X
  • Price: X
  • Handling: X
  • Ride: X
  • Comfort: X
  • Quality: X
  • Overall: X

More Data

Where Built: XXX

Major Options: Engine block heater, enhanced audio system, larger wheels and tires, power liftgate, power sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system, Satellite Radio, cold weather package.

Seating: 6

Number of Rows: 3

Crash Test Ratings:

  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
  • NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: Not Yet Tested

  • IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Not Yet Tested

Length in Inches: 198.9

Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 7 years/70,000 miles corrosion, 7 years/70,000 mile powertrain.

Weight in Pounds: Front-Wheel Drive 4,482. All-Wheel Drive 4,675.

Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Not Available

Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Not Available

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 3,500

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 23

Destination Charge: $680