Grand Cherokee: An urban warrior of choice

Diesel means a higher price but you can feel the difference

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland's interior stands with any of its premium SUV competitors.

By: Jil McIntosh

Once the blue-collar fuel of pickup trucks and tractor-trailers, diesel has moved upscale. It’s still not as popular in cars here as it is in Europe, but several manufacturers are now putting diesel engines into their premium SUVs on this side of the pond.

The latest is Jeep, which now offers a 3.0-L diesel engine in its Grand Cherokee.

Why opt for diesel, especially when it is generally more expensive than gasoline? It’s primarily about performance — diesel engines produce power as soon as you put your foot down. In the Grand Cherokee’s case, that gives you smooth and impressive acceleration, as well as the grunt to tow up to 3,265 kg (7,200 lbs.) or to get over the rockiest off-road terrain.

But I don’t expect too many owners to actually take it out into the roughest stuff. With brands like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW firmly in its sights, Jeep has made the diesel available only in the upper Overland and Summit trim lines. While the base V6 Laredo trim starts at $40,495, the least-expensive diesel model is $64,740.

I can’t see it carving a huge swath out of the German sales, brand names being what they are. But the Grand Cherokee has always enjoyed the fierce loyalty of upper-end buyers within the brand, and I can see this becoming the urban warrior of choice for many of them.

It certainly looks the part. Everything in my Overland tester looked top-notch. It included standard heated and ventilated seats, navigation, leather-wrapped dash, suede-style headliner and a power-adjustable heated steering wheel. I’d confidently put the looks and feel of this interior up against anything, including the Porsche Cayenne. It’s that good.

The 3.0-L diesel comes from Fiat parent company VM Motori in Italy, and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s among the torquier engines in the diesel SUV segment, although it’s noisier and rougher than its competitors: call it go-anywhere charm. I don’t like the fiddly electronic shifter, though, which you tap up or down to select the gears. Let’s see Chrysler’s much better dial shifter here, please.

That 4×4 go-anywhere is aided by an air suspension that’s standard equipment on the Overland and Summit models, which can lower this Jeep for easier entry, or lift it in the air to get over nasty terrain. A console-mounted dial lets you switch between optimal settings to tackle sand, snow, mud or rocks, along with four-wheel low gearing.

My tester was further optioned with a package that added underbody skid plates, more aggressive tires and Selec-Speed, an off-road, low-speed cruise control that maintains its momentum going up and down hills. All of that also earned it a “Trail Rated” off-road badge, which the company puts on models that meet its standards for traction, water fording, ground clearance and suspension articulation. Every Jeep I’ve driven with that rating has been able to handle off-road extremely well, but the company never divulges exactly what the standards are that must be met.

That off-road ability doesn’t compromise the on-road manners. The ride is smooth, steering response is quick and everything feels balanced and stable. It’s a fair-sized vehicle but it doesn’t feel big, especially when you need passing power on the highway and that diesel kicks in to get you moving.

My Jeep had a $1,495 safety technology package, which includes a forward collision warning that’ll hit the brakes if you ignore the fact that you’re about to drive into something; blind spot monitors with cross-traffic detection; and adaptive cruise control that will come to a complete stop if the car ahead does. Should the driver in front start moving within a couple of seconds, the Jeep will obediently follow along.

I dislike adaptive cruise control, as well as the Overland’s standard rain-sensing wipers, and so I was glad to see that I could override both of them to select regular cruise and plain intermittent wipers. Most vehicles give you one or the other, but not both.

I’ve driven the Grand Cherokee with its standard 3.6-L V6 and its optional 5.7-L V8 (as well as the ridiculous-but-fun 475-horsepower 6.4-L V8 in the SRT version), and found them both to be excellent choices.

So should you go diesel? The Ministry of Natural Resources says that if gas and diesel are priced the same, you’ll on average driving amounts save $1,239 a year over the 5.7-L V8. The problem is you’ve spent $4,995 swapping out the V8 for the diesel. Meanwhile, the gasoline V6 will only consume an estimated $578 more in fuel, but it’s a $7,145 difference for what’s under the hood. You also have to periodically add diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which is automatically injected into the exhaust system and is required to meet federal emissions standards, although a tank of it normally lasts until it’s time to get the oil changed.

