The Pacifica seemed perfectly matched to the drive. For starters, it's a lovely vehicle. It's a true crossover vehicle, sharing traits with both traditional sedans and SUVs. Don't call it a minivan -- Chrysler hates that.
Isn't that winged chrome Chrysler logo the greatest retro touch? It always reminds me of that icon of the deco age, the Chrysler Building in New York City. Pacifica wears a bold splash of chrome front and rear. Clean body lines are inspired by streamlining, and the hood has channels in it that, another deco touch that conveys speed and aerodynamics. The Pacifica greenhouse slopes inward at each side, resulting in a trapezoidal cabin shape. Pacifica looks like a station wagon as seen through the eyes of Jack Kirby, the Golden Age cartoonist.
Fit, finish and paint quality were excellent on my test vehicle, which wore a bold coat of Linen Gold Metallic Pearl paint (a $150 option). Gaps and seams were even and uniform, a mark of quality construction.
In the Driver's Seat
The Touring edition of Pacifica comes standard with leather seating surfaces in the first two rows. The seats themselves are very comfortable. Pacifica is set up to seat six, and it will handle that with ease. The second row captain's chairs easily fold and tumble forward with one hand. The third row is adequate for smaller adults. There's just 13 cubic feet of storage space behind the third row, so if you're traveling with a full load of passengers, you're going to have to travel light. My dog loved riding behind the second row with the third row folded flat. Low window sills and shoulder height gave her a good clear view out of the big windows. She was happy all the way to grandma's house.
On the Road
Tossing the Pacifica into the twisties along the San Marcos Pass (Route 154) by Lake Cachuma sent my dog flying around the cargo compartment. She gets resentful when that happens. She likes four-wheel independent suspension and front and rear sway bars, which the Pacifica has, but she prefers a bit less body roll. When she complained too much, I tried out the binders -- four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist are standard -- and tossed her against the back of the second row seats. That shut her up for a while.
Overall, Pacifica is a very nice road trip companion. As a driver, I could only wish for more power (I always want more power) and a telescoping steering wheel (Pacifica's only adjusts for tilt) to make the ride a little more enjoyable.
There are several other crossovers that are walking the same tightrope. Ford's Freestyle is a close competitor -- I'd be hard-pressed to choose between the two vehicles. Toyota's Highlander is a car-based SUV that leans more toward the SUV side of the equation, especially in terms of appearance. Honda's Pilot is a little bigger, a little more assertive, but still in the same ballpark. Subaru's B9 Tribeca is just plain wacky. There's a new crop of crossovers on the way from GM -- the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, that are well worth a drive. And don't forget the Suzuki XL-7, the sleeper of the bunch. For more luxury (and a higher pricetag), check out the Mercedes-Benz R-class and the Cadillac SRT.
For my ride up the Pacific Coast and back, the Chrysler Pacifica did just fine. I'd ask my dog -- but she's not talking until I promise to take it easy in the twisties.