My mom friends are evenly split between SUVs and minivans. Laurie constantly sings the praises of her van. It's easy to get into, has plenty of room for her three kids, and it drives very nicely. My friend Lisa, on the other hand, loves her SUV. She has lots of cargo room, sits up nice and high, and feels safe and confident as she drives in suburban traffic. I think this is true in your circle of friends as well; you are either an SUV sista' or a minivan mama. Well I have news for you, ladies, there is a new player in town. The crossover class in general and the Chrysler Pacifica in specific bring together the ease of the minivan with the sturdy flair of an SUV.

One of the first things I notice about the Pacifica is the car-like ease of getting into the drivers seat. The 10-way adjustable seats and adjustable foot pedals make it easy to find the perfect driving position. My kids are able to easily reach the door handles and climb into the back seat. Their booster seats fit comfortably in both the middle row and the third row positions. The middle row also has Latch connectors for infant and child safety seats. The center seats are optionally equipped with their own seat-heaters, a feature my 14-year-old says he cannot live without.

The feature I cannot live without is the Chrysler U-Connect, hands-free phone system. It allows me to route my Bluetooth-enabled phone through the vehicle's audio system. I just press the U-Connect button and my phone call is broadcast through the speakers. Additionally, a microphone in the rear-view mirror picks up my voice commands and conversations. I keep my eyes on the road and my hands on the wheel -clever.

Chrysler has done an amazing job with safety on the Pacifica. This car has standard ABS brakes, optional side-curtain air bags, optional AWD, and low-speed traction control. For those of us with lives that get too busy to check the tires as often as we should, a tire pressure monitoring system is also available. It has even earned the coveted 5-star safety rating from the U.S. government.

The most novel safety feature on the Pacifica is the available "Park-Sense" system. This back-up system goes beyond the normal audio beeping signal by adding a series of lights located in sight of the rear-view mirror. The lights indicate which side of the car is nearing an obstruction and the number of lights that appear indicates my proximity to that object. With so many children being killed or injured by cars backing up (often in their own driveways), this feature gets a huge thumbs-up from me.

Another feature I really appreciate on the Pacifica is the fact that the rear side windows defrost when you engage the rear window defroster. The visibility out of these small windows is miniscule anyway, but if they are foggy, it is downright dangerous.

The driving experience in the Chrysler Pacifica is deluxe. All of the controls are within easy reach of the driver and even the navigation system appears directly in front of you in the instrument cluster. The acceleration is smooth and the steering is responsive. My daily errands and car-pool are something to look forward to rather than dread.

Speaking of errands, I find the automatic tailgate in the Pacifica to be a dream. I can have my hands full of kids and groceries and use the key fob to open the back -what a time (and back) saver! The tailgate has sensors to quickly reverse direction if something gets in its way while it is opening or closing and it emits an audio warning to let even the smallest among us know they should stay clear.

Since my job requires me to look at cars with a critical eye, I must say there are a couple drawbacks to the seating and cargo areas in the Pacifica. The first problem is that the second-row seats are a bit difficult to flip forward so that someone can climb into the third row. The second area of concern in the Pacifica is the cargo area. I find it plentiful as long as one or both of the 50/50 split rear seats are down. Otherwise, the most you will be able to stow behind the seat is a first-aid kit and your mail. If you plan to travel in this car with six passengers, they will need to carry their luggage on their laps.

I'm not sure I will ever convince Laurie or Lisa to give up their respective vehicle camps, but know for sure that I am crossover fan. The Chrysler Pacifica is a perfect example of a versatile, safe, and stylish modern family-mobile.


LATCH Connectors: 2

Seating Capacity (includes driver):6


Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny/Ample SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On):Good Times