An Also-Ran Matures Into A Real Competitor 2011 Dodge Journey - Click above for high-res image gallery With all of the Chrysler models receiving updates both significant and otherwise, it's understandable if you've gotten a little lost in the fray. Here's what you need to know: One of the most surprising bright lights to come out of the company's refresh bender is the 2011 Dodge Journey. While the 2011 Dodge Charger and Durango may have stolen the spotlight with their new sheetmetal, the Journey has transmogrified into a small family hauler that offers plenty of horsepower, acceptable fuel economy and a massively updated interior. There's even one of the quickest and largest touchscreens of any vehicle we've come across nestled in the dash. Given Chrysler's recently discovered love of installing much-improved interiors in its vehicles, the newfound goodies indoors should come as no surprise. But the company's engineers seem to have spent just as much time tweaking the crossover's driving character, resulting in a complete package that has turned it from being a washed-up never-was into a competitor almost overnight. Continue reading... %Gallery-108418% Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL Despite the significant changes under the Journey's skin, the designers at Dodge decided to stick close to the refresh playbook outside, giving the high-riding MPV a few mild aesthetic tweaks instead of a complete reskin. Look closely, and you'll notice a new fascia up front, complete with a revised corporate split-crosshair grille, along with fresh 19-inch alloys. The rear wears new LED tail lights, but otherwise, don't expect any bold styling announcements to differentiate the 2011 from the 2010 model. Jump indoors, and that story changes instantly. Dodge said that when it came time to rework the cabin, the company's designers looked around and realized that coming up with new shades of gray plastic wasn't doing anyone any favors. While we're assured that Dodge plans on implementing more interesting colors in the future, right now we're quite smitten with the Pearl leather thrones of our tester. The white, high-quality hide stitched with dark orange thread make for three rows of beautiful, if stain-inviting, seating. Chrysler is making a big push to implement single-piece, soft touch instrument panels in the majority of its products, and the 2011 Dodge Journey benefits from the effort. Moving away from multi-piece dashboards reduces the likelihood of squeaks and rattles while slimming the chance that something will be installed improperly at the factory. The soft-touch material, while nice to poke, also has the added bonus of allowing designers to throw in zero-millimeter tolerances for things like HVAC bezels. The combined effect is one very clean, very well-put together dash – a colossal improvement on what was one of the most haphazard and discount instrument panels in the industry. But chances are that most buyers won't even notice the micrometer-thin tolerances thanks to the epic 8.5-inch touchscreen that hogs all the attention indoors. Along with crystal-clear graphics, the screen is lightening quick, offering none of the press-and-wait …
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