The mainstream sedan segments have settled into some relatively hard and fast dimensions, with mid-size sedans, for example, all tending to cluster right around the 190-inch mark. But things aren't nearly so cut and dried among the SUVs and crossovers, which makes comparisons'”for buyers and media types alike'”a little trickier. On the other hand, the unsettled parameters among mainstream crossovers does look like they will spell a nice opportunity for the 2011 Dodge Journey, at least in the short term.
How the Journey Measures Up
The 2010 Journey came in at about 192.4 inches, and that's not going to change significantly (if at all) for the 2011 model year. This makes the Dodge a bit larger than other rivals usually considered to be mid-size crossovers, vehicles like the Toyota Highlander (188.4 inches), Nissan Murano (189.9 inches) or Honda Pilot (190.9 inches). Yet it's still significantly smaller than something like the Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia/Buick Enclave trio (205 inches) or its stablemate, the 2011 Dodge Durango (200 inches). Oh, and the all-new 2011 Ford Explorer? That stretches 197.1 inches.
The point being that the Journey is sized to provide a significant window of opportunity for Dodge's marketing team: With so many potential rivals, the company should be able to cherry-pick at least one or two advantages for the Dodge against every one of them, especially considering its 2011 refresh. It's true this wasn't a Hyundai/Kia-style complete makeover, but the Journey did get serious overhauls in two key areas. First off, it received another of the Chrysler Group's impressive new interiors, boasting plenty of style, quality, storage and connectivity options. This is particularly important considering the Journey is likely going to be doing duty as a people hauler for most buyers.
And speaking of hauling, the Journey will holster that new Pentastar V6, slated to deliver some 283 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. To add a little context here, the Murano's V6 delivers 260 horses and 240 lb.-ft. of twist.
Something else that should help the Dodge's ability to score customers is the simple fact that even though the vehicle is up against a rather large competitive set, said set won't contain a new-style player from the South Koreans. The largest crossover from either Hyundai or Kia is the 190.6-inch and thoroughly old-school Hyundai Veracruz; the modernized Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are about 184 inches long.
Actually, it's worth pointing out that except for the new Explorer'”admittedly a large exception'”the Journey will be among the freshest medium-ish crossovers on the market when it debuts.
A Matter of Momentum
Let's also take into account where the players here currently fall on the ol' sales charts. The best-selling crossovers tend to come in smaller sizes, with the Honda CR-V exceeding 18,000 units in November and Toyota RAV4 still good for more than 12,000 sales last month.The bigger Pilot, Highlander and Traverse are all knocking on the door to the 10,000-customer mark in November, but then things fall off relatively quickly, with the Murano ringing up 4,399 customers last month and the previous-generation Explorer notching 4,061 sales. The Journey was at a meager 2,697 sales.
But scanning the year-to-date stats shows the Journey fewer than 5,000 units behind the Nissan and about 7,000 behind the Explorer. Which, when you consider the relative positions of Nissan, Ford and Dodge, is a bit of a moral victory for the latter. And the Journey has outsold vehicles like the Ford Flex, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota 4Runner with just less than a month's worth of 2010 remaining. This is further testament to something we've seen before in the market: strong brand loyalty for the Chrysler Group's aging products working to keep sales at nearly viable levels.
A Successful Journey?
The 2011 Journey will be facing a very tough rival in the new Explorer'”and might lose some sales to other 2011 Chrysler Group products like the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and/or Dodge Durango'”but at least it won't be facing brand-new products from the South Koreans or anyone else. And its fuel-efficiency numbers will be on the low side, but that's not likely to be a factor in the near-term future. The bottom line: The Journey got off to a strong start when it was first introduced, and all signs point to the 2011 model doing the same.