Archive for the ‘crossover’ Tag

2016 Dodge Journey

Two words best sum up the 2016 Dodge Journey’s success: “versatility and value.” With a price starting just under $22,000, the Journey undercuts more expensive rivals like the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Honda Pilot. Granted, two of the three come standard with a V6 engine, and the 4-cylinder Journey has neither the power nor the features (Bluetooth isn’t even standard) to compete with the above-mentioned group. However, the Journey’s higher trim levels do come well appointed and can be equipped with one of the most powerful V6 engines in this class. Though aging, the 2016 Dodge Journey still has some surprises in store, such as clever in-floor storage and one of the best infotainment systems money can buy.

You’ll Like This Car If…

Those who need 7-passenger accommodations and are on a limited budget will appreciate the 4-cylinder engine offered on four of the five available Journey trims. The family-friendly Journey is extremely versatile with lots of places to hide cargo and precious items.

You May Not Like This Car If…

If you need a large 3rd-row seat, a Chevy Traverse or Honda Pilot makes a better choice. The Journey’s 4-cylinder engine and outdated 4-speed automatic are not the best choice for a 7-passenger SUV. Look to the Kia Sorento for a better 4-cylinder entry model, as well as a better warranty.

2016 sees the entry-level AVP trim dropped and the model lineup reduced to just five trim levels. SE, SXT and Crossroad trims have lower base prices than last year, while a new Crossroad Plus trim builds on the success of the Crossroad by offering standard leather seating and the Uconnect 8.4-inch display.


Driving the Journey

Driving Impressions Those accustomed to older, truck-based SUVs will be quite pleased with the way Dodge’s Journey crossover SUV for 2016 rides and drives. A unit body and advanced suspension setup help the Journey return car-like driving characteristics similar to a tall-riding station wagon, which is essentially what the Journey is. Confident on highway runs and surprisingly agile over narrow, twisting roads, the Journey is devoid of the bobbing and weaving one might experience in a truck-based SUV. Although we found the 173-horsepower 4-cylinder engine adequate with two people aboard, any additional bodies or cargo demands the Pentastar V6, which delivers an additional 100 horsepower and nearly the same fuel economy. We like the Journey’s upright seating position and found the front seats to be remarkably supportive and comfortable, even after driving long distances.

Favorite Features

CARGO FLEXIBILITY


Dodge’s Journey SUV for 2016 has numerous clever storage ideas. Not only does the rear seat fold flush, there are additional storage bins beneath the 2nd-row floor and front-passenger seat cushion. The same seat can fold flat to better accommodate long items such as a surfboard and skis.

3.6-LITER PENTASTAR V6 ENGINE


Dodge’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine is not only smooth and powerful, it also returns impressive fuel economy on par with the Journey’s smaller 4-cylinder engine.

The 2016 Dodge Journey’s cabin is available in a 2-row, 5-passenger layout or as a 3-row, 7-passenger configuration. Passenger space for adults is commendable up front and good in the second row, but legroom is very tight in the third row, which is best left for kids or occasional use. One of the best features of the Journey is its available Uconnect infotainment system. In addition to a large and easy-to-use 8.4-inch touch screen centered in the dash, there are supplementary buttons for climate and audio that are simple to see and use.


Exterior

Is it a sport-utility vehicle or the reincarnation of a station wagon? With the 2016 Journey from Dodge, its 192.4-inch length exceeds much of the competition, but Dodge’s designers have given it exterior treatments such as the chrome-trimmed cross-hair grille and eye-catching aluminum-alloy wheel choices that keep it from being merely bland. If a more stylish look is important, opt for the R/T version, with its 19-inch wheels, monochromatic treatment and distinctive R/T labels. For a tougher-looking version, there’s the Dodge Journey Crossroad, which features a faux skidplate, standard roof rails and blacked-out wheels.

Notable Equipment


Standard Equipment

The 2016 Dodge Journey 7-passenger crossover SUV is available in a five trims, from the base SE to the top-line R/T. At its most basic, the 2016 Journey includes dual-zone climate control, 4.3-inch touch-screen media center, keyless entry and push-button start, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and power windows and door locks. Entertainment is provided by a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system with auxiliary and USB inputs, but no Bluetooth streaming as standard. Safety features include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags for all rows.

Optional Equipment

Plenty of options can be had on the 2016 Journey. Among the more popular are 3-row seating (Flexible Seating Group), traction-enhancing all-wheel drive in lieu of the standard front-drive setup, an 8.4-inch touch-screen Uconnect infotainment system and navigation. Amenities that bring an upscale feel include leather seating, Infinity speakers, rear-seat video entertainment system with 9-inch screen and two wireless headphones, in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, and heated front seats and heated steering wheel. A Driver Convenience Group adds a rearview camera and distance-alert function when in reverse, but more advanced safety functions like blind-spot monitoring and automatic braking are not available.

Under the Hood

Two engines are available for Dodge’s 2016 Journey crossover SUV. Standard on lower trims is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that makes an only-adequate 173 horsepower. The engine we recommend is the 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 that is optional on all but base Dodge Journeys and standard in higher trims. The V6 is also your only choice if you require all-wheel drive (AWD) instead of the standard front-wheel drive (FWD) to deal with inclement weather and slippery roads. Both engines run on regular unleaded gasoline. All Dodge Journeys use automatic transmissions, with the 4-cylinder stuck with an older-style 4-speed and the 6-cylinder using a newer 6-speed. The Journey’s towing capacity is on the light end, limited to 1,000 pounds with the 4-cylinder and 2,500 with the V6.

2.4-liter inline-4 (SE, SXT, Crossroad)

173 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

166 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg

3.6-liter V6 (SE, SXT, Crossroad, R/T)

283 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm

260 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25 mpg (FWD), 16/24 mpg (AWD)

Pricing Notes

The 2016 Dodge Journey has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $22,000, including destination charge. Better-equipped mid-level versions of the Journey such as the SXT and Crossroad are in the mid-$20,000 range, while a top-line R/T version with AWD reaches the mid-$30,000 level. At its base price, the Dodge Journey SE remains the lowest-priced midsize SUV, and even after climbing trims is a good value among midsize SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento. The Mitsubishi Outlander with seating for seven is also a value leader among 3-row SUVs, but is smaller than the Journey. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Journey SUV. In the years ahead, the Journey’s residual value is expected to be average, still lagging the Toyota Highlander.

