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FAMILY FRIEND: Dodge Journey blends best of station wagon, SUV, minivan

2014 Dodge Journey Limited
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America in the 1950s through ’70s: The station wagon was the hauler of choice for millions of families.

But in 1984, along came a radical game-changer – the minivan – initiated by Chrysler Corp.’s Dodge Caravan with its combination of cavernous interior space, carlike ride, front-wheel-drive handling and above-the-fray views outward, making it ideal for vacation transportation.

Wagons suffered a slow death, with only a handful left alive by the time the next trend – the sport-utility vehicle – in turn bit deeply into the sales of the once-flourishing minivan.

Then it was the truck-based SUV’s turn to fall out of favor, shunted aside by the crossover utility vehicle. The CUV, based on a car-type chassis as opposed to a truck’s, offered generally better ride and handling, fuel economy and, most importantly, none of the “soccer mom” styling stigma attached to the minivan.

Dodge’s entry into the midsize CUV segment, the Journey, melds a number of facets of all these vehicles to create a family-friendly synthesis of features.

Need passenger room? There’s available seating for seven. Demand generous space to store cargo and other travel incidentals? There’s cubbies aplenty, including nifty in-floor second-row storage bins (a feature borrowed from the Dodge minivan) and storage under the front passenger-seat cushion.

Performance? Go with the optional Pentastar V-6, and you’ll find smooth, responsive acceleration – and a slight fuel-economy penalty over the overwhelmed, base four-cylinder. Still, EPA-rated at 16 city/24 highway doesn’t earn bragging rights, but for an all-wheel-drive vehicle of this size, it’s not that bad.

The six-speed automatic swaps cogs, up or down, with notable smoothness.

2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad interiorThe solid-feeling Journey absorbs road irregularities with ease, delivering a composed ride and surprisingly adept handling.

The Journey’s cabin is subdued in design, but pleasantly fitted with quality materials and soft-touch surfaces that lend a near-luxury air. Our Limited tester added leather seating as well as such niceties as heated steering wheel, keyless entry/start, and a flat-fold front passenger seat for long loads.

Then there’s the Journey’s price: Our loaded tester surprised with a bottom line of $35K. These days, that’s a bargain.

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