For crossover shoppers, the Chrysler Pacifica has a lot of the right ingredients. It seats up to six, rides comfortably on the highway and swallows the weekly Costco haul without too much trouble. Thanks to a larger engine and new transmission, the 2007 version also accelerates briskly, and it has more safety features and some minor styling changes to boot.
Unfortunately, there are still some compelling reasons to avoid it — namely that its gas mileage, ownership costs and interior quality are not up to the standards set by competitors like the Saturn Outlook, Honda Pilot and Ford Freestyle. Unless you're a real lead-foot, you might want to consider something else.
The Pacifica comes in base, Touring and Limited trim levels, as well as various seasonal editions staggered in between. All-wheel drive is optional across the line. I drove a front-wheel-drive Limited, though I also got some seat time in the base and Touring editions.
Chrysler unveiled the Pacifica in early 2003, billing the design its "Handsome Protector" theme. Not surprisingly, the car was heavily marketed toward women. For 2007, the automaker says the Pacifica adds "more" — More beauty? More armament? — in addition to some hardware changes and a few mild styling tweaks.
The biggest news is under the hood, where Chrysler's 4.0-liter V-6 is now standard in most trim levels. The new engine also powers the Dodge Nitro SUV, as well as the redesigned Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans. In the Pacifica, it makes 253 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque. That may not seem like a substantial gain over last year's 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, but thanks to a new six-speed automatic that replaces the previous four-speed automatic, there's a bigger difference than the numbers suggest.
Front-wheel-drive base models soldier on with a 200-hp, 3.8-liter V-6 and four-speed automatic.
An electronic stability system with traction control is all-new, and it's standard across the line. Side curtain airbags, previously optional, are also standard.
With either V-6, the Pacifica has adequate low-speed power. The larger engine emits a satisfying growl and delivers palpably quicker acceleration. Much of the credit belongs to the six-speed automatic — it upshifts smoothly and allows the engine to achieve power much faster. The transmission in my test car sometimes left me in the wrong gear, but it's much preferred over the four-speed automatic that's paired with the 3.8-liter V-6. With fewer gears to choose from, it's rather loath to kick down, which saps passing confidence a bit.
Neither engine delivers stellar gas mileage. Chrysler recommends midgrade gasoline for optimum performance with the 4.0-liter V-6, though regular will do.
|EPA-Estimated Gas Mileage, City/Highway|
|Chrysler Pacifica 3.8L||18/25||n/a||Regular (87 octane)|
|Chrysler Pacifica 4.0L||16/24||16/24||Midgrade (89 octane)|
|Ford Freestyle||20/27||19/24||Regular (87 octane)|
|Honda Pilot||18/24||17/22||Regular (87 octane)|
|Saturn Outlook||18/26||17/24||Regular (87 octane)|
|Toyota Highlander (V-6)||19/25||18/24||Regular (87 octane)|
|Source: Automaker and EPA data for 2007 models.|
The Pacifica's steering setup makes for painless driving. I could rotate the wheel with the palm of one hand, and it consistently unwound itself back to center with a natural, well-weighted feel. The suspension supplies excellent ride comfort, especially on the highway, but put the Pacifica through a modest corner and there is severe body roll — about as much as you would get in a minivan. Large bumps can leave lingering bounciness.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard. The pedal in my test car felt a bit spongy, but it delivered firm stopping when needed.
With proper equipment, the Pacifica can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
It's too bad Chrysler didn't slate the cabin for a major update along with the drivetrain and safety features. The interior looks like it did when the Pacifica arrived in 2003 — as luck would have it, the final year before Chrysler initiated sweeping interior upgrades. Today, the car's aging cabin has become its fatal flaw. The tiny radio and climate buttons have a uniform appearance and miniscule labels, making it way too easy to press the wrong button. Their gritty textures are reminiscent of late-'90s Chryslers, and even the analog clock looks cheap and plasticky.
More troubling is the build quality. My test car had conspicuous gaps in the dashboard panels, center storage bin and door locks — not what you want in a car that costs 35 large.
In stark contrast to the poor fittings and cheap controls, the electroluminescent gauges and door-mounted seat controls feel genuinely upscale. I found the simulated wood and aluminum trim in my test car inoffensive.
In standard configuration, the Pacifica seats five, with a three-passenger bench as a second row. Most trim levels swap the bench for two bucket seats and add a two-seat third row, bringing seating capacity to six.
Thanks to their modest side bolsters, the front seats are reasonably supportive. My test car had leather seats and suede inserts, which were about minivan-quality — durable but not very luxurious. The front seats come with standard power adjusters, but they don't have a great deal of range for tall drivers. I'm 5 feet 11 inches, and I drove with the seat all the way back. Optional power-adjustable pedals help shorter drivers position themselves a proper distance from the steering wheel and its airbag.
In six-seat Pacificas, the second-row bucket seats are manually adjustable. Positioned all the way back, they allow for plenty of legroom. The accommodations become a bit tight with the seats moved forward, but that gives the third row enough space for the kids to horse around. With minimal headroom and no head restraints, I wouldn't recommend sending adults back there.
Behind the third-row seat, the Pacifica offers 13.2 cubic feet of cargo volume, small for its competitive class. Fold both rows of seats, and maximum cargo volume measures 79.5 cubic feet. That's about 7 cubic feet less than the Pilot and Freestyle, while the Outlook beats the pack with a cavernous 117.0 cubic feet.
Without the third row, the five-seat Pacifica offers 92.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
Safety & Long-Term Ownership
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Pacifica its highest rating, Good, for frontal impacts. IIHS has not tested the Pacifica for side impacts.
All Pacificas are equipped with five airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and side curtain airbags that extend to all rows. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are unavailable. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are also standard.
Long-term ownership, though, is an area of concern. In its three years on the market, the Pacifica has earned poor reliability scores from Consumer Reports, which sites the 2007 model's predicted reliability as below-average. According to Cars.com's Total Cost of Ownership tool, similarly priced competitors like the Ford Freestyle and Honda Pilot have lower five-year ownership costs, mostly due to the Pacifica's steep depreciation.
|Chrysler Pacifica AWD Touring||Ford Freestyle AWD Limited||Honda Pilot 4WD EX|
|Consumer Reports predicted reliability||Worse than average||Average||Much better than average|
|Five-year ownership cost**||$53,434||$51,954||$46,383|
|Value rating***||Poor (1/5)||Below average (2/5)||Excellent (5/5)|
|*Excludes destination charge.|
**Includes purchase price.
***Vincentric cost of ownership value rating.
Source: Consumer Reports, Cars.com Total Cost of Ownership (from Vincentric, LLC); all data pertains to 2007 models
Trim Levels & Features
Few automakers have as many trim packages and option bundles as Chrysler. Suffice to say that the base Pacifica comes fairly well-equipped with power front seats, windows and door locks; remote keyless entry; and a full array of safety equipment. At the opposite end, a decked-out Limited version boasts leather seats with heated first and second rows, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, a rearview backup camera and a navigation system.
Prices range from around $25,000 to more than $40,000 for a fully loaded Pacifica Limited.
Pacifica in the Market
As far as crossover virtues go, the Pacifica checks all the boxes. It has a carlike ride, high seating position and abundant practicality, all while avoiding the boxy minivan look. On a much more fundamental level, however, it comes up short: Interior quality, reliability, gas mileage and depreciation are things to consider no matter what sort of body style you're looking to buy. There are crossovers out there that deliver on all these counts, but the Pacifica isn't among them.
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