Last year's Pacifica received a more powerful V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. For 2008, changes are minimal: the base trim designation now becomes LX. Wagon-like architecture, available all-wheel drive and seating for up to six mean the Pacifica competes with family-friendly crossovers like the Ford Taurus X, Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9.
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.
The Pacifica comes in LX, Touring and Limited trim levels. All three are available with front- or all-wheel drive. Option-laden models include a navigation system and 19-inch chrome wheels, among other amenities.
At 198.5 inches long, the Pacifica measures about even with the CX-9 and Taurus X.
The LX sports 17-inch steel wheels, gray cladding and black door handles. Touring models upgrade to chrome 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 2008 — so the swooping instrument panel cover and button-strewn dashboard are here to stay.
The LX 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 Pacifica LX 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 Pacifica LX 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. All Pacificas incorporate Chrysler's AutoStick, which allows drivers to manually select their own gears. When properly equipped, the Pacifica can tow 2,600 pounds.
The 2008 Pacifica offers antilock brakes, five airbags — including side curtain airbags and a driver and front passenger inflatable knee blocker — and an electronic stability system included on all trim levels.
Solidity and stability have always been Pacifica hallmarks. The 3.5-liter engine is no slouch — it makes for energetic pickup 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, 2006, 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 LX 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 LX, 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.