So ultimately it comes down to whether you want a diesel engine or not. On the down side, it’s expensive; on the plus side, there’s more grunt than you’ll ever need, and you get a diesel badge that’s the hottest ticket in premium SUVs these days. Sometimes, “I want it” is all the justification you need.

2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

Price: $64,740 to $69,740. As-tested, $68,580

Engine: 3.0-L V6 Diesel

Power: 240 horsepower, 420 torque

Fuel consumption: City 11.2, hwy 8.4, as-tested 12.5

Competition: Audi Q7 TDI, BMW X5 xDrive35d, Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec, Porsche Cayenne Diesel, Volkswagen Touareg TDI

What’s best: Gorgeous interior, true off-road capability

What’s worst: Pricey engine is noisier than competitors

What’s interesting: It can send all of its power to one wheel if necessary for traction

Jeep Renegade certified by EPA at 25 m.p.g.

By Brent Snavely

It won’t be the most fuel efficient subcompact SUV on the road, but at 30 m.p.g. on the highway it will be competitive with other SUVs and crossovers that lack the Renegade’s off-road capability.

DFP-Jeep-Renegade

The 2015 Jeep Renegade has been certified by the U.S. EPA with a combined fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, giving the SUV brand a thrifty new model that can be promoted as both fuel efficient an capable of tackling the toughest off-road courses.

Fuel economy will be among the most important features of the Renegade as it goes on sale nationwide. The Renegade, which looks like a smaller Wrangler, is arriving in dealerships now from Italy and the first sales have been recorded, FCA US spokesman Todd Goyer said Wednesday.

The Renegade won’t be the most fuel efficient subcompact SUV on the road. But at 30 m.p.g on the highway it will be competitive with other SUVs and crossovers that lack the Renegade’s off-road capability. On the highway, some versions of the Kia Soul are certified get 30 m.p.g. while the new Chevrolet Trax gets 34 m.p.g. and the Honda HR-V gets 35.

“Fuel economy is going to be very high on a customer’s checklist,” Jeep CEO Mike Manley said in a recent interview with the Free Press. “One of the reasons why we really wanted to make this vehicle, outside of extending the Jeep brand, is that we knew that with the technology that we had, that we could produce…fantastic on road dynamics, great fuel economy, and yet still give you a true Jeep.”

The U.S. EPA has certified the two-wheel drive Renegade with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine at 22 m.p.g. in the city and 31 m.p.g. on the highway for a combined rating of 25 m.p.g.

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

The four-wheel drive version of the Renegade with the same engine is rated at 21 m.p.g. on the highway and 29 m.p.g. on highway for a combined rating of 24 m.p.g.

The fuel economy rating for the Renegade with a smaller, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is expected to be announced Friday, Goyer said. While that version is expected to have better fuel economy than the larger 2.4-liter engine, Goyer said the company expects it will only account for about 10% to 15% of total Renegade sales.

The first Jeep Renegades arrived in the U.S. earlier this month from Melfi, Italy where they are built.

The Renegade costs from $17,995 for a front-wheel drive sport model to $26,795 for a Renegade Limited with four-wheel drive.

Two Renegades arrived earlier this month at Shuman Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram in Walled Lake, said owner Bob Shuman, who has been looking forward to getting the Renegade for more than a year.

“I saw that Jeep at the Beijing auto show, in Geneva and then of course at our show in January,” said Shuman, who also is a former chairman of the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit. “We’ve had a number of customers who were waiting to buy a Jeep until the Renegade arrived.”

10 Things You Need To Know About The 2015 Dodge Challenger

By Benjamin Hunting

Shock and awe has long been a successful strategy for muscle car builders, and the 2015 Dodge Challenger has taken that lesson to heart.  There are three hardcore performance versions of the redesigned Dodge Challenger available, and that’s on top of a more ‘modest’ V-8 mid-tier edition.  You can still get the Challenger with a healthy level of V-6 motivation too, a budget-friendly option that nets you all of the two-door’s retro coupe styling without asking you to dig deep into your pocket in the process.  The tweaking of the Dodge Challenger’s successful formula helps to give it one of the broadest, and most versatile line-ups in the modern muscle car pantheon.

Let’s take a look at 10 things you need to know about the 2015 Dodge Challenger.