Read more at: http://www.kbb.com/dodge/journey/2016/?r=45198081889915920

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Wrangler: “best resale value”

The Jeep Wrangler has won Kelley Blue Books’s 2016 Best Resale Value award in the Small Crossover/SUV segment. Kelley’s analysts expect Wrangler to keep more of their value over five years than any competitors, including numerous Asian entries.

The Wrangler also came in at number five on KBB’s Top Ten list, with an estimated resale value of 66% of its original price after three years, and 55% at five years.

KBB wrote, “You could count on one hand the number of new vehicles that actually thrive by doing things the same way for decades, and the Jeep Wrangler is one of them. In fact, it could be the poster child for such an exclusive set… the Wrangler’s core mission hasn’t deviated far from that of its World War II-era ancestors: to affordably go where others can not.”

They pointed to its relatively low pricing, starting at $25,000. “No matter which Wrangler you choose, it will make you smile — even when it’s time to sell.”

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/12/wrangler-wins-best-resale-value-award-30797

2015 Dodge Durango – Full Review and Test Drive

Ever wanted a Jeep Grand Cherokee with three rows of seats and room for seven people? Is the extent of your off-road adventuring limited to farm roads, campground trails, and blizzards? Well then, I have good news!

The Dodge Durango is just the SUV you’ve been wanting. It just doesn’t have a Jeep badge on it.

Say what now?

Yep, under the sheet-metal, the 2015 Dodge Durango shares its heart and soul with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Durango sits on a wheelbase stretched five inches, is about a foot longer, and rides half an inch closer to the ground, negatively impacting its ability to travel as far off the beaten path as a Grand Cherokee.

Otherwise, the two vehicles overlap in terms of powertrains, infotainment technologies, materials, and even that all-important new car smell. No surprise, they’re built in the same Detroit assembly plant, too.

Of the two, I prefer the Durango. It is more practical, and it drives better on pavement, where 90-percent of typical SUV buyers spend 100-percent of their time. In fact, the Durango is one of my favorite family-sized SUVs, and except for a “Marginal” rating in an important crash-test assessment and a 3-star rollover resistance rating when it is equipped with 2-wheel drive, I have but one qualm about recommending one.

My test vehicle sure looks swanky with its blacked out grille, wheels, and badges, but this appearance, included in the optional Blacktop Package, isn’t really for me. I prefer my Durango blinged out, Citadel-style. This Bright White Durango Limited, though, attracted plenty of attention; usually from the types of guys that I hope my daughters never bring home to meet the parents.

A Durango Limited starts at $37,890, including a destination charge of $995. An all-wheel-drive system costs $2,600, and improves the Durango’s rollover resistance rating to 4 stars.

My test model had the standard 3.6-liter V-6 engine, but you can choose a 5.7-liter V-8 if you’ve got an extra $3,795 that you don’t know what to do with. Add the Blacktop Package, the Premium Group, the Safety/Security and Convenience Group, and a set of second-row captain’s chairs, and the price rises to $45,765 for the Durango I tested.

Good looking, and equipped with an interior featuring quality materials rendered in tasteful tones and textures, the Durango strikes me as a quality piece of work, even luxurious in some respects. Think twice about getting black leather seats, though, because they transform the cabin into a cave. Thoughtfully, Dodge makes the Black/Light Frost leather option available with nearly every paint color.

Comfort levels are high, especially for front seat occupants, and unlike many other 3-row SUVs, adults can actually ride in a Durango’s rearmost seating area for more than just a few minutes before committing mutiny.

My test vehicle’s Premium Group added a power rear liftgate, a premium sound system, a power sunroof, and a navigation system. The awkwardly named Safety/Security and Convenience Group installed a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-path detection, rain-sensing wipers, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and HID headlights with automatic high-beam control. The rear-seat entertainment system’s omission meant my kids looked out of the Durango’s windows and discovered the world around them, or took a much-needed nap.

Trailer towing equipment is optional for the Durango, and because this SUV is built on a more robust platform than your typical crossover SUV, it can tow a substantial amount of weight. My test model’s 3.6-liter V-6 engine – bumped from 290-horsepower to 295-horsepower thanks to the Blacktop option package – could tug up to 6,200 pounds. The optional 360-horse, 5.7-liter V-8 engine can handle up to 7,400 lbs. of trailer.

As far as cargo carrying is concerned, a Durango can haul up to seven people and as much as 17.2 cu.-ft. of cargo, but that last number is a bit misleading. You’ll be stacking stuff to the roof in order to take advantage of the maximum number, so what you’ve really got is about 12 cu.-ft. of space in combination with a full load of passengers.

Put the kids in the second-row seat, fold the third-row seat, and a Durango supplies 47.7 cu.-ft. of cargo, a generous amount of space. Maximum utility measures 84.5 cu.-ft. Compare those numbers to the 5-passenger Grand Cherokee, which comes in at 36.3 cu.-ft. and 68.3 cu.-ft., respectively.

Though my test vehicle did not have the optional V-8 engine, I never felt the Durango demonstrated a lack of power. Dip into the throttle, and the Durango moves off the line with authority. As revs climb, such as when entering a fast-moving freeway, the engine’s response fades somewhat, but you’re unlikely to wish for extra grunt unless you’ve got a trailer attached, and you’re heading up a mountain grade.

An 8-speed automatic transmission with a rather unconventional rotary shift dial fed the power to the ground on a continuous basis, splitting delivery in half with 50-percent going to the front wheels and 50-percent going to the rear wheels. This is perfect for dwellers of foul-weather regions, as you never need to manually engage the AWD or choose a specific type of program with regard to how the power flows to the wheels.

Does this negatively impact fuel economy? In combined driving, the ratings drops from 20 mpg for the rear-drive model to 19 mpg for the AWD model, so the answer is “not really.” I averaged 18.6 mpg, so the EPA’s official numbers appear to be somewhat accurate, for a change.

Despite the optional 20-inch aluminum wheels, the Durango’s ride quality is impressive, and this is a remarkably quiet vehicle on the highway. Handling is certainly improved by the bigger tires, and around town the Durango feels athletic. Don’t take this to mean you can toss it down a winding country road, though. Dodge programs the stability control system to step in early, which is fine given the type of vehicle and that 3-star rollover resistance rating for the rear-drive version.

