I admit my theory is a stretch, but one thing is certain: The 2005 Chrysler Pacifica flawlessly blends the practicality of a minivan with the sporty appearance of an SUV.
With roomy seating for six, the Pacifica has second-row captain's chairs and a 50/50-split folding third-row seat. Installing car seats in the second row is a piece of cake (quite literally, considering I found a big piece of a Madeline cookie stuck to the bottom of one of them when taking it out of my last test car). These second-row seats slide forward and back independent of each other, creating a huge amount of legroom or shortening the distance between driver and child (very helpful when reaching back to rescue the systematically "dropped" stuffed animal). They also fold and tumble flat if extra space is needed, or lift up and rotate on front hinges, allowing easy access to the third row.
Although the third row is not equipped with Latch connectors, extra car seats or booster seats for carpooling fit fine using the seat belts for installation. And, although I'm not of towering stature, I fit quite nicely back there as well.
I can't fit a double stroller in the cargo area without folding one of the third-row seats. I'm not disappointed, though. I can't stand lugging that huge stroller around, anyway. I prefer to wing it with $19 umbrella strollers (of which you can fit a multitude in the cargo area).
Getting in the driver's seat is like coming home. The seat is so comfortable, and it just feels right. I wonder if I can get away with putting one in my living room.
My test vehicle comes equipped with the optional Customer Preferred package, which includes (among other things) a power liftgate. My initial reaction is, "Is there really anyone out there so lazy they can't just reach down and open the rear hatch?" Well, yes. Me. This is a great feature for families. I find it especially useful when approaching the car with armfuls of groceries and kids. I don't have to set my child down in the parking lot in order to open the hatch. I just touch the button on my key, and up it goes.
Speaking of groceries, the grocery bag hooks on the back of the driver and passenger seats are heaven-sent. Not only do they keep the oranges from toppling out and rolling under the seats, they also make a fabulous spot for storing my purse (freeing up the passenger seat).
Since it's my job as a car critic to dig up some dirt on this car, I'll try to come up with something for you. Here it is: The cruise-control buttons on the front of the steering wheel don't illuminate at night, and the back window is a bit high, making rear visibility slightly less than perfect.
While I recognize that this car may not be every mother's idea of Utopia, it is the closest thing I've found. If comfort, style and function aren't enough to sway you, just take a look at the crash-test results. It's one of the safest vehicles on the road right now. As a parent of two beautiful little girls, I wouldn't settle for anything less.
Note: A very special thank you to Lithia Centennial Chrysler Jeep in Centennial Colorado for the very generous two-week test car.
*For more information on the Chrysler Pacifica and its safety features, visit www.cars.com.