1.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Refreshes Its Retro Styling

It’s always a challenge to evolve a retro-influenced design language without losing the essence of its character, but the 2015 Dodge Challenger makes a valiant, and successful effort in this department.  The basic shape of the Dodge Challenger remains the same, especially in profile, but up front there’s an attention to detail – including the installation of LED halo rings around the headlights, a double grille surround, and a narrower slot from which the front lights peek out of – that make the car look fatter and flatter than before.  There’s also a new hood (that maintains the car’s functional air inlets) on most models.  Out back, the full-length tail light has been traded in for a distinctly separated LED two-tail lamp design, and the rear and front fascias have also been tweaked for aero purposes.

2.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Dramatically Improves Its Interior Styling

Bigger changes can be found inside the 2015 Dodge Challenger, with significant upgrades made to the quality of the materials used to create what is now a more visually-engaging cabin.  Stand-outs include a TFT gauge cluster screen that can be configured to show a variety of vehicle data readouts, a revised dashboard (that can house Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system), and a fresh center console with a new ball shifter in place of last year’s pistol-grip design (as well as paddle shifters available for automatic-equipped versions of the Challenger).  Seats and door panels also look and feel much nicer than they did in the previous model.

3.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Offers Realistic Seating For Four

Speaking of seating, the 2015 Dodge Challenger continues its streak of being the only modern muscle car to provide a comfortable environment for as many as four adults at a time.  Unlike the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro, the Dodge Challenger’s near-full-size platform affords it with enough rear seat space to accommodate a pair of additional riders for more than a few minutes at a time.  This is due in part to the fact that the Challenger shares a good portion of its chassis with the larger Dodge Charger four-door sedan.

4.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Starts Out With V-6 Power

If you’re looking to benefit from the 2015 Dodge Challenger’s knock-out styling, but don’t have any interest in drag-strip shenanigans, then you’ll want to seek out the more affordable six-cylinder edition of the car.  The Dodge Challenger SXT and SXT Plus trim levels come standard with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that’s good for 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, respectable numbers that are in keeping with the car’s entry-level rivals.  Fuel mileage for this version of the car checks in at 19-mpg in stop and go driving and 30-mpg during highway cruising.

5.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Provides Two Naturally-Aspirated V-8 Upgrades

The 2015 Dodge Challenger also makes available not one, but two naturally-aspirated V-8 engine upgrades for those who feel the need for speed.  The Dodge Challenger R/T steps up to the plate with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that generates 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are backed by a fuel mileage rating of 16-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.  If that’s not enough, both the Challenger R/T Scat Pack and the Challenger SRT 392 feature a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that churns out a hefty 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of twist, allowing the car to scoot to 60-mph in just 4.5 seconds (while knocking fuel mileage down only a hair from the R/T).

6.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Delivers Pulse-Stopping Performance

You’ll notice that we specified ‘naturally-aspirated’ in the previous section – that’s because the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat sits at the top of the coupe’s V-8 pyramid with a 6.2-liter supercharged engine.  Get ready to be shocked: this unit throws down an incredible 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, figures so gaudy that they translate into a 0-60 time of less than four seconds under perfect conditions (along with an 11.9 second quarter mile run @ 123 miles per hour).  What’s the fuel mileage like on the SRT Hellcat?  If you have to ask, you’ll see 16-mpg in combined driving.

7.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Can Be Had With Two Transmission Choices

Almost every one of the 2015 Dodge Challenger’s drivetrain choices can be had with one of two transmissions.  An eight-speed automatic unit designed by ZF but assembled by Chrysler makes an appearance across the board, with even the SRT Hellcat benefiting from its easy-to-use launch control system and smooth, rapid gear changes under full throttle.  If you are more of a traditionalist in your pursuit of muscle car jollies then each of the V-8 Challengers can also be had with a six-speed manual gearbox.  Unfortunately, the 3.6-liter V-6 is left out of the shift-it-yourself party, although the eight-speed auto does feature the previously-mentioned paddle shifters on the steering wheel for more driver engagement.

8.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Also Offers Track-Ready Gear

In case you want to do more with the 2015 Dodge Challenger than go fast in a straight line, you can also configure the car with a wide range of track-ready performance equipment.  You can add the Super Track Pak to both the R/T and the SXT models, which brings a stiffer suspension system, upgraded brakes, and tighter steering to the table, while the R/T Scat Pack model includes an even more aggressive set of shocks and springs plus Brembo brakes, extra aero front and rear, an active exhaust, a stability control system with a performance setting, and Brembo brakes.  The Challenger SRT 392 comes with all of the above but adds bigger stopping power to its Brembo package and swaps in an adaptive suspension system plus selectable drive modes (which can be completely configured by the driver).  Finally, the top-tier SRT Hellcat introduces a pair of keys (one of which dials down horsepower for more reasonable street driving), a hood with a functional air scoop, and big spoilers at the front and back of the car to help improve high speed stability.