The Durango’s brakes proved disappointing when driving in the mountains on a day with temperatures in the low 70s, fading to the point where I almost could not engage the ABS during a panic stop. For a vehicle designed to carry so many people and tow so much weight, this is flatly unacceptable. The V-8 engine option also adds larger front brakes and ventilated rear brakes. I would strongly urge Dodge to just make those standard on all Durangos.

Traditional hydraulic steering is also a part of the V-8 engine upgrade, and I’ll bet it is more satisfying than the electric-assisted steering that comes with the V-6 engine. Lifeless on center, the steering is too quick off-center for this size and type of vehicle.

Dodge definitely has a good thing going with the Durango. A structural upgrade to improve the Durango’s performance in the small overlap frontal-impact crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and additional attention to detail regarding the brakes and steering, would make this appealing and practical family-size SUV super easy to recommend.

Then, Dodge would just need to get the word out, starting with Jeep Grand Cherokee buyers who have no plans to venture far from pavement.

Read more at: http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/autos-suvs/2015-dodge-durango-%E2%80%93-full-review-and-test-drive/ar-AAdfS5h

Old Versus New: The Nissan Murano

We asked the owner of a 2009 Nissan Murano to take a spin in the all-new 2015 version of the dramatically styled crossover SUV. Is newer always better?

While we’d all like to have a McLaren, Porsche, or Lamborghini parked in our garage, that pesky thing called “reality” forces us to buy cars that are reasonably priced, convenient to drive every day, and—if there are kids involved—friendly to the sticky-handed set. One of the most popular models for families around the world since it made its debut in 2003 is the Nissan Murano. Named after the islands in Venice known for producing beautiful blown glass, this mid-size crossover SUV has always stood apart from the pack thanks to its dramatic design, great ergonomics, and car-like handling.

My sister, Lucy, is the happy owner of a 2009 Murano. She likes the modern styling, the comfort, the utility—she has two kids—and the fact that it drives more like a car than a hulking SUV. (Don’t even ask her what she thinks about her husband’s Toyota Sienna minivan.) So when I got to test the latest version, which is totally new for 2015, I knew she was the one who could give the best assessment. The third generation of Nissan’s flagship crossover delivers even bolder styling, a more luxurious interior, and a standard 3.5-liter V6 that ups both power and efficiency. Check out what the folks from Nissan were trying to accomplish with the new Murano, followed by Lucy’s thoughts. (Thanks, sis!)

Exterior

“One of the central constructs for both the exterior and interior of the new Murano was to ‘elevate your experience,’ which is counterintuitive to the heaviness and chunkiness of the traditional sport utility vehicle,” says Shiro Nakamura, Senior Vice President and Chief Creative Officer of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “This helped inspire the push for leading-edge aerodynamics and three key elements of our designs—the V-Motion front end, signature lighting, and the ‘floating’ roofline.”

Lucy immediately sees the difference: “I really like how it looks. This one is more modern than mine, more streamlined. It has more of an aquatic look, if that makes any sense. I especially like the dark panels on the sides in the back—even though it’s not a window, it looks like window as opposed to car. Very sleek.”

Interior

“Beyond the sense of elegant style and premium features, owners of the first two generations often tell us about the ‘effortlessness of Murano’—the great front view, the low instrument panel, the comfort and ease of operation. These are all things we kept and exaggerated in the new model,” says Nakamura.

“This is like the fancy version!” Lucy exclaims as she gets inside. “Does it have a USB? A charger? Yup! It’s got a familiar feel to it, but it seems more spacious. This sunroof is great; it expands all the way into the back. The kids don’t normally get the light back there. Yeah, this sunroof is awesome, there’s a lot more natural light. Wow, is this a top-down camera? I definitely don’t have one of those.”

“I have no complaints about my seats,” says Lucy as she takes her spot in the driver’s seat, “but this is more comfortable—the headrest and the back support feel a lot better. Mine doesn’t have leather on the dashboard, that I could take or leave. The cup holders look smaller and are in a different place, I think I like mine better…I prefer them horizontal, not vertical. Overall it’s totally familiar, but there are certain little nuances that are improved. Plus, it smells very nice.”

Driving

“With advanced, purposeful technology designed to help keep you safe and connected, along with its refined everyday driving experience, this all-new Murano adds the solid substance to go with its unmatched emotional style,” says Pierre Loing, vice president, Planning, Nissan North America, Inc.

“I love driving my Murano,” says Lucy. “It’s just big enough to feel like you’re not the smallest car on the road, but it doesn’t seem cumbersome. It’s a good size; it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a truck. The gear shift on this one is a little stiffer, and the steering definitely feels stiffer. I like it; it gives it that ‘premium-car’ feeling, very responsive. It’s got great visibility, which is also one of the things I really like about my car. The driving position is very similar…it doesn’t really feel like I’m driving a different car. Actually, it feels like I’m driving my car, but faster. This definitely has enough power to do what you need to do.”

Overall Impression

“I originally bought my Murano because I liked that it was bigger than a sedan but wasn’t as big as a minivan,” says Lucy. “I liked how it drove, I liked the style of it, the amenities, and, for the price, it just seemed like the right car. My kids like it too, because they feel like I’m not too far away from them. I have about 66,000 miles on mine, and I wasn’t thinking of getting a new car, but this new one really is great. It’s everything I like about my car, only better!”

Or, as Loing puts it, “Murano resets the standard in class once again.”

Read more at: http://www.scout.com/story/1554398-old-versus-new-the-nissan-murano

2016 Nissan Maxima First Test Review

The 2016 Nissan Maxima is NOT a four-door Miata, so join me in ignoring the car’s 4DSC (four-door sports car) marketing references straight away. Once you do, you’re left with a damned good SPMS—a semi-premium midsize sedan. For a front-drive car with a $30,000-$40,000 price range, the quick 2016 Maxima is a high-quality package that should find favor with drivers who prioritize fun over the superior rear-seat and trunk space of Nissan’s competitors. The CVT helps the Maxima stand out in a good way, an interesting turnaround considering we deemed the CVT in our long-term 2009 Maxima a “major killjoy.”

So what’s changed? Perhaps even more than our readiness to accept CVTs is the tuning of the 2016 Maxima’s transmission. It’s responsive in Normal and Sport modes (the latter of which ramps up steering weight a lot), and as we found in our First Drive review, getting the car to emit that dreaded CVT whine isn’t easy to do. The CVT is ready for your inputs at least as often as conventional six-speed automatics. The standard-in-every-Maxima Active Sound Enhancement system also adds to the experience by enhancing the strong engine note heard inside the cabin and increasing the driver’s subjective sense of speed.

