Before delving into niceties of the Dodge Journey crossover, the tempestuous journey of its long-standing parent company is worth revisiting.
The former Chrysler Group LLC based in Auburn Hills, Michigan morphed into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC in December 2014 uniting Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Truck and Fiat names under one umbrella in the United States. In 2009, Chrysler Group LLC began a complex, roller-coaster like 'soft bankruptcy' involving U.S. and Canadian Governments, the United Auto Workers Pension fund and Italian automaker Fiat. Fiat eventually gained 100 percent ownership of the Chrysler Group in January 2014
From 2007-2009, the Chrysler Group found itself mixed up in a painful 'fix-and-flip' journey with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management prior to a near decade-long uneasy marriage (1998-2007) with Germany's Daimler-Benz.
Classified as a mid-size crossover based on a uni-body car-like platform, Journey's primary destination remains paved roads familiar throughout suburban Chicago, not heavy-forested off-road trails. An all-new Dodge vehicle debuting in the 2009 model year, Journey's car-based underpinning are similar to the mid-size Avenger sedan built from 2006 through 2013. Journey's 2015 version remains virtually unchanged from the 2014 effort. Those seeking off-roading capabilities from Dodge should check the larger truck-based Durango sport utility.
Journey's rugged-looking Crossroad trim (our tester) debuted at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show in time to join 2014 model year production a few months later. Now in its sophomore season, Crossroad is one of several returning2014 Journey trims including the American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Limited and R/T.
Setting Crossroad apart from other Journey trims are dark tinted headlamps and tail lamps, larger, 19-inch hyper black aluminum wheels, chrome roof rack and unique front grille nuances.
In addition to a goodly number of trims, Journey offers a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive and two returning engines unchanged from 2014: a 2.4-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder cranking out 174 horsepower mated with one of the few remaining four-speed automatic transmissions or the recommended 3.6-liter V-6 delivering 283 with a more advanced six-speed automatics. Both engines utilize regular, 87-octane fuel. Finally, all trims offer two or three seating rows occupying five or seven riders respectively.
Journey's Crossroad's front end sports Dodge's quad-sectioned gloss black honeycomb grille. Circular wheel wells include bold framing. Jeep, the off-road cousin of Dodge, opts for squared-off wheel wells. While many in the mid-size crossover segment feature prominent curved architecture joining the roof and hatchback door, Journey sports a more traditional squared-off design. Six-cylinder editions include dual exhausts.
When the former Chrysler Corp. reinvigorated the front-wheel-drive minivan segment in the mid-1980s, the company also set internally high standards for low-tech innovations with high impacts when carting family and friends. Journey includes a few of these brainstorms, notably a hidden 'Flip-N-Stow' storage bin built into front row shotgun seats. A pull tab tucked near the backrest/cushion intersection flips the seat insert forward, revealing a decent-sized holding area.
Journey's available and ease-of-use 'flexible' second row seating provides a brilliant blueprint to maneuvering into and out of the available third row. While some recently tested three-row crossovers include a sometimes cumbersome tilt and slide second-row design requiring more than a little effort to jolt forward, Journey's concept remains user-friendly and easily repeatable.
When manually tilting forward either 60/40-split second-row bench via a top side lever, the cushion portion folds up, forming a' V. ' This unit then slides forward with relative ease, opening up sufficient step-up space to row three. When exiting row three (with ample head room for those six feet or shorter), passengers tilt the same side lever forward which, in turn, motivates the cushion into the "V positon for easy forward movement. For greater versatility, second-row seatbacks also fold flat onto seat cushions when cargo carrying becomes a priority. Although part of a $1,500 'flexible seating' option group in, the extra investment remains worthy especially if the two-passenger third row gets frequent use.
For growing families substituting mid-size crossovers for Soccer-Mom minivans, flexible second rows include optional ($225) built-in booster seats in outboard positions. A gentle upward tug of the front portion of the seat cushion insert creates a ready-made booster chair. When not needed, the booster portion slides back down and even creating a full cushion. Ahead of second row seats are removable, in-floor bins allowing more storage opportunities.
As with most mid-size crossovers offering third row, 50/50 back rests manually fold flat onto cushions. Third-row headrests flip down automatically when folding seatbacks forward. With third seats prone, 10.7 cubic feet of space remains, enough for overnight luggage or loads of Jewel grocery bags. With both rows folded, cargo room expands to a useable 67.6 cubic feet.
Our all-wheel-drive Journey Crossroad with V-6 engine included a base price of $28,395. Options included aforementioned booster seats and flexible seating, nine-inch second row ceiling fold down video screen ($1,195), in-dash navigation with Satellite radio ($995), upgraded sound system with dual temperature zone ($395) and heated seats with remote start ($1,050) for a $34,750 bottom line with $995 destination charge. Starting price for a front-drive, four-cylinder five-passenger AVP starts at $19,995, one of the segment's lowest.
The optional retracting second-row ceiling screen includes ventilation controls (fan speed, temperature) for rear-seat comfort along with three floor-area auxiliary jacks.
As with most Chrysler and now Fiat products, Journey includes finger-tip operated secondary volume and station pre-set controls located on the steering wheels back side, a natural position where fingers seemingly at rest may also tickle sound and audio selections . A simple-bit of engineering put to practical use.
The well-crafted center console design found in other Dodge products, includes an available 8.4-inch Uconnect multi-use color touch screen working in sync with three decent-sized tactile twist knobs and five large, well-marked push buttons below summoning air conditioning along with front and rear defrosters.
A row of animated touch-sensitive icons along the bottom of the touch screen includes such selections as navigation, radio, climate, compact disc player and heated front seats. With large well-marked graphics, it's one of the better user-friendly designs recently tested.
Temperature settings and changes are made from up-down push buttons next to a center twist dial used to adjust fan speed. Fan direction must be made by selecting the center screen's 'climate' icon then pushing the desired mode; a two-step process. Side-by-side beverage holders are located between supportive front buckets and immediately in front of an arm rest/storage bin with removable interior tray. Inside, USB plug in ports connect with a multitude of portable electronic devices with the aid of a 12-volt power outlet.
The instrument panel includes two medium-sized circular analog gauges with a half-arch fuel gauge tucked in the bottom of the right-side speedometer. A rectangular' electronic vehicle information center' resides between gauges with digital information tidbits. Push-button start comes standard.
Engine performance and V-6 fuel economy remain underwhelming when compared with many mid-size crossover rivals including a recently tested Kia Sorrento. However ergonomics, comfort and versatile seating and storage remain well above average. 2015 Dodge Journey
Price as tested: $34,750
Wheelbase: 113.8 inches
Length: 192.4 inches
Width: 72.2 inches
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Curb weight: 4,238 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five year/100,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 16 mpg city/24 mpg highway
Built: Toluca, Mexico