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Dodge Journey grows better with age

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2014 Dodge Journey

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Putting the politics of it aside, it’s hard to argue that the transition Chrysler has made since its government bailout and purchase by Fiat -- which will take full ownership of one of the three American automotive icons this month -- has not been worth it.

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The company has upgraded its entire portfolio with models that no longer can be dismissed casually has “not good enough” for discriminating tastes.

No matter what kind of vehicle you are shopping for, Chrysler has something in its lineup that is worth a look.

That includes the Dodge Journey, a crossover/SUV that checks in as a smaller option to the company’s midsize-to-large Durango but still offers capable storage capacity and, for growing families, the option of a third-row seat.

The Journey was targeted for its shortcomings when it came to comparing it to its immediate rivals -- i.e., lack of engine oomph, less than adequate storage, cheap interior materials, to name a few -- when it was introduced for the 2009 model year.

Those criticisms no longer hold true.

The Journey has evolved into a very comfortable vehicle to drive or ride in with the 3.6-liter V6 engine offering 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque without compromising on fuel economy (17 miles-per-gallon around town, 25 high with front-wheel drive, 16/24 with all-wheel drive).

The third-row of seats -- which are best suited for children -- leave 10.7 cubic feet of storage space behind them and when folded boost that capacity up to 37.0 cubic feet. Fold both the second and third rows and you get 67.6 cubic feet to pack stuff in.

That’s not the most offered in the segment, but it’s not the smallest capacity either.

And the Journey’s interior has been upgraded with controls arranged in a very friendly-to-use manner. Many of the functions operate off a plainly marked, good-size touch-screen monitor in the middle of the center stack. The air conditioner/heater works off knobs below it.

For 2014, the Journey comes in AVP (American Value Package), SE, SXT, Limited, and R/T trim levels with the Limited replacing what was the “Crew” trim in past models.

A 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission is standard in AVP, SE, and SXT trims with a 3.6-liter V6 as an option in the SXT and standard in Limited and R/T trim. The V6 comes with a six-speed automatic with manual gear selection capability.

Fuel economy in the I-4, naturally, is better than that in the V6, but the figures of 19/26 are not that much an improvement than what you get with the bigger engine, and the compromise in power (173 hp and 166 lb.-ft. of torque for the I-4, around 100 less hp and torque than in the V6) is not worth the savings in gas.

Of course, the upfront costs are greater for the V6.

You can get into the base AVP for around $20,000, depending on your negotiating skills, while the top-of-the-line models approach a starting point of around $29,000.

With such equipment as Sirius Satellite radio, a premium sound system, leather seats, and halogen headlights standard on most of the upper trims and optional or not even available on the others, the higher MSRP may offer a better bargain in the long run, however.

For a look at the Dodge Journey and more information, check out the accompanying slide show.

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