The 2016 Maxima is objectively quick, too. Every 2016 Maxima is powered by a 300-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with 261 lb-ft of torque, and on the track, the sportier SR and upscale Platinum models both hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Six-cylinder versions of the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon can keep up with the 2016 Maximas to 50 mph, but those semi-premium midsize/full-size sedans fall back by 60, at 6.2 and 6.3 seconds, respectively. We’ve tested a 2013 Altima 3.5 SL that kept pace with the two 2016 Maximas, clocking a 5.9-second 0-60 time. Although most Maxima buyers won’t seriously consider the BMW 3 Series, those few who do should know they’ll lose streetlight drag races in the Nissan: A 2015 328i Sport Line model we recently tested with an eight-speed automatic accelerated to 60 in 5.4 seconds. Yes, the Maxima exhibits a little torque steer, but only if you’re really looking for it — for example, simultaneously changing lanes and stabbing the throttle from a stop. Whether or not the car is in motion, you’ll turn heads. Nissan has dressed the new Maxima with styling that’s as bold as the car is quick. The Maxima shares a 109.3-inch wheelbase with the Altima, but the flagship sedan is just a bit longer, wider, and lower than the more mainstream four-door. We’d suggest avoiding black or other dark exterior colors to make the most of the Maxima’s wild-for-a-sedan C-pillar design. After all, if you’re going to go Maxima over an Impala, Avalon, Charger, or even Altima, why not maximize the black line that slices through the C-pillar?

That design feature distinguishes every 2016 Maxima, but only the sporty SR trim will add 19-inch wheels with 245/40R19 all-season tires (summer tires are available on the SR), an upgraded suspension, and technology that aims to make the suspension more compliant than you’d expect for the Maxima’s sportiest trim. The SR also eschews the dual panel moonroof on the SL and Platinum trims to lower the center of gravity and increase torsional rigidity. On the highway, associate online editor Stefan Ogbac and I each found that although the Maxima SR does have more tire noise, it’s not so bad that you’d want to take a different car on a road trip. On the track, the Maxima SR’s more sporting credentials helped it turn in a figure-eight performance of 26.0 seconds at 0.72g average, better than the 2014 Chevrolet Impala (27.1 seconds at 0.68g average), the 2013 Toyota Avalon (27.2 seconds at 0.66g average), and 2013 Altima 3.5 SL (27.1 seconds at 0.66g average). The 2016 Maxima SR proved an even match for the lighter but less powerful 2015 BMW 328i we recently tested that completed the figure-eight course in 26.0 seconds at 0.73g average. The more luxury-focused 2016 Maxima Platinum model, which is still fun to drive, was good for a respectable time of 27.0 seconds at 0.69g average. We Real MPG tested the 2016 Maxima SR at 22.4/30.2 R-MPG city/highway, just about even with its 22/30 mpg EPA ratings.

Although testing director Kim Reynolds wasn’t a fan of the Maxima SR’s long steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, overall, he appreciated its track performance. “The car has nice grip, a good turn-in when the transmission is behaving, and solid power,” Reynolds said. “[This is] a well-developed platform that ought to be attractive to buyers who’d prefer German sedan driving attributes.” So the 2016 Maxima is entertaining, but it’s not as capacious inside as you might think. The car is definitely comfortable if you consider it as a midsize sedan, but similarly priced but less sporty cars such as the Impala and Avalon have it beat in terms of rear-seat space and trunk capacity.

Then there’s the potential issue of insurance costs. IntelliChoice says the last-generation Maxima had higher-than-average insurance costs, and although the new 2016 Maxima could eliminate this problem, it’s too early to tell one way or the other. Still, the 2016 Maxima offers a great mix of style and driving fun not found on too many four-doors less than $40,000, other than the comparison-test-winning Mazda6. Unless you’re absolutely set on the sportier SR trim, consider the mid-level $37,715 SL. The 2016 Maxima SL lacks the quilted seat inserts of the SR and Platinum (finished in Alcantara on the SR) and the Platinum’s power-operated steering column and Around View Monitor multi-camera parking system, but you still get plenty of content. The Maxima SL features include navigation on an 8-inch touchscreen, hands-free keyless access, leather seats, an 11-speaker Bose sound system, front and rear sonar sensors, the dual-panel moonroof, and Nissan’s suite of active safety tech. It includes an adaptive cruise control system that works well but deactivates when you come to a stop. Buyers who want more than the average midsize sedan can offer but know how quickly the MSRP adds up on German luxury sport sedans should definitely add the 2016 Nissan Maxima to their shopping list. As long as expectations are kept in check in terms of interior and cargo space, the Maxima is one of the better semi-premium midsize sedans around.

Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1507_2016_nissan_maxima_first_test_review/viewall.html#ixzz3fESzOTyj

The 2015 Nissan Murano goes head-to-head with the Ford Edge

If you decide that you want a stylish, roomy mid-size utility vehicle—one that drives like a car—and you don’t need a third row, or any rugged pretense, then the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano are two of the better picks on the market. And if you narrow your priorities to vehicles that look conceived for adults—not just as rolling cribs and diaper bins—then the Murano and Edge stand atop an even smaller list.

Both models are indeed stylish, mature, and sophisticated, but in very different ways. The Murano wears an especially bold face, with the new corporate ‘V-motion’ grille and boomerang headlights and taillights that frame some especially handsome contouring. Inside, the Murano has a swoopy, V-shaped design that’s equally radical, and distinct trims verge away from the woodgrain, piano-black plastic, and excessive brightwork that’s so common in premium interiors. The Edge, on the other side, looks sporty and athletic, with its contours and details feeling carefully calculated to fit right in with Ford’s existing lineup. On the inside, the Ford hits all the right cues for sporty and premium, although we think the Murano’s distinct look inside and out gives it a solid advantage in styling.

Performance-wise, these two models are polar opposites as well. While the Ford Edge now relies mostly on turbocharged, so-called EcoBoost engines and six-speed automatic transmissions—a non-turbo V-6 is there as more of a token offering—the Murano goes a more traditional route underhood, with a naturally aspirated V-6 the sole engine for the lineup. In the Murano, it’s paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that does its job in keeping engine revs under control while all you notice is plenty of acceleration on tap when you need it—with little of the rubber-band responses that plagued former CVTs. On the other hand, you’re much more aware of the powertrain in the Edge, as it has crisp, well-coordinated shifts. And hold on before you think you’re getting a much more fuel-efficient vehicle with the EcoBoost Edge; it’s a virtual tie against the V-6 Murano.

