What's New for 2006
Changes to the Chrysler Pacifica for 2006 include minor exterior trim revisions, available auto tilt-down side mirrors and a larger glovebox. The base engine has also been dropped.
When all-American Chrysler "merged" with German conglomerate Daimler, it seemed an unlikely combination. So it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the first product to emerge from this strange brew is itself an improbable mix of minivan, wagon and sport-utility known as the Chrysler Pacifica.
The Pacfica's sleek lines certainly don't scream "mommy-mobile," but look inside and there are more than enough seats to qualify it for carpool duty. Combine this with the Pacifica's luxurious appointments and high-end options, and it's easy to see why this tall wagon is so hard to wedge into any one specific category. Although base front-wheel-drive models start around $26,000, loaded all-wheel-drive versions can push $40,000. While the base price places it against mainstream vehicles like the Rendezvous, Pilot and Highlander, more heavily optioned models run squarely against luxury-branded vehicles like the MDX and RX 330, a challenge Chrysler feels that its upscale crossover is up to.
Acceleration is a little soft from a standstill, but once the 3.5-liter V6 gets its wind, the vehicle moves out quickly. The ride is quiet and comfortable, and handling, while not exactly athletic, is certainly nimble for a large vehicle. Inside, the Chrysler Pacifica has an attractive two-tone color scheme accented by faux wood and aluminum. The base model includes a three-passenger second-row bench seat, while the Touring and Limited's second row features captain's chairs that provide nearly as much comfort as the front seats. A surprisingly accommodating entry height makes getting in and out of the Pacifica a breeze. Space in the Touring and Limited's two-passenger third row is tight, making it suitable for small children only. Plus, there's only 13 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats -- not much at all for a utility vehicle. At least all the rear seats can be folded into the floor when you need more space, opening up to 92.2 cubic feet in the base model, and 79.5 in the Touring and Limited (due to the third-row seat).
We like the Pacifica's combination of upscale amenities, sharp handling and nontraditional styling. Add to that an elevated driving position, supremely comfortable seats and top-notch safety scores and you have an attractive package for any family of four or five. The main issue that gives us pause about the Pacifica is the spotty reliability of early models. Although quality has improved since then, it's fair to say that the 2006 Chrysler Pacifica doesn't quite measure up to competing import-brand nameplates when it comes to hassle-free ownership.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Chrysler Pacifica is available in three models -- base, Touring and Limited. Base and Touring models are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive; the Limited is AWD only. The base model comes with two-row, five-passenger seating; cloth upholstery; a CD player; full power accessories; and keyless entry. The Touring adds 17-inch alloy wheels; three-row six-passenger seating (with second-row captain's chairs); automatic climate control; and a 10-way power driver seat. Limited models build upon the Touring with a monochromatic exterior, 19-inch wheels, heated leather seats, a power moonroof and a power liftgate. Entertainment options include an upgraded 385-watt Infinity audio system, Sirius Satellite Radio and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. An innovative DVD-based navigation system is offered with the screen mounted in the instrument cluster for easy viewing by the driver.
Powertrains and Performance
All Pacificas are powered by a 3.5-liter V6, which makes 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. All Pacificas come with a four-speed automatic transmission. AWD models have a simple but effective viscous-coupling center differential, and the system has the ability to send up to 90 percent of the power to the front or rear wheels if the conditions warrant it.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard. Side curtain airbags for all three rows and a tire-pressure monitoring system are optional. The Chrysler Pacifica achieved a perfect five-star sweep in front- and side-impact crash tests conducted by the NHTSA (when equipped with the optional airbags). In addition, the Pacifica was named a "Best Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in its frontal offset crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
Touring and Limited Pacifica models can seat up to six people, and the seats are arranged in three rows of two. Base models seat five and include a three-passenger rear bench seat and no third-row seat. The Pacifica's second- and third-row chairs can be tumbled easily to fold flat into the floor, maximizing level loading space with an extra storage bin under the cargo area. Lack of legroom in the third row limits it to occasional use only.
The 2006 Chrysler Pacifica delivers a confident over-the-road feel that most minivans and SUVs are hard-pressed to match. The steering provides solid feedback, and the suspension imparts a sense of surefooted control that borders on fun. We're not going to go too far out on a limb and call it "sporty," but for a vehicle that's specifically designed for family duty, it's surprisingly entertaining. While power from either V6 is adequate, the Pacifica can feel sluggish at times due to its hefty curb weight.