Mountain Wheels: Dodge Journey stays SUV in a crossover world
2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus AWD
MSRP: $29,795; as tested, $34,660
Powertrain: 283-HP 3.6-liter V6; six-speed automatic transmission
EPA figures (combined/city/highway): 19/16/24
Nowadays, when searching for that perfect vehicle to express yourself — and into which you would like to drop $30,000 or so, and hopefully enjoy the experience for a long time — you certainly have your work cut out for you. Especially if multiperson hauling is a priority.
Many folks have gotten back on that big SUV train, a path I caution for multiple reasons, but those buyers apparently know better than others and go out and buy a Yukon Denali, and then are not able to send their kids to college.
More reasonable folks understand that you can do the big-hauling duties with a less auspicious vehicle, one that might even be just a little bit enjoyable to drive and vaguely sporty looking at the same time.
As you peer into that world, I would welcome you to consider the slightly unusual Dodge Journey. Journey occupies a position that straddles a variety of categories. If a Subaru Outback and a larger Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep product were to be blended into a mutant offspring, here’s what you might get.
Its seven-passenger variant (five is standard) allows the flexibility of a larger SUV; no matter the model, you’ll also get 67-plus cubic feet of storage when you drop those second (and/or third) rows.
The Journey provides a choice that is not exactly minivan, and not quite as gigantic as a Durango, or the related Grand Cherokee; available with all-wheel-drive as an option and equipped with either a four-cylinder or FCA’s popular 3.6-liter V-6, you can be equipped for winter driving, pass-worthy power or simple efficiency, with both engines generating between 24 and 26 highway MPG, according to the stats.
The blend, however, does make the Journey a bit of a mystery machine, as it is so many things at the same time. I got to handle a 2016 edition of the Crossroad Plus-level model, mostly identical to the 2017, minus new wheels, and the vehicle did provide an interesting blend of premium bits plus the solid power of the V-6 and AWD, all for about $30,000. A variety of option packages, including upgraded and heated leather seats, the full 8.4-inch touchscreen display, a remote starter and a backup camera, brought my test vehicle to $34,660.
Boxy as it may be, the Journey in its Crossroad Plus trim level does lather on the goodies, producing an appearance-positive package. From the ferociously blacked out Dodge grille, smoked head and tail light lenses to the platinum chrome highlights on both the front and rear fascias (looking like a chromed bumper bar, vaguely Mercedes-Benz AMG style, almost), it does manage to take the Journey’s chunky and angular base body and add some extra appeal — especially the 19-inch black wheels, which are now satin carbon aluminum for the 2017 model.
Those fold-flat rear seats do exist — the second row in mine had two built-in child booster seats, in keeping, I guess, with the car’s generalized mission – but the back row seating is definitely also more child-oriented than geared for full-size passengers’ long-term use.
Primary seating was leather with weaved mesh inserts and attractive offset stitching (also seen everywhere across the cabin), and the seating was indeed comfortable.
It’s also surprising, then, to find a manual rear hatch — given all the rest of the high-end bucket of Dodge goodies and appointments — that seems like a bit of a holdover from the very basic Journey models, which begin at just $21,145. As it goes, you can add all manner of extra options.
What was not-so-well hidden, out on the road, was a driving character that was close to a large SUV. I got a lot of bounce as I cruised along at 65 on the highway; a new top-of-the-line GT model, available this fall, promises improved suspension and handling.
I was also somewhat disappointed by the slow-to-shift six-speed, though it made more natural choices than those over-geared nine-speeds; the 3.6-liter engine’s 283 horsepower was therefore a little muted at lower speeds, though it careened with great joy once underway.
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