While the Dodge division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) continues pumping out performance-ready Chargers and Challengers, a nifty five-door crossover is also in play from the Dodge Brothers.
The Dodge Journey's car-like uni-body underpinnings are designed for on-road enjoyment, not off-road trailing. On-road poise gets juiced when ordering optional, on-demand Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive, although the 16 miles per gallon city average our tester delivered was somewhat underwhelming. On demand sensors provide extra traction to specific tires when needed with no driver input.
Changes from 2015 to 2016 remain minimal, largely delegated to a revised trim level structure (simplified from seven to five). Underpinnings and engine dynamics check in unchanged as does a welcome quiet ride when tooling Prairie State tollways.
Journey, with interior flexibility and visually-appealing flowing exterior, established a loyal, growing fan base since its 2009 model year debut. In2014, Journey locked up 93,572 unit sales. That number grew by 13 percent to 105,400 in 2015.
This growth overshadows the regionally-built Dodge Dart. Despite a substantial financial investment, Dart sales never reached the bull's eye. Long established names with proven track records in compact sales including Civic and Corolla impeded Dart from gaining substantial sales traction since its 2012 debut. FCA announced earlier this year plans to discontinue Belvidere-built Darts by mid-2017, but left discussion doors open for a 'compact partnership' with existing automakers.
It's not uncommon or unprecedented for competing rivals to join forces and maximize benefits of scale. FCA already teams with Mazda to assemble its new Fiat Spider 124, a roadster with suspicious similarities with the two-seat MX-5 Miata.
Journey's mid-size dimensions come in a wide range of mix and match opportunities with two engine selections, front or all-wheel drive and five or seven passenger seating; plus an array of factory-offered option groups. Journey's five trims include SE, SXT, Crossroad, Crossroad Plus and R/T. Crossroad trims debuted in 2014.
Returning powertrains whittle down to a 2.4-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder cranking out 174 horsepower and mated with an aging four-speed automatic transmission or the recommended 3.6-liter V-6 delivering 283 with a more advanced six-speed automatic. Both naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) engines require regular, 87-octane fuel. Four-bangers come standard in SE, SXT and Crossroad, and Crossroad Plus. The R/T remains the sole trim with the V-6 Pentastar standard, but's optional in all other trims.
Journey earns ultra-high marks for Luddite-friendly technology integration with the prominent, center dash touch-screen interface. The 8.4-inch Uconnect screen showcases common-sense easy-to-interpret icons teamed with 'words' to minimize miscommunication. The ventilation system employees a large dial to summon fan speed and large, easy identified push buttons to monitor temperature changes or summon A/C.
As with the recently reviewed 2016 Jeep Cherokee, Journey includes its share of versatile, family-friendly nuances. The front, shotgun bucket includes available 'flip-n-stow' in-seat storage; a cushion which flips forward, opening up extra storage opportunities. This seat's backrest also folds forward and flat, enhancing cargo-carrying options.Lurking beneath second-row floor mats resides another hidden gem; in-floor storage bins with flip-open tops, providing safe passage for items better left unseen down under.
When a couple of riders occupy row two, the center cushion folds down, with cup holders built into the bottom, non-padded side of the middle head rest. Outboard seats also tilt backward to better suit occupant comfort levels. Our tester included optional built-in booster seats; another family-friendly bit of engineering. The cushion's front portion manually stacks atop the back, creating a taller seat platform.
Our tester, a bright red Crossroad Plus trim with optional all-wheel drive checked in at $29,795. Options included a $1,100 Crossroads equipment group (leather seats, upsized 8.4-inch touch screen, power driver seat, tri-zone air conditioning), $1,250 popular equipment group (heated front seats/steering wheel, remote start system) and $1,295 navigation and backup camera (including satellite radio traffic subscription) and $225 booster seats lifted the bottom line to $34,660 with $995 destination charge. The lowest priced four-cylinder front drive SE checks in at $20,895.
Unique to the Crossroad Plus when compared with other interior trims: leather seating with sport mesh inserts, black leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob and liquid graphite accents against black interior hues.
As with most Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat products, Journey includes finger-tip operated secondary volume and station pre-set toggle pads built into the steering wheels back side, a natural position where fingers seemingly at rest may also summon sound and audio selections when desired. A practical concept executed to perfection.
The three-spoke wheel's front includes four cruise control buttons at 3' o-clock. At 9 o'clock, buttons control the instrument panel's center 'Electronic Vehicle Information Center,' flanked by analog gauges. Push-button start comes standard. The parking brake remains foot operated.
The ceiling caddy adjacent to the rear-view mirror features two circular, rotating penlight spot lights flanking a sunglass holder with built-in beveled mirror which when lowered, allows driver's to eye spy back row shenanigans (and discipline accordingly).
Expect ample head room in the first two rows and decent noggin space in the two-seat third. Drivers enjoy spacious wiggle room for long legs and attached knees.
When not in use, third-row 50-50 split backrests manually fold forward and flat. Flexible headrests conveniently fold down when lowering backrests. Smartly, long velcro-able straps assist when backrests need uplifting. When prone, 10.7cubic feet of storage room is ready behind row three, enough room for a row of grocery bags or an assortment of backpack/book pacts. A compact spare tire resides under the flat floor.
Give Dodge and FCA extra credit for ease of access to the third row; allowing this 50-something evaluator little trouble maneuvering into usable territory for six-footers, a noble accomplishment for any mid-size vehicle. Middle row seats and cushions contort into a "V" form (Tilt 'n Slide) before manually movement forward, creating an open isle. Side doors swing open for ample clearance.
Body colored, strap-like handles adorn all four side doors. Large, wrap-around tail light housing feature interior circular 'ring-of-fire' LED enhanced designs that visually pop at night; quite eye-catching when trailing behind. In front, Dodge's highly recognizable quad, honeycomb grille is flanked by large, industrial-sized headlight housing. All-wheel drive models showcase dual chrome-tip exhausts standard (optional in front drive). Crossroad and Crossroad Plus add chrome side sills and roof rails.
The manual-lift hatchback with wiper arm opens with ample head clearance for those six-feet two inches and shorter. A sizable, easy to locate tactile plate pinches forward, unlocking the top-hinged door when access is required.2016 Dodge Journey
Price as tested: $34,660
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