Ride and handling is very different between these two, with the Edge offering a rather firm but muted feel—more in line with German luxury crossovers, really—while the Murano has an equally quiet yet more plush ride that makes it a closer counterpoint to the Lexus RX. The Edge has a serious edge in handling, we think, as its precise steering and well-tuned suspension allow it to feel like a lower vehicle than it is when the road gets twisty. But considering the Murano’s strong, unobtrusive powertrain, we give the Edge only a slight edge here.

One note: The Ford Edge is offered in a performance-oriented Edge Sport model, which adds a twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V-6, making 315 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. With suspension and steering changes that bring a firmer, more communicated, plus serious appearance changes on the outside—most notably, brightwork replaced with a blacked-out look.

Inside is where the Edge and Murano compare most easily in an A-to-B sense. While the two feel (and are) a virtual tie when it comes to cargo space, versatility, and general usability, we have to give the Edge demerits here for its flat, unsupportive seats. The Murano’s back seats especially shame those in the Edge, with their excellent contouring in outboard positions, while in the Ford the frame of the Vista Roof can interfere with headroom for taller occupants.

Full crash-test results aren’t yet available for either of these recently redesigned models. Both of these models save some of their best active-safety technology—like Predictive Forward Collision Warning on the Pathfinder, or Lane Keep Assist and inflatable rear seatbelts on the Edge—for option packages on top-of-the-line models.

Feature-wise, both of these models are presented with a sort of two-pronged approach: with tantalizing value-oriented base models that offer an interesting alternative to smaller, more mass-market models, as well as fully-kitted-out top-trim models that match up against luxury-brand models in all but the badge. At the base level, the base Murano S comes with a bit more than the Edge—with dual-zone climate control and a decent apps-compatible infotainment system standard—but at the top end we’ll call the Edge the winner in the features race by a slight bit, as it can be equipped with things like an Active Park Assist system that will let the Edge park itself, even into a perpendicular spot, as you manage the accelerator and brake pedals.

Who’s the winner here? The Edge only has it if you place more weight on handling, and a more European feel (especially with the Edge Sport), or if you really must have the edge on technology features. Otherwise it’s the Murano, as its like-no-other styling, plush ride, confident performance, and very comfortable seating add up to something that’s quite compelling.

As read on: http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1097256_nissan-murano-vs-ford-edge-compare-cars

Must-Have Car Features for Expectant Parents

There may be no greater joy in life than knowing a newborn is on the way.

Soon, you’ll get to experience all the excitement and bliss that being a parent brings. But with this wonder comes great responsibility. The entire well-being of another human will rest in your hands. It’s time to evaluate some things in your life and make a few changes.

Remember that car you bought fresh out of school that was some combination of being affordable, cool, unique and youthful? Now it’s deteriorating into a pile of scap metal in your driveway. You gamble with whether you will or will not make it to your destination or not on every trip you take. Getting stranded on the side of the freeway is one thing, but having it happen with an infant aboard will be a nightmare. Looks like it’s time for an upgrade.

So what should a new parent look for in an automobile? Well a lot of things, really. But to help any soon-to-be progenitors, we have broken down the new car checklist into three key areas. First, there are those things that need to be in a vehicle to make transporting a baby safe and easy. Second are things that aren’t quite a necessity, but would make your time behind the wheel as a parent a lot less stressful. Third, there are the items that are icing on the cake; the added perks that parents might not need, but will gladly take if offered.

Must-Haves

The most important thing you can do as a parent is keep your child safe. This is especially true when it comes to cars and driving. Regardless of how skilled you are behind the wheel, there is always the unknown factor of weather, road conditions and other motorists that could result in a crash. Modern vehicles have jumped leaps and bounds in terms of crash worthiness compared to older cars, even within the past five years. A modern car will keep its occupants much safer than models from the past. But some are still safer than others. To check and compare how well prospective new vehicle purchases rate in crash testing, visit the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety database or the one offered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Act.

A newborn is going to spend the next several years in child safety seats, so a vehicle with a rear seat is essential. Although most four- and five-person coupes do come equipped with child seat anchors, accessing them and the child can be a nightmare because there isn’t a door opening directly beside the rear seat. When your child is an infant and in a rear facing child seat this can be quite the struggle.

It’s best to look for a four-door vehicle because the easier accessed rear seat area will be easier to deal with. If your rear facing child seat has already been purchased, take it along when new car shopping so it can be test fitted to the backseat area. Pay attention to a vehicle’s official rear legroom measurement as these safety seats are deceivingly long. Not all smaller cars can accommodate one without forcing the front passenger seat to be placed uncomfortably close to the windshield.

Rear doors are also important when it comes to size and operation. Vehicles like a Range Rover L with the extended wheelbase give parents all the space in the world to secure their bundles of joy to the back seats, but the rear doors also require all the space in the world to open, which is a challenge in parking lots. When looking at new cars, see how far out the doors open in relation to the access they give to the backseat area. As well, the angle in which they swing open is important as the closer to 90 degrees the better. Still, there is one champion when it comes to rear vehicle doors for parents: the sliding door. Not only does it give them full access to their kids, but it also takes up minimal space when opened.

Nice-to-Haves

With the essentials taken care of, many other automotive features can help ease the transition into parenthood. Chances are you’ll become more distracted behind the wheel now that an extra, highly demanding passenger is frequently aboard. Vehicles with the latest active safety systems like lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and collision detection could be a life saver if you stop paying attention, even for a split second.

Babies call for a lot of stuff like strollers, pack and play cribs, diaper bags and more. A car with a large trunk is good, but one with a lift gate hatchback is better. Not only is it easier to load odd-shaped items into a hatchback, by usually there is more cargo room in a hatchback and items placed back there stay as warm or cool as everything else in the vehicle. Taking things a step further, a power lift gate, power trunk or even power side doors

will further help a new parent whose hands will inevitably be full each time they approach the vehicle.

And when it comes to loading a child and their gear into a car, a vehicle’s height is important. Crossovers continue to gain popularity with new parents due partially to their load height. SUVs usually sit too high, requiring some people to have to step up into the vehicle to secure their child in a safety seat. What-to-Look-for-in-a-Car-with-a-Baby-on-the-Way-07.jpgRegular cars, on the other hand, sit too low and force parents to hunch over in backbreaking slouches as they secure the safety belts.

