Three years after its introduction, Chrysler's Pacifica crossover undergoes a mid-cycle revision for 2007. Among the changes are a discreet exterior update, additional safety equipment, a larger V-6 and a new six-speed automatic transmission.
Originally billed as a "sports tourer" — a term since used by other automakers desperate to call their wagons anything but that — the Pacifica debuted in early 2004 as an alternative for people who needed extra utility but disliked minivan styling and SUV gas mileage.
Wagon-like architecture, available all-wheel drive and seating for up to six mean the Pacifica competes with family-friendly crossovers like the Ford Freestyle, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9. Shoppers might also consider a low-end version of Cadillac's SRX.
The Pacifica comes in base, Touring and Limited trim levels. All three are available with front- or all-wheel drive. Option-laden models include high-intensity-discharge headlights, a navigation system and 19-inch chrome wheels.
Most bystanders won't be able to tell a 2007 Pacifica from the 2006 model. Minor changes include new hood strakes that mimic those on Chrysler's Crossfire sports car, as well as teardrop headlamps and a simplified grille.
At 198.5 inches long, the Pacifica measures about even with the CX-9 and Freestyle. The Highlander falls more than a foot short of all three.
Base Pacificas sport 17-inch steel wheels, gray cladding and black door handles. Touring models upgrade to alloy wheels and body-colored door handles. The Pacifica Limited holds body-colored cladding, fog lamps and 19-inch chrome rims; the latter two items are optional on the Touring. A power sunroof, rearview camera and power liftgate are also available.
A five-link independent rear suspension features automatic leveling from the Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.
Interior styling remains unchanged for 2007 — so for better or worse, the swooping instrument panel cover and button-strewn dashboard are here to stay.
The base model offers seating for five with a 65/35-split, folding second-row bench seat. Other Pacificas have second-row bucket seats and a two-passenger third-row bench seat to increase capacity to six. The third-row bench folds in a 50/50 split. Maximum cargo space with all seats stowed is 92.7 cubic feet in five-passenger Pacificas and 79.5 cubic feet in six-passenger models.
Even the base Pacifica comes well-equipped: Power windows are one-touch down/up in front, and power front seats have Mercedes-style door controls. A standard seven-speaker CD stereo includes steering wheel audio controls. Upgrades include leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front and second-row seats and a navigation system. Rear-seat DVD entertainment is also available.
Under the Hood
The base Pacifica holds a 3.8-liter V-6 with a four-speed automatic transmission; it generates 205 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque. All other models have a 4.0-liter V-6 with 255 hp and 265 pounds-feet of torque that drives a six-speed automatic transmission. The drivetrain supplants last year's 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic. All Pacificas incorporate Chrysler's AutoStick, which allows drivers to manually select their own gears.
The 2007 Pacifica offers a great deal more safety equipment than the 2006 model, with antilock brakes, five airbags — including side curtain airbags and a driver's inflatable knee blocker — and an electronic stability system included on all trim levels.
Solidity and stability have always been Pacifica hallmarks, and now they're joined by a modest kick of liveliness. The outgoing 3.5-liter engine is no slouch — it makes for energetic pick-up in Chrysler's 300 sedan — but teamed with a four-speed automatic in a vehicle that tips the scales in SUV territory, it came up short in the passing lane. Despite being rated just 5 hp and 15 pounds-feet of torque over the old engine, the 4.0-liter V-6 seems noticeably stronger. Ample low-end torque makes for confident passing, and the six-speed automatic kicks down several gears without undue hesitation.
The 3.8-liter V-6 in the base Pacifica is adequate for most situations, though hauling a full load of passengers could prove too much. Passing takes more planning, as the four-speed transmission is slow to downshift.
Steering feels more numb in the base model, while the Pacifica Touring and Limited have a tighter feel. In all trim levels, there's plenty of body roll through the corners, and the chassis comes easily undone over rough pavement. Long highway stretches are where the Pacifica shines, with minivan-like isolation from the outside world.
Seats have a substantial feel, and chunky side bolsters lend more support than those in some competing models. Dashboard controls remain miniscule and difficult to decipher, something Chrysler has ironed out in most of its other vehicles. The optional navigation system display is positioned within the instrument panel — a position that discourages assistance from passengers.
With the rear seats up, there's a considerable blind spot. The optional rearview camera is a godsend for frequent parallel-parkers.