Early in vehicle development, the all-new 2004 Chrysler Pacifica was assigned the internal code, “The Protector.” “‘The Protector’ is really about the driver and his or her responsibility for getting everybody home safely,” said Mike Donoughe, vice president, Family Vehicle Product Team. “Chrysler Pacifica provides the tools the driver needs to fulfill that role. The first-class seating position, cockpit-style controls, all-wheel-drive and sport-sedan handling help the driver avoid accidents. If a crash does occur, safety systems such as the three-row side curtain air bags help keep occupants safe. “We set stringent internal safety targets right from the beginning of development and carried them all the way through production,” Donoughe added. According to Chrysler, the Pacifica is one of world’s first vehicles to offer a three-row side curtain air bag, that will be standard equipment on the vehicle which goes on sale in the spring of 2003. The ceiling-mounted side curtain air bag deploys downward and provides full-side window coverage. Chrysler said the air bag was tested to the voluntary standards set by the industry’s Side Air Bag Technical Working Group. In addition, Chrysler Group engineers also used the “pole test,” which mimics accidents such as hitting a telephone pole or tree, to evaluate the side air bag sensing system. These types of accidents may be severe because the crash forces are concentrated in a relatively small area of the vehicle. The Pacifica meets Chrysler engineers’ strict criteria for handling and stability, according to the company. The sports tourer package is designed with a wide track for optimal handling and stability. Although the Chrysler Pacifica is taller than most passenger cars, its suspension, steering and ride are calibrated to achieve sport sedan cornering and handling qualities, according to Chrysler. Additionally, knowledge was shared across the DaimlerChrysler family to ensure that the Chrysler Pacifica’s rear suspension incorporates “best practices” in technology and design, according to Donoughe. “Chrysler Pacifica does not share components, but it does share a common rear suspension design architecture with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class,” Donoughe said. “Not only did we benefit from adopting the suspension design, but Chrysler Pacifica also benefited from undergoing development testing in the DaimlerChrysler Driving Simulator in Berlin.” Mercedes was the first automaker to adapt aerospace simulation technology for automotive development. The driving simulator enables engineers to drive a car when it exists only as a collection of computer data. Consequently, engineers are able to test the engine, transmission, suspension and brakes before the first prototype is built. This technology also evaluates traction control and center of gravity to optimize the vehicle’s handling performance. Chrysler Pacifica’s restraint system encompasses the seat belts, air bags and sensors to optimize occupant protection in the event of a crash. In addition to the side curtain air bag, Chrysler Pacifica also provides the first Chrysler Group inflatable knee blocker. Located just below the steering column, the knee blocker helps to reduce potential leg injuries in a crash. It also aids in appropriately positioning the driver to get the full safety benefit of the total restraint system. Enhanced multi-stage driver and passenger air bags deploy at various levels based on the severity of the crash. Two charges in the air bag module are triggered separately. A minor impact will trigger a low-power deployment while a severe impact will deploy a more high-powered discharge in order to optimize occupant protection. The sophisticated driver air bag works in conjunction with the energy-absorbing steering wheel, patented steering column and inflatable knee blocker to provide supplemental restraints in frontal or near-frontal impacts. Seat belts are the first line of defense against injury in a crash. Chrysler Pacifica is equipped with front seat belt pretensioners and constant force retractors. Both are located within the seat belt retractor system and activated simultaneously with air bag deployment. Pretensioners tighten the seat belt to keep the occupant in place while constant force retractors minimize the load to reduce upper body injuries from the excessive force of the seat belt when it presses against the body. “Loaded with safety and security features, Chrysler Pacifica was designed to give drivers and other occupants a peace of mind,” Donoughe said. “All drivers want to safeguard their families on the road and Chrysler Pacifica assists in that mission.”