While discussing access, safety anchors that are easy to reach for the child seats are a huge plus. Some vehicles require a lot of work to uncover and use these clips. While you’re at it, try folding the rear seats down to see how easy it is to do when children are not occupying them for added utility.

Finally, keeping the sun out of your child’s eyes is important, especially ones too small to relate any discomfort to you. A vehicle with factory or dealer installed rear window tint is good, but one with built in roll-up sunshades is better. This isn’t as unusual as it once was either as several minivans, crossovers and sedans are now offering this feature.

Icing on the Cake

Of course, there are some other items that will make life even easier on new parents, like extra cup holders for kid’s snacks and food as well as excess storage bins for other random items. Some vehicles now include a secondary wraparound rear view mirror so a driver can take a quick look back on their kids without having to turn all the way around or moving the regular rear view mirror down.

Removable rear headrests are a nice bonus as they make installing child safety seats much easier and built-in rear video screens can help entertain little ones on longer trips.

Ultimately though, it all comes down to what is most important to you and what you can afford. There are many choices out there that are great, child friendly vehicles. As long as all the Must Haves are checked off as well as a good portion of the Nice to Haves, you should be fine. Happy shopping and good luck with the new baby!

Read more at: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2015/01/must-have-car-features-for-expectant-parents.html

2015 Nissan Murano: First Drive

As we’re getting acquainted with the 2015 Nissan Murano for the first time, it’s eye-opening to note all that this mid-size crossover doesn’t have: There are no multiple drive modes here, no variable steering assist settings, and no steering-wheel shift paddles, no low range or towing mode either.

This is a vehicle that’s easy to figure out. You get in, and the driving interface is what most people are used to, yet with just the right gloss, gleam, blanketing, and buffeting.

And yet on the outside, it’s gloriously complex. It’s as much a rolling sculpture as some sports cars, and you’re turning heads, every step of the way. The Murano really is that good-looking—and something refreshingly different next to the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Edge, and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

That aside, for the moment, the 2015 Nissan Murano feels like it was cleverly reverse-engineered to be exactly what it needed to be—stylish, comfortable, quiet transportation for empty-nesters, with plenty of capability to bring friends along.

There’s a lot more than a grain of truth to that. The second-generation Murano, which made its debut in 2009, never lived up to the sales numbers of the first-gen model—although in all fairness, the recession may have been more to blame.

Nevertheless, Nissan reached out to existing owners of the Murano and asked them what they wanted a future Murano to be. From that, “Provocative, Premium, Optimistic,” was the theme used to sum up the feedback. Owners wanted, above all, a vehicle that was visually striking yet sophisticated.

Straightforward in its mission, stunning in its presentation

And they sure did get it with the 2015 Nissan Murano. What makes this one of the most noteworthy new vehicles of the year from an otherwise straightforward, predictable template is the absolutely stunning exterior of this crossover.

In profile, in stance, and in the exterior details, the Murano follows very closely in the steps of the Resonance Concept that was shown at the Detroit Auto Show less than two years ago. And we can actually say we like the production car better, for its synergies in some of the design details, in the ‘boomerang’ design of the headlights and taillights, the ‘V-motion’ grille and hood sculpting, and in how the arched flare above its front wheelwell is echoed over the rear wheels, where the beltline pinches upward toward the ‘floating’ roofline in one of the most distinctive design cues.

The overall result is a vehicle that plays a multitude of visual tricks—appearing lower and far more sport-wagon-like than its predecessor. It’s unlike any other crossover, whether with a luxury badge or a mainstream one.

Murano owners wanted a vehicle that was even more daring in appearance, without giving up comfort. And they wanted even more refinement and features inside—with an interior that they could happily use to take other couples out on a date, or for a weekend-afternoon trip to Wine Country, for instance.

‘Jet Age’ interior inspiration—and no woodgrain, thank you

So Nissan reached out for something new, and sculpted the interior after the early jet age of the 1960s, “when travelers were pampered with luxury and flew with style,” elucidated Ken Lee, the senior creative manager with Nissan Design America, where the Murano was designed.

In short, we love the result. The wraparound look doesn’t limit interior space, and there are plenty of fresh details. For instance, there’s no woodgrain anywhere inside—no fake woodgrain either. Instead, there’s a brushed-metal style trim used for the interior beltline and door and console inserts; but even better, we’d choose the light-colored material that looks a bit like Mid Century Modern linoleum.

All the while, there’s a simple layout to the interior. Nissan has reduced the number of physical buttons from 25 down to 10, but used them where they make sense—like for the climate control—and there’s a straightforward infotainment system that responds well to navigation and infotainment needs.

In California’s Napa Valley region, during the #rainpocalypse this past week, we piloted several different front- and all-wheel drive versions of the Murano, finding it confident and surefooted—and perhaps more notably, finding the interior sublimely quiet and isolated from the gales and pouring rain.

Familiar goods under the hood

The Murano doesn’t have anything groundbreaking under the hood, but its familiar 3.5-liter V-6, making 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, feels quick, smooth, and relatively responsive with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is essentially a version of what’s used in the Pathfinder.

The Murano also doesn’t have the issue that affects a lot of its other CVT-equipped vehicles—sluggishness at lower speeds when you need a quick burst of power. Thanks to plentiful low-rev torque from this engine, it gathers speed quickly as the CVT lowers the ratio. And if you accelerate at more than half throttle (but not quite full throttle) you’ll find the transmission now follows some pronounced ‘gears’ along the way—as part of a so-called ‘D-step’ strategy.

The way the Murano rides and handles is very carlike, and much like that of a large sedan—albeit maybe with a little more body lean. The electrohydraulic rack-and-pinion steering has a good, relaxed feel on center, and it loads up nicely. One thing to keep in mind is that models with the 18-inch wheels handle just as well as those with the 20-inch wheels—except for a slight bit more precision in quick transitions. With the larger wheels, you do introduce more road harshness as well.

Composed ride, comfortable seats, conversation alley

In any case, the ride is composed and very comfortable. So is the seating, which has been conceived to be just as accommodating to those in back as in front. The so-called Zero Gravity design—for more back support—not only applies to the front seats but to the outboard seats in back. And while the front seats didn’t entirely win us over, those back seats we’d venture to say are best-in-class.

With a wide center console and those impressive seats, Nissan terms the middle area of the vehicle conversation alley; considering the quiet interior, you should have no problem catching up with back-seat passengers while cruising along.

