2012 Dodge Journey SXT review: A different crossover

2012 Dodge Journey SXT

2012 Dodge Journey SXT

When is a crossover not a crossover? When it’s a Dodge Journey.

Here’s why. “Crossover” usually refers to a vehicle that’s a mix of car and SUV. People tired of the truck element of an SUV—the truckish ride and handling—so manufacturers began making vehicles that looked like SUVs but were built on car chassis.

The result became known as a “crossover”, and became overwhelmingly popular, almost completely swamping their truck-based origins. The latest turncoat: The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder.

The minivan, meanwhile, has problems of its own. Unfairly or not, it’s earned the “mommy van” sobriquet—even to the point of Dodge specially trimming the Dodge Grand Caravan as the R/T in an effort to create a so-called “man van”.

But Dodge has also brought us the Dodge Journey.

2012 Dodge Journey SXT int

The interior of the Dodge Journey was greatly improved for the 2011 model year and continues for 2012. (Click to enlarge image).

The Journey shares features with a minivan, including basic two box styling and optional three row/seven passenger seating, but the Journey is more compact than the Dodge Grand Caravan, for example. The Journey is almost a foot shorter than the Grand Caravan and just over six inches narrower, although appearances to the contrary, the minivan in only about an inch taller.

Where the measurements really show up, however, is inside. Because of its tapering roofline, the max cargo height of the Journey is 33.1 inches. A yardstick standing upright won’t go in. The Grand Caravan’s cargo area, however, has a maximum height of 46.2 inches. Even more impressive are the minimum and maximum cargo capacity numbers. For the three-row Journey, with the third row in place, it can hold a mere 10.7 cubic feet of stuff, and with second and third row down, the Journey maxes out at67.6 cubic feet. The Grand Caravan, however, holds 33.0 cubic feet and 143.8 cubic feet respectively.

Which isn’t to bum anyone out over the Journey, unless of course cargo capacity it the prime consideration.   Where the Journey beats the Grand Caravan is sporty handling—although that’s a relative term because the Journey still has a rather high center of gravity. And for whom it’s a consideration, the Journey will fit in tighter places.

And it looks less minivan-ish too. Instead of sliding rear doors, the Journey has car-like hinged rear side doors. The doors are less practical than sliders…but they look less like sliding doors of the dreaded minivan. And for those whom it’s a consideration, the Journey will fit in tighter places.

The Dodge Journey also has a longer, more car-like hood and the aforementioned tapering roofline. At least a roof rack is available for vacationing and such, even putting cargo boxes on the roof kills gas mileage.

The 2012 Dodge Journey is available in five trim levels, including the new AVP entry-level package. Despite starting at 18,995, it’s not bare-boned, and even though powered by a 2.4-liter inline four, it can be had with seven seats. Of course, it will run dead heats with the UPS truck. The Journey is a lot to move with 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft or torque, especially when loaded.

The upgrade engine that starts at the SXT trim level is Chrysler’s deservedly ubiquitous 3.6 V-6 which in the Journey is rated at 283 hp. It’s smooth and quiet and packs enough punch to take fear out of merging. Torque steer, the tendency for front drive models to pull to one side or the other under hard acceleration, is limited with the front-drive V-6 Journey, and would be non-existent with the all-wheel drive version available on V-6 models.