Road Test: Pacifica

So, is it a minivan, an SUV or just a plain old station wagon? In its new?

Pacifica, billed as an upscale sport wagon, Chrysler has tried to capture the best characteristics of all three vehicles. But what I found in a week behind the wheel is that it comes up a little short: it really does serve as a set of luxury wheels, but leaves something to be desired as a family hauler. When my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple, we couldn't have been more comfortable in the roomy leather captain's chairs that make the car's first two rows feel like the first-class section of a 747. Our friends marveled at the nifty navigation screen embedded into the speedometer. The incredible surround-sound stereo made us feel as if John Mayer were playing live from the car's third row. We felt hip wrapped inside the Pacifica's rakish profile and we all enjoyed its smooth ride. Taking three kids to a soccer game the next day was another story, however. Piling them into the third row required a cumbersome fold and flip of those plush second-row seats. And the elegant black carpeting quickly became a muddy mess after the game. Pretty soon we were longing for our dowdy old minivan. Perhaps when the kids finally head off to college, we'll be ready for the Pacifica.

Tip: This is the perfect ride for empty nesters who want to impress the valet.