ehowton (ehowton) wrote,

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King of the Road

Our last trip to Wichita was dismal. I bought the Cav to commute 3-hours a day. When it came time to get my new car, I got the little Tib GT because I moved 8-minutes from work. Putting a family of four into that car, with luggage, was becoming a real issue. Once the kids were in the back seat, not only are they getting big enough to require legroom, which they don't have in the Tib, we packed around them. They couldn't move side-to-side, or front-to-back, and I couldn't see out the back hatch. When we stopped in Oklahoma City, it took 10-minutes just to disembark.

That was the decisive moment.

Last Christmas, all six of of us stuffed ourselves in my mother-in-law's Impala to see the Christmas lights. That was a mess. And we always have to take two vehicles whenever we go anywhere with either her folks, or mine. Its very inconvenient. This past Christmas, when we got both the kids bikes, I had to drive just the bikes home, then head back to pick up my family. This round trip took me an hour.

My wife kept the Cav for her commute into work, and I just bought the Tiburon. So with only two tiny cars, it was time for a family vehicle.

With the state of the economy being what it is, they were making incredible deals on new cars, especially SUV's. We test drove a Hyundai Veracruz, the one modeled after the Lexus RX350. And while the incentives really were worthy of our time, we still couldn't afford it.

"Go to Weatherford!" My father suggested, as a place to find great deals on used cars. "Consider the Pacifca!" My mother suggested, after seeing one on the road. And though we weren't planning on buying our family car this weekend, just test driving them, we drove away with a 2006 Chrysler Pacifica Touring.

My wife was certain about one thing: She didn't want a minivan, but she also didn't like driving the large SUV's. Its hard to pinpoint the distinction, but the Pacifica is a Crossover. It drives like a car, but has a step-in lower than an SUV and higher than a mini-van, and it has four "real" doors, not sliding doors. Its like a station wagon on steroids. The best part? Third-row seating. Because it has Captain's Chairs in the second road, this isn't a 7-passenger vehicle, but it seats six very comfortably.

They were asking $15,000, but I told the salesman we were aiming for $11,000 and I was wondering if they could meet me somewhere in the middle. To their credit, they met us *exactly* at the middle, $13,500. I quipped, "I was thinking closer to 'my' middle...middle-ish," but they wouldn't budge further. Because its a used car, we went ahead and got a 5-year bumper-to-bumper warranty for an additional $23 a month. My wife didn't want to spend that money, as we usually eschew extended warranties, but driving away in a car with 28k miles on it that aren't mine seemed too much of a gamble, and I feel a lot better knowing that if this car does what the Saturn did at 60k miles, it will only cost me $50 instead of a thousand. Yeah, I'm still bitter about that.

I didn't even get a chance to drive it until late the next day, as its more important that my wife was comfortable driving it, but I found it a dream on wheels. While it lacks the low-slung, 5-speed power and agility of my Tiburon, for a full-size six-passenger vehicle the 250-hp 3.5-liter V6 (17/23 mpg) accelerates accurately and slips in and out of traffic smoothly and surely. The front Captain's Chairs and rich interior make it way more opulent than we were expecting to end up with, but when I loaded up my parents and kids all into the car and everyone had legroom and there was still room for storage I was ecstatic that I got a 2006 model Touring edition vehicle for only $13,500 - Half the price of a 2008 Veracruz, and much nicer. I've always been a big fan of Chrysler's "Cab Forward" design and this vehicle doesn't disappoint. The 'chop top' feel of the roofline is disconcerting only insofar as there is abundant headroom even in the second and third-row seats. But it does look cool.

One last thing. I've always thought these vehicles had an awkwardly-shaped ass. Rounded and fat. But once inside I realized that's to make the the interior is so cavernous - it doesn't "pinch" in in the rear. Anyway, my wife felt the same way, and named the Pacifica after Jada Pinkett Smith's character in Madagascar: "Gloria" the hippo.

I *really* like having a roomy vehicle...and not spending a fortune on it.

Tags: driving, hippo
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