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Our Pacifica also came with Chrysler's UConnect Bluetooth cell phone integration, which we generally like. UConnect doesn't make use of the car's LCD and is completely voice activated. The system paired up with our Motorola V551 phone very easily and even allowed us to enter a unique PIN. Calls came through clearly, and the voice recognition system heard all of our commands. This system doesn't copy over your phone's address book, but you can create a new address book in the car through the voice-command system. The button to activate UConnect is inconveniently placed on the rear-view mirror, requiring a reach to enter voice-command mode.
We had the standard stereo for the Limited trim version of the Pacifica, which includes a single-CD/DVD MP3-capable player and seven Infinity speakers. This stereo uses a standard single-line radio display, so it's not great for navigating MP3 discs or Sirius radio stations, an option included on our Pacifica. It does display ID3-tagging information at the press of a button, but it doesn't have a mode to continuously scroll tags. The audio quality wasn't great with this baseline system--a DVD-audio disc we used for testing had a muffled sound. This is definitely not a system for people who really enjoy music. There is an upgrade available for the Pacifica, a 385-watt 5.1 surround sound system.
A set of RCA jacks for stereo and composite video are mounted in the front of the radio, which work great with an MP3 player. The console hatch even has a convenient indentation in the lid for the cable. The composite video jack doesn't make sense for the stereo and may be a legacy from the parts bin, because the same three-jack part sits in the faceplate of another six-CD/DVD MP3-capable changer just below the single-disc player. This six-disc changer comes with the rear-seat DVD-entertainment system. Both CD/DVD drives can play music through the stereo system, although only the upper one displays ID3-tag information on the radio display. Likewise, only the bottom one is hooked up to the rear-seat DVD screen. The auxiliary audio and video jacks in the lower one make it possible to hook up a video iPod or gaming console, although cables would have to run to the back seat.
Another nicety in the cabin is a rear-view back-up camera, which uses the speedometer inset LCD display and has a simple overlay representing each side of the car. A tire pressure monitor shows up in the trip display area, to the left of the instrument cluster, with actual pounds per square inch (psi) for each wheel.
Under the hood
The Pacifica feels like a pretty big car, but its 4-liter V-6 puts out more than enough power to rocket this wagon forward. We were very pleased with its performance from a stop, where it showed no acceleration lag. This acceleration is surprising, considering the specifications on this engine don't sound too impressive, with 253 horsepower at 6,000rpm and 262 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200rpm, especially for a 4,720-pound car. Acceleration from speed is another matter, though, and here we found the Pacifica a bit lax. Passing acceleration on the freeway wasn't nearly as invigorating. The engine could probably benefit by using variable valve-timing technology to increase its efficiency over a greater range of operating speeds.
The six-speed automatic in the Pacifica does its job well, making seamless shifts when we wanted them. But it also contributed to the lax passing acceleration, seeming hesitant to kickdown a gear or two when we really wanted to move. It has a manual shift mode, primarily useful for switching to lower gears while going down hill. Our Pacifica was an all-wheel-drive model; it's also available in front-wheel drive. We took it around a hard corner or two, and while it didn't feel top heavy, the weight and size of the car made us ease off. Understeer is prominent when taking curves in the Pacifica
With an independent suspension and gas-charged shocks, the Pacifica handled rough roads with grace. Over bumps, the car felt surprisingly rigid, absorbing the initial jounce then damping out any follow-up well. Road-holding is helped out by an electronic stability program that also includes traction control.
The EPA rates the Pacifica at 16mpg city and 24mpg on the highway. In our testing we saw 16.4mpg in mixed city and freeway driving, dropping down to as low as 10mpg in heavy traffic. The car rates as a ULEV II, or ultra-low emissions vehicle, in California, a good achievement for a car of this size.
Our test car was a 2007 Chrysler Pacifica Limited with all-wheel drive, with a base price of $35,525. We added the UConnect Bluetooth system for $275, the navigation plus rear back-up camera for $1,995, and the rear-seat DVD system for $995. The total, with a $730 destination charge, comes out to $39,520.
For less than $40,000, we're pretty impressed with the 2007 Chrysler Pacifica. It compares well with the Mercedes-Benz R-class, offering similar space and amenities. The stereo upgrade is another $700, which would put it above the $40,000 mark, but given the mediocre nature of the baseline stereo, the upgrade must be considered.