Dodge Journey Crossroad

Watchers of the auto industry will notice a theme among the formerly bankrupted American automakers, General Motors and Chrysler. There are the post-bankruptcy vehicles, and the pre-bankruptcy vehicles. The former, in the case of Chrysler, include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the 200 and 300. For GM, there's the Cadillac ATS, Chevrolet Impala and Buick Encore, among others. These vehicles have the freshest styling, with sharp exteriors and well-crafted interiors, as well as advanced powertrains and well-sorted chassis.

As for the pre-bankruptcy vehicles, they tend to be easy to spot. Most suffer from inferior driving dynamics, cheaper interiors, poorer fuel economy and often homely looks (we know, there were some decent cars before the bankruptcy, but they were pretty heavily outweighed by the bad ones). Think late, last-generation Chevrolet Impala or Chrysler 200. Increasingly, though, we're seeing vehicles that split the balance between pre- and post-bankruptcy. Vehicles like the Dodge Journey.

The Journey debuted in 2007 as a 2008 model year vehicle, meaning it should fall into the former category. But heavily breathed upon in 2011, it now enjoys a new, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, a big, critically acclaimed touchscreen display and in the case of today's tester, a new-for-2014 Crossroad spec.

So which is it? Is its pre-Fiat DNA too much to overcome, or is the Journey Crossroad the ugly duckling that became a less ugly duckling? Naturally, we had to find out.

Driving Notes
  • The Crossroad builds on the well-equipped success of the mid-level Journey SXT Plus, and includes Chrysler's excellent 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system with Bluetooth and satellite radio, as well as dual-zone climate control.
  • While the Crossroad doesn't add any new tech to the package, it butches up the looks of the mostly inconspicuous Journey body with off-road-inspired front and rear fascias that give the model more of a crossover look (the standard model can still look a lot like a minivan or wagon). That newfound attitude is furthered by the inclusion of 19-inch black-finish five-spoke wheels, dark chrome grille surrounds, smoked taillights and black headlight housings.
  • The Crossroad's cabin includes leather seats with "sport mesh" inserts, while liquid graphite trim pieces add some flash to the plasticky cabin. While they're largely from the Chrysler parts bin, the addition of a leather-wrapped wheel and gearshift knob (both part of the Crossroad trim) help elevate the cabin to a somewhat more premium feel.
  • Dodge offers a prehistoric 2.4-liter engine and four-speed automatic on the Journey, but we feel confident in saying you really don't want this. Instead, upgrade to the aforementioned 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 ($1,700 on the front-wheel-drive model, or $3,400 for the all-wheel-drive six-cylinder). This V6 sings to the tune of 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, which is plenty of grunt for the 4,238-pounder. Adding the Pentastar also adds a six-speed automatic. The downside of this package, though, is that you'll be netting mediocre fuel economy – the best the Pentastar/AWD Journey can hope for is a dismal 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
  • We shouldn't be surprised, but the Pentastar/6AT combination is still very good to drive several years after its debut. Power is abundant, and the V6's revvy nature makes it a surprising bit of fun. It sounds quite nice, too. The six-speed is quick on upshifts, although we found the Crossroad's unit to be slower than we remember on downshifts.
  • The ride isn't too objectionable. Secondary impacts (body shuddering and whatnot) can be present, but they only really popped up on some of the worst roads we came across. On smoother thoroughfares, there is nothing terribly offensive about the ride, aside from a excess of vertical movement, and the addition of 19-inch wheels has done surprisingly little to hurt the ride much, either.
  • The Journey's driving environment is a fairly typical one for the CUV market. The driver rides high, and the range of adjustment on the six-way power driver's seat is just fine. The seats themselves aren't heavily bolstered (a plus for easy ingress/egress), but we still think they'd be quite comfortable for long hauls.
  • Of course, the folks who buy the Journey aren't likely to be too interested in dynamic driving impressions. As a family vehicle, there's little reason to think that the Crossroad wouldn't make a suitable companion for those who need two rows everyday, but who appreciate the additional utility provided by an extra pair of seats. Space in the second row is certainly manageable for the longer-legged, although not surprisingly, the optional third row is somewhat cramped. Opting for the third row, though, does add a tilt/slide function to the second row and a recline function to the third, both of which are rather nice.
  • The third row does, however, have a big impact on cargo volume, as it shrinks from 37 cubic feet to just 10.7 cu ft when the back seats aren't stowed.
  • Prices for the Journey Crossroad start at a very reasonable $24,995 for a front-drive model, although the sticker will read at least $28,395 if you want something like our all-wheel-drive, V6-powered tester. From there, things can increase quickly. There are eight different optional packages that add everything from the aforementioned third-row seats, to a backup camera, upgraded stereo and heated seats. In our case, we had all of that, and then some.
  • With an as-tested price of $32,315, our Journey included a sunroof ($1,095), upgraded 368-watt, six-speaker stereo ($395), a navigation and backup camera pack ($995), a Popular Equipment package (heated seats and steering wheel, plus automatic headlamps for $995), a rear-seat entertainment system ($1,195) and the optional third-row seats, which added a tilt and sliding function for the second row ($1,500). As we mentioned earlier, we'd strongly recommend opting for the $3,400 AWD/Pentastar combo.
Mainstream family rigs don't get much older than the Dodge Journey. Having first debuted in 2007 as a 2008 model, and last getting a refresh in 2011, it's one of Dodge's oldest offerings. More worryingly, it's a vehicle the brand is going to need to rely on once the Dodge Caravan is put out to pasture. It's not a bad vehicle now – and compared to some pre-bankruptcy vehicles, it's easily one of the better ones. But in a segment where consumers are extremely picky and competition is seriously intense, the Dodge Journey may be a good value, but it's still hard to recommend, tough new looks or no.