Thanks to reduced weight and improved aerodynamics, the Murano is about 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the outgoing model, Nissan says. That leads to new EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 28 highway for the entire model line—and our 24-mpg average over a mix of road conditions suggests you might see about that or better in real-world driving.

The Murano has always fit into a different place in the market than most of Nissan’s other vehicles. Like the Maxima, it’s more of a gateway to luxury-brand models; and in its best-equipped models, it’s a full-fledged luxury vehicle in all but the badge.

Top-of-the-line Platinum breaks into luxury territory

This year that’s underscored with the introduction of a new, top-of-the-line Platinum model that adds things like ventilated front seats, heated back seats, LED headlamps, and power-folding rear seatbacks. Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert is included, and on the Platinum and the next-highest SL you can opt for a Tech Package that adds Blind Spot Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.

How does the Murano add up for value? That’s one we’re still pondering. In all, the top Murano SL and Platinum models feel like true rivals to the Lexus RX 350 or Acura MDX. But at about $46k for a loaded Platinum they’re not priced much higher.

We tend to think that the Murano S and SV models, with their low-to-mid-30s price tags, offer the strongest value of the lineup. That’s where you can actually stop focusing on what the Murano doesn’t have and instead relish what it does have: stunning good looks, an ease about the driving experience, and a true four-adult interior that might just remind you how much fun road-tripping can be.

As read on: http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1095800_2015-nissan-murano-first-drive

2014 Compact SUV Comparison: Nissan Rogue

We’re not going to tell you our 2014 Compact SUV Comparison Test ended up in a six-way tie for 1st, but each member in our gang of six had plenty to recommend it — a happy truth that we discovered during two long days of driving along the desert highways from Irvine, California, to Phoenix, Arizona, and through the mountain roads that constitute “the long way home” from Phoenix back to Irvine. Our group included three segment leaders — the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 — as well as the three new-for-2014 contenders in the field, the Jeep Cherokee, Subaru Forester and Nissan Rogue.

At $32,395, the 2014 Nissan Rogue SL with all-wheel drive slotted in as the most expensive car in our field, but not by that long a shot overall. And besides, the 2-row Rogue SUV (really, you don’t want the 3rd-row penalty-box option) came lovely and loaded with leather seats, touch-screen navigation, streaming Bluetooth audio and the genius of Nissan’s Around View Monitor — the city dweller’s parking dream come true. Its 170-horsepower 4-cylinder engine was also the group’s EPA fuel-economy leader, sipping just 26 mpg in the city and 33 on the open road.

Some of us loved the Rogue exterior, some loved the Nissan SUV’s interior, but everybody liked both. Likewise, driving the new Rogue posed no challenges whatsoever. While not the most powerful compact SUV available, the Nissan never felt out of place, either on the highway or in the mountains. Its continuously variable transmission played its role in helping to dispense the 4-cylinder engine’s power to all four wheels.

Besides styling, the 2014 Nissan Rogue SUV’s star turn rests in its utility. There’s good room in the second row, made even more useful by split/fold-down seats that slide fore and aft for added comfort and room. In 2-row form, the new Rogue’s generous rear cargo space gets an added boost in smart-design points from its Divide-N-Hide Cargo System. Divide-N-Hide uses removable floor panels to both give you access to extra storage beneath the panels and — more to the innovative-design point — use the panels to create a second tier of storage space above the floor. In the end, stylish design and features like this are what made the Rogue the coolest compact SUV in our group.

As read on: http://www.kbb.com/car-news/all-the-latest/2014-compact-suv-comparison-nissan-rogue/2000010642/?scid=social_car_reviews23388164

2014 Dodge Journey – Review

The 2014 Dodge Journey is a much better car than its original version, introduced into the heat of the 2009 recession by a soon-to-be-bankrupt Chrysler, and consequently ignored by at least some of the buyers who should have considered it. The Journey, which has the lines of a tall wagon, offers some of the more engaging handling and roadholding in the segment. And its optional third-row seat is one of its greatest advantages, along with smart packaging and a high level of features.

The Journey faces off against the better-known Chevy Equinox, Ford Edge, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Toyota Venza (and perhaps Toyota’s RAV4 as well). It’s larger than a compact crossover, though on the small end of the mid-size utility segment–smaller than Toyota’s now-very-large Highlander, for instance. Its third row offers occasional seating when you need it, without the substantially larger size of a Nissan Pathfinder, for instance.

A couple of years ago, Chrysler gave the Journey a completely new interior, with a more elegant instrument panel, better trim, and soft-touch materials. Under the hood, it got the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, along with a large number of improvements that reduced noise, made the ride smoother, and generally upped the quality level substantially. The original Journey just didn’t have the refinement it should have; today’s Journey is one of the better picks among crossovers, even if that remains largely unknown.

The design of the 2014 Journey walks the line between boxy sport-utility vehicles and tall wagons. We appreciate that Dodge has shaken off the same-as-the-other-guy sheetmetal that clothes other crossovers, giving the Journey lines that are refreshingly different, even if they’re no longer necessarily fresh. The look isn’t so different that it’s wacky, but different enough to avoid that same-old-family-vehicle styling rut. Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials.

There’s a lot for busy parents to like about the 2014 Journey. Dodge and Chrysler clearly applied some of its long-honed expertise with minivans to this interior, as people and cargo really fit well and there are plenty of smaller spaces for personal items, toys, and accessories. Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than some other seats. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults; the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there. The rear seat folds fully flat, and under the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.

The Journey is offered in an extensive lineup, with AVP (American Value Package), SE, SXT, Limited, and R/T models. Several of the models (the Limited and R/T) get more features for the money in 2014. You’ll need to step up to SXT models to get either the V-6 engine or all-wheel drive. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. Bluetooth isn’t included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available even on the base model, while you’ll also need to get the SXT to get the UConnect media center option. That includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system that isn’t all that intuitive. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with a premium audio system.

Forget about the Journey if you’re set on the idea of a four-cylinder or top-drawer fuel economy. Their loud, coarse 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic are dawdling and disappointing in nearly every respect. Otherwise you should head straight to one of the V-6 versions, as they’re excellent and refined. Chrysler’s 3.6-liter ‘Pentastar’ V-6 makes 283 horsepower and is hooked up to a six-speed automatic for much better responsiveness. The six-speed automatic can take some of the polish off the package, though: in some versions we’ve driven, the automatic juddered and hesitated before it downshifted.