9.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Sends You On An Easter Egg Hunt

The 2015 Dodge Challenger continues Chrysler’s penchant for hiding unusual, hard-to-find ‘Easter Eggs’ throughout the cabin.  These Easter Eggs (a term taken from the video game designers who used to secretly code them into mass-market releases) often take the form of call-outs to the brand’s heritage.  For example, if you lift up the Dodge Challenger’s center console lid you’ll find a stamping that commemorates the Dodge Brothers with the words ‘Designed In Detroit’ and the 100-year old Dodge Brothers logo.  A little easier to discover is the silhouette of a Challenger driving along the inside black-out of the coupe’s windshield.

10.  The 2015 Dodge Challenger Is Affordable

One of the best things about the 2015 Dodge Challenger is that owning one is within the means of most new car buyers.  The Dodge Challenger SXT, with its 305 horsepower V-6 engine, starts at an MSRP of $26,995.  Moving up to the SXT Plus will set you back $29,995, while the V-8 R/T trim begins at a still-reasonable $31,495.  If you want to head to the track, consider the R/T Scat Pack at $38,495, which is a much better deal than the more potent, but pricier Challenger SRT 392 at $45,995.  Finally, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s window sticker of $59,995 makes it the most expensive member of the Challenger family, but it still seems like peanuts to pay for what is the most powerful eight-cylinder production car in the world.

2015 Chrysler 300S is as Big and Brash as it Gets: First Drive

2015 Chrysler 300S photo

My last run in with the Chrysler 300 left me hugely impressed at just how far the company had come since the early-2000’s. Back then, the marque as a whole, didn’t so much put out cars as it put out things that would inevitably rust into pieces. My wife’s Chrysler Sebring trunk literally fell apart in my hands. That said, everything about the new 300 showed Chrysler was making a concerted effort in attempting to build a great car. Finally.

The seats were nice and comfortable, the doors shut with a very Teutonic thud, and all the controls and surfaces felt well made. Chrysler had gone from laughable, to a serious luxury competitor in only a few years.

For 2015, Chrysler has once again re-imagined the 300 just in time for its 60th anniversary. And it’s safe to say that that upward trend has not just been maintained, but improved. Last week, I got the chance to take the new Chrysler 300S for a quick little joy ride around Chicago, and it is definitely worthy of being Chrysler’s top dog.

2015 Chrysler 300S image

Stepping into the new 300S is like stepping into a comfortable battleship. While the interior and exterior are all new, the size of this car hasn’t been revised in quite some time, and throws you a little off guard. Seriously, the 300 platform is huge. Thankfully, though, the interior is nowhere near as spartan as an aircraft carrier, or what the 300 once was even five years ago. Everything is nice and plush, just like it should be. Maybe not Range Rover quality, but definitely near Audi type luxury.

Being the car I drove was the 300S, it had a 5.7-liter V8, and seats were a bit, dare I say, sportier. Chrysler did an excellent job with the lumbar supports — it actually holds you in place when you turn it hard.

But one of the problems I’ve always had with Chrysler seats is where you actually sit. The lower half is always angled too far forward so that I feel like I’m sliding out of it. I’ve adjusted the seats every which way to alleviate the problem, but no matter what, I always encounter this problem. This car is no different. And when you’re trying to wrangle a V8-powered sedan, you want your seat to inspire confidence and not the worry of potentially sliding out if you step on the brakes a bit hard.

2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum dashboard image

However, where Chrysler really did a superb job was in the gauges and infotainment unit. Each of them are nice and big making for easy reading while rolling down the road. The center gauges are high quality and bright with a blue tint that makes them feel decidedly upscale. The UConnect system has got even better with every iteration, and this car’s infotainment system is no different. However, whereas much of the interior feels quite luxurious, there are some plastic-y areas that surround the dash and driver that don’t exactly match up with that luxury feel throughout the rest of the cabin. But it’s on the outside and under the hood that keep people coming back.

