2014 Dodge Journey

Dodge’s darkest days appear to be well behind; no longer are its talented engineers lorded over by ze Germans nor the short-term thinking bozos from Cerberus. Like the outgoing Chrysler 200, the Journey stands as a testament to the engineers’ ability in taking a cost cut, half-baked vehicle and turn it into one that is at least decent value when compared to more established competition.

The Journey is nice looking for a minivan substitute, with athletic lines and a good stance; inside there are plenty of soft-touch materials and rich feeling leather, and the UConnect infotainment interface matches anything in the class. The underlying structure is old, however, and one notices that space utilization isn’t as good as it should be—though this hasn’t hampered sales of the Ford Explorer, which suffers from the same issue. While the Dodge isn’t as roomy as that vehicle, it strikes a good “betweener” balance by offering available—if tight—third row seating in a vehicle about the size of a Toyota RAV4.

Dynamically the Journey isn’t up to the best, however. The structure lacks rigidity, and occupants will notice this over rougher pavement. The suspension tuning tries to hide this with soft springs and bushes, but big bumps really upset things and send shudders through the body. Curvy roads something to look forward to, either, and there is a large amount of fore/aft pitch when you come to a stop or accelerate briskly from one.

The Journey steps off the line smartly though, at least if equipped with the optional Pentastar 3.6-liter V6, whose 283 horses and 260lb-ft of torque make it one quick family hauler. Shifting duties are handled by a six-speed auto, that is smooth at swapping cogs if not all that responsive.

In the final analysis it is hard to know where the Journey stacks up. It doesn’t have the poised road manners of newer machines, real world fuel economy rarely breaks out of the teens, and it doesn’t have the room of larger crossovers. It comes across as something of a place-holder. For those who need only occasionally access a third row and want performance (Dodge’s new mantra) it might make sense, but mainstream shoppers will continue to gravitate to better resolved competitors.

EPA ratings: 16/24mpg; 19mpg average

Price as tested: $35,305

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