Jude P. Morte / Ramon Sy, Jude P. Morte | July 14, 2007 00:00
Captivating CrossoverThere is a growing number of crossover SUVs that look and drive like a car, but the overall experience is very much like a minivan or station wagon. One example is the Chrysler Pacifica.
The Pacifica is labeled as a "midsize crossover SUV," and while this may be just another example from the fertile minds of the people from the Auburn Hills, Michigan (USA)-based parent company, the Pacifica does have a distinct personality compared to minivans or SUVs. Its lines don't scream "mommy-mobile" and the overall look is similar to its (Mercedes Benz or MB) R-Class cousin or the new Honda CR-V, but inside there is a luxurious interior, and more than enough seats to qualify for carpooling or long trips with six to seven people in tow. It's easy to see why this vehicle is so hard to wedge into any one specific category.
The interior looks upscale, expensive and modern, but the wood trim accents look tacky. The look and feel is reinforced by topnotch materials used throughout. It's not exactly MB quality, but it does the job of showing a high-end look. The airconditioning unit blows VERY cold air and even the rear occupants get to control the aircon's blower speed, but the rear section has only four vents. Several storage areas abound, and there are four power outlets. The driver menu and hazard buttons within the middle dashboard panel are within easy reach, but are small. The audio entertainment is great, but needs treble end help and its usage can be ingratiating.
Getting into the Pacifica Touring 4.0L AWD (the unit provided for this test drive) is actually easier than with most cars and SUVs. No need to stoop down or step up, just open the door and the seat is right there to greet you. There are power-adjustable captain's chairs for the driver and front passenger, and have easy-to-reach door-mounted controls similar to that on MB models. There are dual memory settings to keep the driver's seating preferences, and shorter drivers will like the power-adjustable pedals.
Overall the Pacifica's seats are more than accommodating. The soft leather, ample padding and support combo are instantly comfortable, even after hours of driving. When the third row seats are folded flat, cargo space is 13 cubic feet, but when both rear rows are folded flat, loading opens up to a large 43.6 cubic feet. Also, both rear rows have visible detailed and numbered instructions for tumbling and folding. Seating-wise, the only drawback is third row headroom; it's a bit bigger than most SUV's third rows, but anybody 5'10" (the height of this writer) or above seated at the third row will have his or her head get really intimate with the Pacifica's ceiling.
Take the Pacifica out for a spin and you'll find that acceleration from rest is a little soft, but once the big V6 gets its wind, the SUV moves quickly. Six-speed transmission shifts are crisply done (in automatic mode), and it rarely misses an opportunity to grab a lower gear for more power. However, the upper rpm range is narrow, fourth gear is quite tall, and there's a slight delay in shifting when using the Autostick manual mode feature. Tested top speed is 210kph and city consumption was registered at 8.27 kilometers per liter (km/l), but mixed driving yielded a thirsty five (5) km/l.
Handling is great for this SUV. With traction control off, the Pacifica's Michelin Energy 235/65R17s break grip at 80-90kph, and the traction control significantly reduces throttle output at moderate understeer onwards. The ride is also great, but can be floaty to some due to its long wheelbase. Steering is light and provides solid feedback, but can be a bit blunt.
The Pacifica is surprising when it comes to its safety features. Brake grip and parking brake grip are very strong, but the parking brake deactivation lever is hard to find. Located parallel to the driver's left knee (similar to the new Ford Explorer), its operation can feel like you're doing abdominal exercises, especially in stop-go traffic and the unit is on an incline or descent. The side mirrors are wide, and there's an autodim feature for the rear view and left hand side mirrors to reduce glare during night driving. The headlights are bright even at the "dim" setting, but activating the foglights and the waterspray for the rear glass can be a bit confusing.
The Pacifica's blend of size, power, handling and features are impressive, and it should, given its P2.85 million tag. If you're looking for comfort and convenience in a stylish package, the Pacifica is a captivating crossover that deserves attention.