The Chrysler 300S is big, brash, and decidedly beautiful. Upping the ante from the base 300, the S spec looks much sharper. That includes a different front and rear fascia, new side skirts, and aggressive rims that set the car off perfectly. It exudes a mafia style menace that you really can’t get from any of the Germans at the moment. It’s a perfect exterior that matches the soul of this car. Though, it’s the addition of that wonderful 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that makes this car a complete home run.

2015 Chrysler 300S

Where the previous Pentastar V6 lacked a little character, the V8 is a whole different animal. It sets off the car perfectly. Between the gravelly baritone that comes out of the exhaust, and the straight-line pickup when you plant your foot to the floor, it makes for a much better experience. And while this is supposed to be a much more elegant V8 sedan, put your foot down at a complete stop and the tires will light up without much notice.

The new Chrysler 300S is still very much a product of the old American engineering. It’s big, a bit too much “look at me,” and hugely comfortable. But as Chrysler continues to strive for greatness, the car has gone from something that makes for an OK rental to something that is definitely worth considering when looking for a proper sedan. The overall size of the car doesn’t matter, or the fact that it still uses that heavy lump of a V8. It perfectly bridges the gap between the old and new and does so with a sense of purpose and grace.

2015 Chrysler 300S rear fascia image

Specs

Engine: 5.7L V8
Horsepower: 363 horsepower
Torque: 394 lb-ft of torque
Price: starts at $34,895

Pros:

Roomy and comfortable
V8 power that makes you giggle
Definitely comparable to Audi

Cons:

Seats aren’t super supportive
Still the size of a battleship
Chrysler still cut corners in certain areas

Little Jeep Renegade Trailhawk makes a big impression

Jeep appears to have nailed the formula for a small, capable and affordable SUV.

All-new 2015 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk

Jeep appears to have nailed the formula for a small, capable and affordable SUV with the ★★★★ 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

The subcompact SUV delivers value, room, comfort and off-road ability in an appealing and affordable package. Jeep developed the Renegade primarily to win new customers in Europe, Asia and South America, but it’s likely to find plenty of fans in the U.S., too.

Renegade prices start at $17,995 for a front-wheel-drive model with a 160-hp 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. Adding four-wheel drive raises the base price to $19,995. A step up is the 180-hp 2.4L four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed transmission. It starts at $21,295 for front-wheel drive and $23,295 for 4WD.

The Renegade offers two different 4WD systems. The more capable features a 20:1 crawl ratio for rough terrain and hill descent control. It comes on the Renegade Trailhawk, starting at $25,595.

The Renegade's off-road capability is a major selling

I tested a well-equipped Renegade Trailhawk with voice recognition, navigation, backup camera, power driver seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, iPod and Bluetooth compatibility, 6.5-inch touch screen and more. It stickered at $30,195. All prices exclude destination charges.

The Renegade will compete mainly with subcompact SUVs like the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, Mazda CX-3, Mini Countryman, Mitsubishi Outlander sport and Nissan Juke. None is likely to match the Renegade off-road.

The Renegade shares its platform and some parts with the upcoming Fiat 500X. The two look nothing alike and the 500X lacks the Jeep’s off-road gear.

The field of subcompact SUVs is still taking shape, but the Renegade’s price looks very competitive.

Jeep doesn’t offer memory for the driver’s settings, a feature I’d appreciate. About the only available features my car didn’t have were leather seats, blind spot/cross traffic monitor and removable roof panels.

The Renegade has a roomy interior and simple controls.

Just 166.6 inches long, the Renegade is 8.5 inches shorter than a Jeep Compass.

The Renegade is small even compared to other subcompact SUVs. It’s 2.5 inches shorter than the Honda HR-V and nearly two inches shorter than the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax.

Despite that, the Renegade is very roomy, with tons of headroom and good leg and shoulder room in the front and rear seats. Cargo capacity is useful, though at the small end of its class.

The styling, round headlights and seven-slot grille make the Renegade immediately recognizable as a Jeep. The high roof and upright sides lend themselves to big windows and good sight lines. Combined with the Renegade’s large side mirrors, I barely missed blind-spot alert, one of my favorite features.

The interior materials are pretty good. My car had cloth upholstery. The dash and armrests were covered in attractive, padded vinyl.

