VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. -- We spend a day steering a front-wheel-drive Journey Crossroad crossover utility vehicle by Dodge across high deserts of Nevada to the hills of Virginia City in order to measure its vitality, feel characteristics of its ride quality and experience many on-board comforts.
What we find in our day-trip is a sturdy mid-size machine that can charge up a steep grade and maneuver confidently on twisty mountain curves yet also steer easily through traffic on city streets and zip along in stable stance at speed on a multi-lane freeway.
Dodge builds the Journey for the Class of 2015 with 4-cylinder and V6 engine choices, front-wheel-drive (FWD) or optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction for six different trim versions -- the price-leader Journey AVP (America Value Package), base issue Journey SE, upscale Journey SXT, Journey Crossroad with its rugged exterior appearance package, the luxe-line Journey Limited and a sport-tuned Journey R/T (the initials signify "Road and Track" in recognition of Dodge's muscle car heritage).
Journey '15 in any edition looks sharp as dressed in chiseled sheetmetal. Its body projects a stubby prow and the profile of a sporty coupe despite a pair of doors hanging off each side and a rear-sloping roofline which tapers to the boxy tail of a hatchback-hinged wagon.
Front and rear overhangs have been whittled away and the large wheels on front and back corners convey an impression of strength and speed. And that face with a horse-collar honeycomb grille marked in shiny cross-hair chrome looks familiar, as it conforms to the front-end styling for many vehicles in Dodge's garage.
Dodge's Journey Crossroad edition wears unique front and rear fascias with Platinum Chrome side sills and roof rails, bold "ring of fire" LED taillamps plus 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels wrapped in 225/55R19 Kumho Solus all-season touring tires. In the cabin -- configured as 2-row/5-seat or 3-row/7-seat -- Journey Crossroad scores leather seat upholstery with sport mesh inserts, power controls for the driver's bucket and an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen.
Built on a car's unit-body structure with car-like independent suspension system tuned to deliver a smooth ride quality, Journey feels sure-footed and stable to drive. The independent suspension elements consist of front MacPherson struts with coil springs over gas-charged shocks and stabilizer bar mounted on an isolated suspension cradle, and a rear multi-link arrangement with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar with gas-charged shocks and an isolated rear suspension cradle.
Dodge offers two different engines to propel Journey through the six trim levels.
Journey AVP, SE, SXT and Crossroad editions tote a 2.4-liter 4-in-line plant with dual overhead cams (DOHC) and dual variable valve timing (VVT) to generate 173 hp at 6000 rpm plus torque of 166 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
The 4-cylinder plant links to a 4-speed automatic transaxle, the 40TES, and this powertrain earns Journey's highest fuel economy numbers -- up to 26 miles per gallon (mpg) for highway cruising.
Journey Limited and R/T get a Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 which applies all torque to the front wheels through an intelligent 6-speed electronic automatic transaxle. The twin-cam aluminum-block 6-pack plant delivers strong muscle numbers -- 283 hp at 6350 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. However, the V6 can run on regular unleaded 87-octane gasoline or E85 ethanol and earns fuel economy figures of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway for the FWD version, or 16/24 mpg city/highway with optional AWD.
The V6 for FWD or AWD is optional for Journey SE, SXT and Crossroad trims.
Journey's on-demand AWD device, paired strictly with the 3.6-liter V6, controls front/rear torque split via an electronically controlled coupling with variable torque output, but the system always defaults to FWD.
Layout of Journey's passenger compartment consists of two sport buckets up front and a second-row bench for three but indents for two. The back of the front passenger bucket folds forward to form a flat horizontal surface, and backs of the second-row seat, divided 60/40 into separate sections, also fold flat. An optional third-row bench, split 50-50, has seatbacks that tip down to expand the flat-floored aft cargo bay.
Dodge's MSRP figures for 2015 Journey models run from $20,295 for Journey AVP (FWD) to $32,795 for Journey R/T (AWD). Journey Crossroad 2.4 (FWD) lists for $26,595 and the Crossroad 3.6 (AWD) goes for $29,995.