- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Chrysler Pacifica has takes family transportation to a higher level and taken the soccer mom image out of driving a practical vehicle. In fact, it has coined a new label for a roomy, easy-to-live-with vehicle that if you were not paying attention you might call a minivan.

The Pacifica sports Tourer goes far beyond any vehicle you might put in the family-car category. After I spent the better part of a thousand miles behind the wheel of this vehicle, I can tell you that it is much closer to the sports part of this equation.

The Pacifica has all the necessary multifunction attributes you would expect of a vehicle meant to transport a whole lot of folks from point A to point B. The major advantage to the Pacifica is you’ll have a whole lot more fun driving this Chrysler. Its sleeker architecture gives the Pacifica a much more stable stance on the road. With available all-wheel drive, the vehicle holds the road almost as convincingly as a sports car.

Though the vehicle profile may lead you to believe this is a van, look with a more discerning eye and you quickly see this vehicle is closer to a sport wagon. A longer hood line and a lower center of gravity give the Pacifica a carlike look. This also is an advantage in cross winds as it isn’t as susceptible to being sent into the next lane by strong gusts.

Inside, the Pacifica is full of cool stuff, starting with the driving position that will not give you the feeling of driving a Greyhound bus. The steering wheel fits your hands as you would expect in an automobile, not that big grey dog. All gauges, switches and controls are easy to see and use.

The rear doors hinge forward just like a normal sedan as they open wide to allow straightforward egress and ingress. The second-row seating tumbles forward with one hand to open passage to the third-row seating. Both second- and third-row seats tumble and fold, providing a flat floor cargo space.

Interior accoutrements such as surround sound, navigation system, SIRIUS satellite radio and a DVD system for the rear seats make the Pacifica perfect for those long hauls to Grandmother’s house. And the safety components that include as a side curtain air bag that extends from A to D pillar, give you the kind of peace of mind you want in your family vehicle.

The combination of excellent interior and exterior styling, with a drivetrain and suspension system has given the Pacifica first-rate road manners. Whether you’re cruising across county or to the mountain cabin, the Pacifica fills the bill handily.

Under the hood is a version of the tried-and-true 3.5-liter V-6 engine. This capable engine produces 250 horsepower and 250 foot-pounds of torque, establishing the Pacifica as a vehicle that can have the power to pass slower-moving vehicles as well as cruise up those torturous mountain passes. Combining this V-6 with the four-speed automatic transmission that is equipped with AutoStick manual shifting mode adds sport to this sport tourer.

It is the same with the suspension system. This isn’t a sports car, but it sure can make a few sports cars a bit nervous. During my test I was able to keep the driver of a German-made sports sedan wondering what he had stuck to his rear bumper.

The duly impressed driver had to get a closer look of my Pacifica at the roadside stop at the top of the mountain.

The Chrysler Pacific had me wondering if it can fulfill all that the Chrysler folks said it would, both for the company and the buyers.

Having so many miles under my seat belt sitting behind the wheel of the Pacifica, I have no doubt Chrysler has found another category were others will be in hot pursuit.

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