Fiat Chrysler’s controls are among the auto industry’s best. My vehicle combined excellent voice recognition with touch screen, buttons, dials and switches.

On a reasonably challenging off-road course north of Montreal, the little Jeep overcame snow and ice that would almost certainly stymie its competitors.

The Renegade performed equally well on road. The 2.4L engine provided plenty of oomph for zipping through Montreal traffic. The Renegade was a comfortable highway cruiser on the nine-hour drive. The Renegade was quiet at highway speeds, despite its boxy shape and the snow tires required by Quebec law.

The automatic transmission hesitated a bit before downshifting to pass at highway speeds, probably to maximize fuel economy.

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

The Renegade’s small size and quick steering makes it a breeze to park, even in the narrow streets of Old Montreal.

The Renegade Trailhawk’s fuel economy is at the low end of its segment, as you’d expect from a vehicle that has more power and off-road ability than its competitors. The EPA rates the 4WD 2.4L at 21 m.p.g. in the city, 29 on the highway and 24 combined. That’s lower than the other subcompact SUVs, but unlikely to be an issue for buyers who want the Trailhawk’s capability. The base 1.4L Renegade should get better fuel economy, but the EPA hasn’t released test results yet.

This little Jeep seems destined to be a big success.

Auto review: 2015 Dodge Journey goes Crossroad

The category-conflating 2015 Dodge Journey Crossroad is like a minivan, but conveniently without the van. But it’s also a bit like a crossover, or a small wagon. Automotive journalist Casey Williams dubs it “flexible.” Frank Espich/The Star

2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad

Extended side sills and front facia with pseudo brush bars are more style than substance, but look buff. A gloss-black grille and fog lamp surrounds, black headlamps bezels and shiny ebony taillamps bezels imbue sinister leanings.

The on-demand all-wheel-drive system on the 2015 Dodge

Echoing the front, rear facias wear platinum chrome accents.

A “Crossroad” badge on the rump and 19-inch Hyper Black five-spoke alloys tell you to step back — then step inside.

Stepping up means moving up with standard black leather seats with sport mesh inserts and Light Slate Grey stitching. They go well with complementary stitching on the center armrest and door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel and hide-covered shift knob. Liquid Graphite finish graces the instrument panel, gauges, center console, door pulls and steering wheel trim.

Style aside, the Journey’s abundant flexibility remains. Second- and third-row seats fold flat into the floor while the front passenger seat contains storage under the bottom cushion and folds forward to haul long items from dash to tailgate. When deployed for passenger duty, second-row seats recline and contain integrated child booster seats.

Removable storage bins in the floor hold dirty active wear, toys, wet doggie blankets or iced soda. It’s like a minivan without the van. Illuminated cup holders and keyless entry/starting come standard.

Crossroad buyers have a choice of engines wired to the push-button starter. Base models come with a 2.4-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that delivers 173 horsepower, 166 lb.-ft. of torque, and 26 mpg highway. It’s linked to a four-speed automatic transmission.

I’d skip that juice and move on to the optional award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 that pumps 283 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Connected to mostly smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission, it only gives up 1 mpg highway. That’s the grits.

Journey Crossoroad is a car-based wagon, so no matter what you tack onto its flanks, it will never be a Ram Outdoorsman. Still, the on-demand all-wheel-drive system keeps it moving on slick pavement, light trails and a foot of snow.

In normal low-speed operation, the engine drives just the front wheels to maximize fuel economy. Between 25 and 65 mph, power is sent to the rear wheels to enhance handling and give a more neutral feel while cornering. Snow, ice and low-traction surfaces are handled automatically.

I’ve thought the Dodge Journey is an under-appreciated three-row wagon since first driving it in the desert outside Las Vegas seven years ago. It started out with a plastic-laden interior, underdeveloped chassis and boring styling, but has evolved into roomy and stylish family car.

A base price of $20,295, or $34,750 as tested, makes it a pretty good deal, too.

2015 Dodge Journey Crossroad

Basics: Seven-passenger, AWD crossover.

Powertrain: 283 hp 3.6-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission.

Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind.

Wheels: 19-inch/19-inch alloy f/r.

Brakes: Disc/disc fr/rr.

Must-have features: Style, utility.

Fuel economy: 16/24 mpg city/hwy.

Assembly: Toluca, Mexico.

Base/as-tested price: $20,295/$34,750.