America’s seemingly insatiable appetite for SUVs and SUV-like vehicles in the waning years of the 20th century and the emerging years of the 21st century spawned a number of interesting subspecies of automobiles.
There were tall wagons — essentially station wagons whose profiles were meant to evoke the image of a sport utility vehicle (Subaru’s Forester is a good example of this genre.) Crossover utility vehicles — whose primary attributes were their unibody construction and car-derived suspension systems, even though they shared the ride height of sport utility vehicles (Nissan’s Murano comes to mind here). And from Chrysler, the company that arguably re-established the minivan as a viable consumer automotive category, came something fairly original. Combining the attributes of a car, a station wagon, a minivan, and the SUV, Chrysler’s Pacifica, dubbed a “sports tourer” by its marketing department, was classified a mid-size crossover wagon when it was introduced in 2003 — as a 2004 model.
The Pacifica featured the standard ride height of passenger cars and minivans (making it easy to get in and out of), the rear hatch of a station wagon, the exterior profile and elevated seating position afforded by sport utility vehicles, along with the traction and security afforded by the SUVs all-wheel drive. And while it afforded its buyers some of the utility of a minivan, the Pacifica used four forward hinged doors rather than the sliding doors of a minivan. This strategy was employed in an effort to avoid the stigmatization minivans were starting to experience as a result of their unabashed success as family-friendly vehicles.
With Pacifica, Chrysler sought to capture the best elements of all those genres in a vehicle capable of being perceived as simultaneously stylish, luxurious and utilitarian. Jointly engineered with Mercedes-Benz, during the period when Daimler AG owned both companies, the Pacifica has a near sibling in the Mercedes-Benz R-Class.
Unfortunately, the Pacifica’s execution was flawed in a number of ways. Additionally, a great deal of turmoil was brewing in Chrysler’s headquarters during the Pacifica’s lifetime. As a result, the Chrysler only lasted through one model cycle. The Pacifica was discontinued after model year 2008.