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2005 Chrysler Pacifica

Another Alternative For The “Ain’t Gonna Drive A Minivan” Club

     They’re out there. They’re all around us. They are the people who will not drive a minivan simply because—it’s a minivan. Focus a bright light on them in a dark room and they’ll squirm, but admit they like the higher seating, the ample room for kids and cargo, and the comfortable ride. And they will also let you know, in no uncertain terms, they’d rather walk than arrive in the most un-cool of vehicles. It is because of people like this, and some very successful marketing, that SUVs have replaced the minivan as America’s portable people hauler of choice. Yes, you heard right. The traditional minivan segment is no longer growing by leaps and bounds. This is particularly true of the domestic vans, which face ever-stronger competition from the likes of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Despite a slight increase in sales so far this year, minivan sales peaked in 2000. So the segment isn’t dead by any means, but at best, future sales graphs will likely resemble a plateau, at worst, the backside of Mt. Everest.
     Automakers know this. That is why we have seen and will continue to see products that combine as many of the minivans attributes as possible into a package that looks like anything but a minivan. Some of these cars have been successful, such as Chrysler’s own PT Cruiser, and some we don’t know about yet, Ford’s upcoming Freestyle comes to mind. There are two things we do know, however. One, the Pacifica we loaned for a week made a compelling case to jump the minivan ship and two, we’re sure to see many more competitors of varying shapes and sizes in the near future.
     All Pacificas receive equipment changes for ’05 to further differentiate the three available models: Base, Touring, and Limited. Whereas earlier Pacificas started around the $30,000 mark, the entry-level, but still generous Base model will now start at less than $25,000. Our Pacifica was a mid-level Touring model that Chrysler introduced during the summer of 2004 as an early 2005 model. It started at $30,270 and represents a great balance between content and affordability. However, if you’re looking for all the bells and whistles, you’ll have to step up to the Limited model and hand over $36,995.
     The styling of the Pacifica remains clean and upscale, even several years after its debut, while newly available 19” wheels and a monochromatic exterior package should keep things looking fresh for the foreseeable future. Chrysler split the profile of a minivan and a wagon when designing its Pacifica but kept its seating height closer to that of a minivan since most drivers like the idea of being able to see more from their elevated perch. People don’t like the sliding side doors though because that defines a minivan and despite their undeniable benefits with regards to easing entry and exit for a kid or five, that’s a label we just don’t want.
     Our tester was equipped with a comprehensive Customer Preferred Package which adds $2,330 to the bottom line but includes such niceties as heated 1st and 2nd row seats, side-curtain air bags, fog lamps, power pedals with memory, 6-disc in-dash CD/DVD changer and the very handy power liftgate, which leaves hands available for corralling kids or transporting groceries. Also in the options column was Chrysler’s $275 UConnect hands-free communication system that will work with any Bluetooth compatible cell phone and allows the driver to keep both hands on the steering wheel while still being able to make and take calls. Our vehicle’s only other option was the $895 rear seat video system, which is worth every penny. We’d like to thank Chrysler on behalf of parents everywhere for making this option affordable and resisting the urge to charge almost twice as much like many other manufactures do. With the options tallied our well-equipped all-wheel drive Pacifica totaled $34,450.
     Where the Pacifica gets dangerously close to reminding one of a minivan is in the driving department where its 3.5-liter V6 tends to struggle when asked to move the vehicle’s 4,639 pounds at anything resembling a brisk pace. Chrysler’s 3.5-liter V6 has seen duty in several vehicles and on paper looks like a good match for the not-a-minivan and not-a-wagon segment buster but in the real world, especially equipped with all-wheel drive, the Pacifica simply could stand to lose a few hundred pounds. Acceleration in first gear feels deceptively quick but after the 4-speed automatic shifts into second things slow down in a hurry. The transmission does feature Chrysler’s AutoStick—a useful aide in keeping the engine near its 6,400rpm power peak—and we commend the engineers for allowing the system to truly hold a gear as opposed to some systems which will shift automatically when nearing the redline.
     When it comes to the rest of the Pacifica’s dynamics we’re happy to report things aren’t nearly as mediocre as in the powertrain department. The excessive weight, which overwhelms the engine, is handled easily by the strong disc brakes inside each 235/65R17 all-season Michelin. Overall the Pacifica feels (for good reason) more like a tall car than a minivan which makes driving one feel natural. Not a bad thing for this vehicle’s demographic.
     Inside things tend toward impressive with generally good materials—especially for a domestic product—and clean, attractive designs. The faux aluminum and wood trim do a superb job of moving the cabin upscale while contrasting interior colors keep things from blurring into a depressing sea of gray—GM take note. All controls are easy to access, even the power seat controls which are mounted on the doors—an idea we can thank Mercedes for. We’d argue that the interior door pulls could be finished in a richer feeling plastic and the armrest carved into the driver’s door isn’t particularly comforting. All who spent time in the second row enjoyed the captain’s chairs that feature adjustable reclining and armrests. Wind noise is effectively absent in the cabin thanks to superb sealing on all doors even if more engine noise made its way inside than we expected. There really isn’t much to fault in the Pacifica’s interior. It’s as comfortable a place as you’ll find in the minivan, oops, wagon, oops, crossover segment.
     The Pacifica feels about exactly how you’d expect it to, which is to say, like a cross between a wagon and a minivan. The vehicle doesn’t demand much from the driver, which keeps anxiety levels low and comfort levels high. The fact that it has been successfully marketed as a segment-busting crossover is enough to seal the deal for a lot of AGDAM club members. If what you’re looking for is superb people hauling capabilities in a package that doesn’t look like a minivan, Chrysler has your vehicle.

The Good:
Useful packaging, power liftgate, attractive dash, doesn’t look like a minivan.
The Bad:
Doesn’t move with anything resembling haste, weighs several hundred pounds more than it should.
The Verdict:
A great vehicle for those who want a minivan that doesn’t look like a minivan.


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