The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. Chrysler recently reworked the suspension to include stiffer, better-responding shocks and a lower ride height in front, and it’s honed some of the duller responses the Journey had in its initial model years. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle, but the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.

Safety has been another strong point. The NHTSA awards the Journey four stars overall, while the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick.

On Styling
We’re still bullish on the Journey’s stance and details–especially its recently redone cabin.

We like the styling on the 2014 Dodge Journey, and that’s because it finds a balance between tall wagons and boxy family SUVs, without looking like every other crossover on the market. It’s different enough to look unique, but it’s mainstream enough to not look out of place in the segment.

Its square shoulders, crosshair grille and smartly embossed fenders make it look at least a little athletic, especially considering its compact size. While its profile may look a slab-sided, the chiseled sheetmetal and  lipped wheelwells feel refreshing and different in an era of crossovers that typically skew to either the very boxy or incredibly curvaceous ends of the spectrum.

Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials. Open the Journey’s door, and a bolt of metallic trim directs you quickly across a more softly sculpted dash, with suave finishes and tight fits. The contoured center stack gets mixed in with round cut-tube gauges and a blocky steering wheel, and it all hangs together, along with a big LCD screen (on some versions) and no-fuss climate controls that ride sidesaddle on that strip of bright trim.

On Performance
The V-6 Journey offers good acceleration and reasonably good handling; we’d skip the four-cylinder entirely.

The Journey isn’t the right answer if you’re looking for top-shelf fuel economy or a four-cylinder engine. It’s a rough, 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic that disappoints in virtually every way possible.

With that in mind the V-6 model is both refined and powerful, with the 3.6-liter ‘Pentastar’ V-6 producing 283 hp pushed through a six-speed automatic transmission. That six-speed works well when you’re really pushing the Journey, but we’ve experienced some shuddering in stop-and-go traffic.

The steering is very quick for a family vehicle, and doesn’t deliver the feedback it needs. Ride quality remains a strong point, however, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle; although keep in mind that wheel sizes now range from 17-inch to 19-inchers and those largest wheels don’t soak up the impacts quite as well. In any case, braking is strong, though.

The Journey’s handling is reasonably responsive. The Journey’s suspension loads and unloads confidently, like a lower and leaner vehicle than it is, and there’s none of the excessive bounding or wallowing when you hit a bump mid-corner with some taller crossovers. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle. And while the hydraulic-assist steering system gets it right with weighting, the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.

On Quality
Passengers and cargo will have ample space in the Journey, but it’s the little storage touches that impress us.

Parents will find a lot to like in the 2014 Dodge Journey. There are some obvious minivan-like qualities to the interior–likely pulled from Chrysler’s experience with family hauling vans–and there’s a lot of room for people and cargo. In general, you’ll find the Journey to be an easy-to-drive option for a full-size family.

The cargo hold specs out at a swell 37 cubic feet behind the second row, and a tight 10.7 cubic feet behind the raised third-row seat. Flip everything down behind the front seats, and you can fit a half-dozen flat-screen TVs in the Journey’s 67.6 cubic feet of space.

Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than some other seats. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults (two of them, or three kids); the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there.

In back, folding the seats forward takes an extra step—you slide the middle portion of the outboard cushions up and forward first—but the reward is that you get a lower, flatter load floor as well as that better contouring. There are also many thoughtful solutions for storing odds and ends, and keeping some of them out of sight. For instance, the cushion of the passenger seat flips up to reveal a bin underneath, while below the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.

On Safety
The Journey’s crash-test scores have been good, and it offers a few safety options we like to see.

Every Journey comes standard with dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; active head restraints; and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control. Integrated child booster seats are also offered for the second row. And we recommend the optional rearview camera and parking sensors.

It rates well with both of the agency that crash test cars rate their safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has named the Journey a Top Safety Pick in previous model years, as it’s earned top ‘good’ ratings for frontal, side, and rear impacts as well as roof strength. That designation will likely carry over for the 2014 model year. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Journey an overall rating of four stars, with a five-star individual score for side-impact protection.

On Features
With excellent entertainment and connectivity features, the Journey outpoints some of its newer competition.

There are currently six Journey models available–the American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Crew, RT, and Limited–but you’ll have to look at the SXT or higher if you want all-wheel drive or the V-6.

You’ll also need to get the SXT, at minimum, to get the UConnect media center, an option that we appreciated for its ability to easily control a wide range of devices ranging from iPhones to SD cards (it even quickly indexed one with 16 GB of music). The system includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system that isn’t all that intuitive. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with the premium audio system, and a DVD entertainment system for backseat passengers is also optional.

Crew and R/T models added features last year, for better value, while prices on the R/T actually dropped by $1,000. The Limited model is new for 2014, and slotted just below the R/T, with standard UConnect, leather, and the 19-inch wheels. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. A USB port is also included, although it’s tucked away in the center console. Bluetooth isn’t included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available on any of the models.

Step into higher-trim Journeys and you’ll add features like premium sound; keyless entry; leather seating; and hide-away cargo bins under the seats. SXT models can be optioned with UConnect and a power sunroof for 2013, but with the Journey Crew you get remote start, automatic climate control, leather steering-wheel trim, and in-seat storage. At the top R/T level you add appearance upgrades like red accent stitching, satin-carbon aluminum wheels, and a six-speaker, 368-watt premium audio system.

On Green
Average fuel economy is understandable with the V-6 Journey–but less forgivable with the four-cylinder version.

The 2014 Dodge Journey isn’t the most fuel-efficient way to get into a crossover. However, it lands pretty squarely around average for the segment, and its V-6 option does reasonably well on the highway.

The V-6 versions have somewhat lower numbers, but they’re directly competitive with other V-6 crossovers, and we’ve seen good numbers in real-world driving, with results that meet or beat the Journey’s 17-mpg city, 25 highway EPA ratings. Over about 700 miles of driving—across Michigan, and including a mix of freeway driving, family-hauling, and suburban side trips—we averaged 24 mpg. That’s not far from what we’ve seen in four-cylinder crossovers this size in that kind of driving, and those models’ powertrains aren’t as satisfying as this V-6.

Technically, the base four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic transmission produce the best mileage ratings in the lineup–an EPA-rated 19/26 mpg. That’s lower than most other four-cylinder crossovers, and not at all impressive.

As read on: http://www.thecarconnection.com/overview/dodge_journey_2014?fbfanpage