Already the most affordable seven-passenger vehicle in America, the 2012 Dodge Journey will be a particularly strong value this month. Throughout March, customers will be able to get the Journey’s optional third-row of seating for no charge. In addition, the Chrysler Group will continue playing catch-up on the fuel-economy front by making its 2.4-liter inline-four engine the standard powerplant on the uplevel Journey SXT allowing customers to enjoy more premium amenities in a more fuel-efficient package; previously, the only engine available in the SXT was the Pentastar V-6.
A New Three-row Benchmark
The story here is a simple one, as the Journey, which starts at $18,995, will feature Dodge’s Flexible Seating Group package—normally priced at $995—as a complimentary option through April 2, 2012. This nets owners easy-entry second-row 60/40 seats with Dodge’s innovative Tilt ‘n Slide functionality, along with a 50/50 folding/reclining third row and even a three-zone climate system. The result is a mid-size, seven-seat crossover that undercuts the price of most rivals’ compact entries.
Thus, not only is the Journey a significant 10 inches longer than the Toyota RAV4, providing a roomier interior, but it’s also $4,745 less expensive than the three-row RAV4. Looking at the country’s other most popular small crossovers—none of which offer third rows and all of which are smaller than the Dodge—the Journey has MSRP advantages of $2,445 versus the Ford Escape; $3,300 against the Honda CR-V; and $4,535 compared to the Chevrolet Equinox. The Honda Pilot, which is essentially the same size as the Journey and features three rows as standard equipment, is priced a whopping $9,475 higher than the Dodge product.
Those other vehicles certainly have benefits of their own, but the Journey’s price differentials can make up for a lot of them.
Journey SXT: Higher EPA Ratings, Lower Price
The Journey also will be the latest vehicle to follow a slowly growing trend among U.S. automakers to pair high levels of creature comforts with a high-efficiency powertrain even among their larger vehicles. In the past, gaining a few extra cylinders in the ol’ engine block was as much a part of moving up to premium trim levels as leather seats or an upgraded audio system. Now, of course, increasing numbers of customers want both creature comforts and improved fuel economy, and that’s exactly what the new standard engine in the Journey SXT provides.
That model delivers standard lux-type features such as:
• The Chrysler Group’s award-winning Uconnect infotainment system with a 4.3-inch touch screen
• Push-button start
• 17-inch aluminum wheels
• SiriusXM Satellite Radio
• A leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, as well as a soft-touch interior
• Unique design cues like aggressive new fascias, front fog lamps and LED taillamps
• Seven airbags, including a driver’s-side knee airbag and side-curtain airbags that protect occupants in all three rows
• A six-speed Auto Stick automatic transmission
But now, instead of a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that delivers a best-in-class 283 hp, the Journey SXT’s standard powerplant is the Chrysler Group’s four-cylinder World Engine that provides up to 26 mpg on the highway. It’s true that’s just a 1 mpg increase over the mark set by the Pentastar, but the four-cylinder Journey SXT also benefits from a decreased MSRP of $22,995—$1,500 less than the V-6 model. (Dodge didn’t release city or combined fuel-efficiency projections for the I4 version of the SXT, but these could/should show improvements over the V-6, too.)
The bottom line for the Journey SXT is a slight advantage over the Pilot and the similarly sized Toyota Highlander when it comes to fuel efficiency, along with an MSRP that’s some $5,500 lower than either of those rivals—and a pretty good chance the Journey will see more big sales gains by the time the end of March rolls around.