Rifts D20: Mid to High Level Only?

Comparing how the Rifts game system scales by level to how D&D scales by level is tough. I think the best explanation I ever gave went something like this:

In D&D, your power increases exponentially throughout your career and 1st level characters don't have a shot against even 4th or 5th level characters in a straight fight. In Rifts, most classes start out with about 75% of all the abilities and bonuses they'll ever get. Equipment is often a better indicator of power in Rifts than level.

That said, I've been looking at creating a stable of pregenerated characters for a Rifts D20 campaign and I'm finding that the scaling difference is an even bigger issue than I thought it would be. Although my players are familiar with D&D 3.5, I would still like for them to begin at 1st level (so they can ease into D20 Modern) and achieving the "feel" of various Rifts O.C.C.s is difficult (perhaps impossible) at such low levels. Without making any adjustments or house rules, it is difficult to emulate most Rifts classes in D20 Modern without advanced classes, which can't be entered until around 4th level.

For example, the closest parallel to the Cyber-Knight's psi-sword is the Battle Mind's psi-blade, which can be acquired by D20 Modern characters by 5th level at the very earliest due to the Battle Mind entry requirements. In short, while the advanced classes might do a great job in portraying characters from the Rifts setting, the base classes do not... unless you stick to the scholars and adventurers.

Perhaps I should just suck it up and let them start at 5th level. Perhaps I should run the first few levels as a "before they were heroes" adventure path. Maybe I should drop the Rifts idea altogether and create my own setting.
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