2011 Dodge Journey

May 27, 2011

Bottom line: Chrysler is on the right track. This is a midsize crossover-utility vehicle capable of competing with anything in its category on its own merits.

Ride, acceleration and handling: All excellent.

Head-turning quotient: What a difference a few well-placed creases make! The rear of the 2011 model is sharper, more elegant. A mild retreatment of the front also helps soften the vehicle’s boxlike structure. And the interior designers have turned what were formerly four boring “walls” into a comfortable, desirable place to be.

Body style/layout: The Journey is a wagon-like front-engine midsize crossover-utility vehicle with four side doors and a rear liftgate. It is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Trim levels include the base Express, commerce-oriented Mainstreet, popularly equipped (as ordered by most buyers) Crew, sporty R/T and luxury Lux.

Engines/transmissions: Standard in the Express is a 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder with four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing (173 horsepower, 166 foot-pounds of torque). It is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually. The Crew comes with a 3.6-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine with variable valve lift and timing (283 horsepower, 260 foot-pounds of torque). It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Optional third-row seating (not recommended by this column) would accommodate two more. Maximum cargo capacity is 67.6 cubic feet with middle and third-row seats down. It is 10.7 cubic feet with those seats up. The Journey in all of its iterations can be equipped to tow a trailer weighing 2,500 pounds. The fuel tank holds 20.5 gallons; regular or E85 (85 percent ethanol, 15 percent regular gasoline) is fine. Hint: E85 burns faster — but cleaner.

Fuel economy: Using E85, I got 15 miles per gallon in the city (traffic jams aplenty) and 23 on the highway (carrying load in fuel-depleting crosswinds).

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic brake-force distribution; emergency braking assistance; electronic stability and traction control; and side and head air bags.

Pricing: The base price for the Journey Crew is $28,445. Dealer’s invoice on that model is $27,144. Price as tested is $30,660, including $1,465 in options (heated front seats, power-operated glass roof, third-row seating and towing equipment) and a $750 destination fee. Dealer’s price as tested is $29,198. Compare with Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV-4.

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