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2004 Crossover Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Chrysler Pacifica
2004 Chrysler Pacifica

There's another good idea from the folks who claim title as the minivan king of the western world. But, word goes, don't call it a crossover.

It's uncertain what designation Chrysler would prefer for this in-between vehicle with so many potential uses, but their terminology "sports tourer" comes to mind.

With handsome black window edging, roof rails and rear spoiler, especially against a light-toned body, it has a "Tuxedo" look perfect for formal affairs, while offering enough seating choices to stow a passel of offspring in the back for a lengthy family foray. Second and third row seating has an overhead DVD player that syncs with input jacks as an on-the-road game room for the young and restless.

A lot of Pacifica makes intuitive sense: Double consoles for front and mid rows, four (count them) 12-volt power points excluding an optional lighter, a focus on high tech.

But a few things demand a tour of the manual (overhead light dimmers on the turn indicator stalk, for example).

Among goodies: Heated, second row seating that moves fore and aft about eight inches, a "nav" system set mid-speedometer dial so once it's programmed it's right where you need it, a full size spare mounted underneath so it doesn't claim cargo room, and even grocery bag hooks behind both front seats.

Also available are SIRIUS satellite radio and hands-free communication.

Safety was a major must for Pacifica. Its code name during development was "The Protector." Chrysler gauged the ratio of glass and steel for the best occupant safety, and added SecureShield laminated glass as an option -- Chrysler's first use, plus side curtain airbags and inflatable knee blockers.

Don't expect to do "wheelies" in a Pacifica. Despite its 3.5 liter, 250 horsepower V-6 engine (also used in the 300 M), it's designed more for comfort than for sport driving. But for an all-around safety craft for four adults plus two diminutive persons, or plenty of storage capacity with all rear seats folded flat, it could claim some of that minivan usability crown.