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The Journey’s journey

by David Zatz on

Last week, Allpar posted some speculation about future crossovers, but we left out the Dodge Journey midsize crossover, which has essentially replaced the short wheelbase Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. The replacement for the Journey has been long delayed now, and is not expected until mid-2016. That’s a long time in a hot segment.

Complicating matters is the Journey’s role as the Fiat Freemont, which sells reasonably well and gives us reason to think that any future Chryslers selling in Europe will become Fiats as well.

Journey, Caravan, and Durango all have positive name recognition now. We’d think Journey would be the most likely to be dropped, but it’s listed by name in the 2004 five year plan. Fiat has historically gone in for absurd amounts of product name proliferation, and Chrysler has gone back and forth between simplicity (e.g. the mid-1990s) and baffling nameplate growth on essentially the same cars.

That said, the chart does say “Journey / D CUV,” not just “Journey.” But it also marks out the “Journey SRT 1/17.” That’s some world-class hedging, but perhaps we should not read too much into it.

There’s nothing stopping Dodge from re-naming it to, say, Caravan, except for — maybe — timing.  Rumor has the current Caravan being made past the Journey introduction date, but rumor is not the same as official statement, and for that matter, the charts are always estimates and reality has not conformed well to five year plans since 2009.

Names aside, the existing Journey is based on the old Chrysler Sebring. If the new one were to be based on the 200, one could argue that the timing was perfect, but 200 and Dart and Cherokee all stem from the same basic source.  Engineers could have already lengthened the Cherokee, and altered the suspension and AWD system for on-road-only use. From this, one could argue that the Journey will be something different, perhaps even based on the same design as the next-generation minivans.

It’s possible that Journey was simply postponed because the need to refresh it was not great, and because there’s no other use for the Toluca plant at the moment; it’s not having any trouble producing enough Fiat 500s for all of North America. In mid-2016, though, Toluca is scheduled to switch to “something new,” and both Journey and Fiat 500 will move out — Journey to an unknown spot, and 500 to Europe.

So maybe Journey will be a smaller version of the upcoming minivan, and maybe it will indeed be a Dodge version of Cherokee, with a larger interior, lower stance, street-oriented suspension, and such. Weighing in favor of “Dodge Cherokee” is the sales success of the Cherokee, and the ability to make Journeys alongside 200s in Sterling Heights, which will help boost the use of that plant — and the fact that Windsor is already slated to make the Town & Country, maybe the old Caravan, a large Dodge SUV/crossover, as well as (maybe) a large Chrysler crossover.

Either way, we are guessing that the Journey will save some weight and size by dropping the V6 option. Minimizing wasted space is a good way to save money and weight, and Allpar sources have said that the upcoming “Hurricane” turbo four will come close to the horsepower of the current Pentastar in the Journey (283 hp); the expected nine-speed automatic  should do the rest, making up for reduced power and torque with a lower first gear, more efficient transmission of power, and faster shifts.

As for the Journey SRT, we believe that could also be done with a four-cylinder — keeping in mind that it’s been seven years since the 285 horsepower Dodge Caliber SRT4. We were told, a couple of years ago, that engineers were developing  two Hurricane engines — not just the long-awaited 2.0 turbo, but also a third (after Neon SRT4/PT Cruiser GT and Caliber SRT4) 2.4 turbo.  We think Mopar  should be able to beat 300 horsepower, given direct injection, advancing technology, a car designed to handle the power, and, well, a newfound willingness to spend more to get more.

What about Durango and the questions we raised on Friday? Stay tuned for more.

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