Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chrysler Pacifica holding on

The 2007 Chrysler Pacifica has a freshened exterior appearance that includes a new hood, front fenders, headlamps, grille and front fascia.

Chrysler Pacifica holding on
June 21, 2007

Chrysler communications people still bristle when I call the Pacifica a “wagon,” as they prefer the term “sports tourer.” Chrysler has backed off on its efforts to convince prospective buyers that the Pacifica is not a tall wagon or a version of their popular minivans.

In actuality it’s neither a van or a wagon but a blend of the two with the interior feel of a sedan and the added capability of all-wheel drive. While station wagons are enjoying a resurgence of sorts, the Pacifica has been lost between the crossover craze, hybrid surge and the new interest in the sporty mid-size and compact wagons that are popping up on dealers lots.

Chrysler hopes that a fresh face, new safety, performance and flexibility features will entice potential buyers to consider this hard to categorize vehicle.

What’s the look?

Well, the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica has a freshened exterior appearance that includes a new hood, front fenders, headlamps, grille and front fascia. The hood features Chrysler’s new “character lines” that streak back from the leading edge of the hood to the base of the windshield all Chrysler brand vehicles will have this feature in 2008. Additionally, the test vehicle came with re-styled 17-inch machine-finished aluminum wheels. Pacifica has new paint options including optional body color-matched exterior-mounted mirrors.

Step inside

When you open the door to the Pacifica your mind instantly thinks “sedan” and the amount of leg and headroom help reinforce this impression. The new two-tone instrument panel and revised instrument cluster graphics combined with the new door trim panels really freshens things up. I liked the cloth seats with fold down armrests.

This year Chrysler adds a notable new feature; YES Essentials stain resistant, odor resistant, anti-static cloth on the seats. For parents this is a great option and I highly recommend it. Seating provided good support on long trips, but were not firm enough for short around town jaunts. Seating holds six, but if you need cargo space fold the second and third rear seats down for 92.7 cubic feet of storage.

A few gripes about the interior include headrests that block rear visibility, thick “b” pillars that hinder side visibility and the sunroof housing that cuts into headroom for tall drivers. Also, wider opening or doors would help entry and exits.

Powering up

The 4.0-liter V-6 engine produces 255 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 265 pound-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm, which is 15 more pound-feet of torque at peak power rpm, and as much as 35 pound-feet more torque throughout the power curve than the old 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

The engine felt much smoother and quieter than the old engine. A new six-speed automatic transmission upshifts smoothly and downshifts readily to provide confident passing power. It also featured AutoStick, which I feel is a waste in a wagon or minivan. Fuel economy is 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, which is not exactly thrifty, I would have liked to see higher numbers.

No minivan performer

Minivans and wagons are usually not known for their handing or performance prowess and the Pacifica will not be either. However, the new 4.0-liter V-6 delivers improved acceleration and decent take-offs with plenty of power for passing. The Pacifica does perform better in turns than a Town and Country minivan, but there is noticeable body sway and steering does not provide enough feedback.

Pacifica rides on a four-wheel independent suspension equipped with a five-link rear suspension. The four-wheel, anti-lock brake system bit quickly and kept the nose level without any alarming dive. The 17-inch tires provided decent grip and soaked up most pavement irregularities. The Pacifica does tend to rock over dips and quick rises. In town the ride was very smooth and only the deepest potholes upset this vehicle.

Safety & security

The 2007 Chrysler Pacifica enhances the existing safety features by adding standard all-row side curtain air bags, standard ESP, traction control and brake assist. A ParkSense rear back up system and ParkView rear back up camera also are available. A Tire Pressure Monitoring system is standard equipment on all Pacifica and Pacifica Touring models.

Chrysler Pacifica Interior

Dollars and cents

On the pricing front there’s good news as Pacifica models offer consumers a $2,700 better value than its 2006 predecessor at a lower Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

"We were able to lower the price on Pacifica models an average of $1,300 while adding an average of $1,400 in standard content across the lineup, and as high as $1,800 on select models, offering consumers an inspired driving experience and best-in-class safety at a price that makes sense,” said David Rooney, director Chrysler brand marketing.

The sensible price of the 2007 test vehicle came to $29,950 including $720 in destination charges. The AWD test vehicle’s only options were an upgraded audio system, ParkSense, Park View systems and a sunroof.

The Pacifica’s competition is strong with the Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-7 leading the way with the Nissan Murano, and Ford Freestyle also in the segment.

As for longevity the Pacifica should be in the lineup for a more model years if of course enough of this “people hauler” are sold.

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