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2004 CHRYSLER PACIFICA

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, May 31, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

2004 Chrysler Pacifica

THE FAMILY ESTATE - WITH BELLS & WHISTLES By DAVID GARDNER

ONCE upon a time you would pack up all your old junk into the family estate car and head off on a trip with a few whistled verses of "Yellow Submarine" as your only accompaniment.

Now you have the Pacifica, the ground-breaking new "sports tourer" which Chrysler would have you believe is the automotive equivalent of mapping the human genome. To my mind, the Pacifica is the family estate with bells and whistles - and a DVD player. So it seemed the best way to test drive my metallic silver 3.5L "sports tourer" would be to take four boys on the traditional Southern California trip from the ocean to Big Bear Mountain, complete with snowboards, smelly boots, fast food and a combined vocabulary largely limited to the word "dude." As I drove up Route 91 listening to the DVD of "Scarface" playing behind my head and wondering exactly why and how Al Pacino manages to kill so many people in such a short time, I had plenty of time to consider the car/truck's advantages.

For one, there are three rows of seats, a given in many of the larger SUVs but a definite bonus in a hybrid like this. Then there's the comparatively sleek appearance with the front grill's nod to the PT Cruiser. And the price - $28,845 basic going up to $36,495 with all the extras - is very reasonable in comparison with the smaller sports trucks. But as I hit the steeper sections of Route 38 up through Running Springs to the Arctic Circle, with Pacino's death count at 37, it was hard to miss the slightly underpowered V6 engine. It is the most common complaint I've heard against the Pacifica and an extra spot of umph in the engine would help push it through its only serious drawback.

Of course, the city mpg of 17, with 23 on highways, is hardly contusive to touring, especially with gas at 2.35 plus a gallon, but plenty of people thunder up and down the country in Ford Excursions and they take up a tank to get out of the garage.

It doesn't hurt that the Pacifica boasts the highest possible safety rating - five stars for all frontal and side impact tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you are interested, it comes with three-row side curtain air bags, inflatable knee blocker air bag, an energy-absorbing steering column, all-wheel drive, child seat anchor system, enhanced accident response system, front crush sensors, multi-stage air bags and a tire pressure monitoring system for idiots like me who only check the tires when the squeal as you corner breaks glass.

The leather-trimmed bucket seats are very comfortable and nicely laid out so four 15-year-olds barely moaned at all during the four hours up and down the mountain. The CD/DVD player easily drowned out my whistling of classic Beatles hits and nobody was carsick, which was a definite bonus as I had to give the vehicle back the following day. It's tricked out in 17-inch aluminum wheels and P235/65R17 black sidewall AS performance tires and a nifty power sunroof. Oh, and its two-wheel drive (all-wheel drive is available), so I'm glad it wasn't icy. It intrigues me that Chrysler would want to promote the Pacifica's "front seatback grocery bag hooks" among its whiz-bang features, but who's to say that won't turn the head of some discerning Albertson's regular?

What did the boys think of the Pacifica? They loved it until the movie finished. Then it was just a means of getting them up and down the mountain. But at least then I could let rip with the whistling.

For more information on Chrysler products, go to www.chrysler.com.

SPECIFICATIONS: Manufacturer's suggested retail price (base): $28,250 (front-wheel drive) $31,050 (all-wheel drive) Engine: 3.5-l, SOHC, 24-valve V-6 Power: 250 horsepower (186 kW)

Torque: 250 lb.-ft. torque (339 N·m) Transmission: Four-speed Automatic Transaxle with AutoStick® Drive system: On-demand All-wheel Drive or Front-wheel Drive with Traction Control Suspension: Independent wishbone front suspension Five-link independent rear suspension with Load-leveling and Height Control

Tires & Wheels: 17-inch P235/65 tires and aluminum wheels Tire pressure monitoring system Brakes: Four-wheel antilock disc brakes Other features: Six-passenger seating in three rows (2+2+2) Full-length center console - 1st and 2nd rows Seats - power 10-way driver, four-way passenger Power adjustable pedals with memory Dual zone automatic temperature control Fold-flat load floor Three-row side curtain air bags Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gas mileage rating: 17 city 23 highway

0-60 miles per hour: 9.9 seconds

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