Chrysler's Pacifica Sets a New Standard

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Physician's Money Digest, April30 2003, Volume 10, Issue 8

I t seems like a little bit ofMercedes is beginning to ruboff on Chrysler. The 2004Chrysler Pacifica is the next step inthe concept of roomier, sporty cars.Is it an SUV, or might it even replacea minivan? Regardless of howyou choose to classify it, the 2004Chrysler Pacifica is impressive.

PACIFICA'S UNIQUE LOOK

The Pacifica signals a brand newdimension for Chrysler toward elegance,with practicality and comfortat the forefront. With a length of justunder 200 inches, the Pacifica isover a foot longer than many of itscompetitors, including the LexusRX-330. The width is over 79 inches,giving driver and passengersmore room than Acura's MDX.And with a height of about 66 inches,the Pacifica has a lower roof thanmany of today's SUVs, which contributesto its unique, lean look.

The trademark Chrysler grille,chrome accents, and high beltlinehelp create a distinctive vehicle. Andwith its flush wheels and uniquebody design, the Pacifica is quite alooker. Playing a part in this newlook: two thirds sheet metal and onethird glass. This ratio creates a verygood view from the inside out, and asignature outside image. From a distance,the style is so distinctive youare unlikely to mistake it for a BMWX5 or a Volvo XC90—this beauty hasa style of its own.

AN INNOVATIVE INTERIOR

A nice touch:

As you open the door, the Pacificahas a moderate step in; and then yousink into 1 of 3 rows of comfortableseating. The last 2 rowsfold flat into the floor for cargo flexibility.For those interested in a moresumptuous interior, leather seating isalso available. Adding to theMercedes-like touches are optionalfront- and second-row heated seats,as well as a 10-way power driver'sseat. The automatic temperaturecontrol is dual zone, so you can keepyour area as toasty as you want. Anda key fob–activated power tailgate isespecially nice for cargo.

The Pacifica's gauges are large,clear, and always illuminated. Thered-tipped dial needles are not theeasiest to interpret, and left mewanting yellow-tipped dial needlesinstead, for better recognition. Mostinteresting is the optional DVD-basednavigation system. The projectionscreen cleverly floats in thecenter of the speedometer, big andclear for the driver, but no fun forthe copilot. It's a somewhat quicknavigation system to learn and use,with the operational buttons alsoaddressing the driver. SIRIUSSatellite Radio, a rear DVD, and ahands-free telephone are also optionallyavailable.

ENGINE POWER AND EXTRAS

The AutoStick automatic is theway to go. It's smooth and quick torespond, whether you get the all-wheeldrive or the front-wheel drivewith traction control. The rear suspensionhas load-leveling and heightcontrol. The powerful Pacifica's 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V-6 engine will makeyou think you have a micro V-8 underthe hood. And the rack-and-pinionsteering is excellent, with a nicer feelthan many sports cars.

Of course, let's not forget theextras. Chrysler's Pacifica has poweradjustable pedals with memory settings.You will appreciate the additionalsafety: 3-row side curtain airbags, plus the newest in multistagefront air bags for the protection oflittle ones. Another nice extra is theautomatic tire pressure–monitor.

Wish you had a sports car butneed an SUV? This vehicle feelsmore like a sports car than an SUV.It has a wide stance and is a littlelower to the ground than an SUV,which translates into greater stabilityand road holding. You can expectto pay $32,980 for the all-wheeldrive and $32,230 for the front-wheeldrive. Vehicles should soon beavailable in bright silver, brilliantblack crystal, butane blue, infernored, light almond pearl, onyx green,satin jade, and, for the more conservative,a lovely stone white.

Jean Swenson and Ashly Knapp, one of thenation's longest-running husband and wifeauto-writing teams, are principals of AutoAdvisor.com, the oldest consumer informationand car buyer's service in the United States.For more information, call 800-326-1976 orvisit www.autoadvisor.com.