Discovery and Dodge: There’s Much Joy in a New Journey

“This particular Journey is a much better looking vehicle than I had anticipated and I’m impressed…”

AS 2015 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD-05

Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.

For 2015, Dodge introduces a new breed of Journey.

One that has more visual appeal, lots of power and a few features to keep your drive exciting, even when it isn’t.

Enter the Crossroad AWD edition. It’s clad in a Redline exterior pearl paint, and sparkles under the Californian sun or any sun for that matter.

Thanks to distinctive front and rear fascias with Platinum Chrome accents, Platinum Chrome side sills, Platinum Chrome roof rails, dark-tinted headlamps and tail lamps, and unique 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels, it tends to garner looks from all passersby.

This particular Journey is a much better looking vehicle than I had anticipated and I’m impressed with how it has evolved since its introduction in 2009. But it’s not just looks alone that make this crossover one of the best selling products in the Dodge lineup, and one that has earned numerous accolades.

Inside, a visually stimulating cabin also welcomes the driver and passengers.

First off, leather seats with sport mesh inserts come standard. Then you have Liquid Graphite appliques, a 213.4mm (8.4-inch) Uconnect touchscreen and a power driver’s seat and passenger fold flat seat with in-seat storage.

The in-seat storage is a feature I found exceptionally handy, particularly when I wanted to tuck away some miscellaneous items I purchased along the road. Or I wanted to keep my snacks out of the sun when driving hours on end in California!

Along the undulating SoCal roads, it was quite handy to have the 3.6L, Pentastar V6 engine under its hood for that extra bit of power I used climbing hills. It comes with a healthy helping of 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque and is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts with ease and smoothness.

Additionally, the Crossroad version has a temperate nature and one that is pleasant to drive for long hauls. It absorbs road imperfections without jarring the passengers inside.

The only snag comes when you want to accelerate quickly to pass someone. There’s a generous helping of torque steer so make sure you give yourself enough room in the lane to accommodate for it. Yes, it’s an all-wheel drive, so it’s not, by nature, prone to this type of action, but this particular vehicle was.

Despite its size, it doesn’t feel like a chore to manouevre. Especially when navigating through the In-n-Out Burger drive-thru for a pre road trip delicacy. Though there were only three people in the cabin of the Journey at any given time, there is room for up to seven people.

Furthermore, the third and second row fold down easily to load or unload larger ticket items, such as a road bike I had rented while in the Palm Springs area. When it comes to cargo space, behind the second row seats, you have a generous 1,000L, and behind the third row – when they are up – there’s 300L.

Ingress and egress is also a strong feature of the Journey. Despite its SUV DNA, the seats aren’t so high off the ground that it requires passengers, both young and young at heart, to hoist themselves up and in.

And I can’t forget to mention just how great it is to work with the Uconnect infotainment system. Entering in a destination into the navigation is probably the most intuitive and user-friendly in the industry. The 8.4-inch screen is large and therefore doesn’t require me to take my eyes off the road for longer than necessary.

Music through the speakers – via the SiriusXM stations or my playlists – kept me grooving even in rush hour traffic. With the countless kilometres logged on this Dodge, it wasn’t too hard to find much joy in this new Journey.

In fact, it was quite a treat.

The base MSRP of the 2015 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD is $35,395.

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Right spots, wrong car: Where to park a Dodge Viper in L.A.?

by Michael Banovsky

“They paved paradise to put up a parking lot,” is quite true, except in Los Angeles, where paradise is parking.

I’ve used the city’s ubiquitous parking lots as the hook to persuade Dodge to lend me a brand-new Viper SRT GTS, my bright red companion as I explore the most interesting ones in Los Angeles.

It took only about 30 years after the invention of the automobile for parking structures to appear, with the first built in Glasgow, Scotland sometime between 1906 and 1912. A multistorey garage was built in 1918 at Hotel La Salle in Chicago, commonly considered the first such building in the Americas. In the world of parking structures, however, there’s little room for nostalgia: the Botanic Gardens Garage is often in a state of legal limbo and the structure in Chicago was torn down some time ago.

Parking garages are different around the world, for good reason. In sprawling suburbia, land owners often try to keep them low, discreet, and capacious—lest they mar the background of a corporate training film. In cities such as Tokyo, cars are “parked” with the help of complex mechanical systems and then delivered one by one, like candy from a giant PEZ dispenser.

In still-car-crazy Los Angeles, things are a bit different.

Advertised as the luxurious city of the future and supported by both railroad companies and business associations to attract newcomers to California, a series of events through the ’10s and ’20s quickly turned Los Angeles into a hub that was driven by cars. As Matt Novak writes, L.A. went from more than 161,000 cars in 1920 to more than 800,000 by 1930.

“The city, unencumbered by the geographic restrictions of places like San Francisco and Manhattan quickly grew outward rather than upward; fueled by the car and quite literally fueled by the many oil fields right in the city’s backyard,” Novak says.

As a result, innovations like drive-throughs, supermarkets, service stations—and parking garages—spread like wildfire. It’s time to take a look.

— Moreno Valley Mall —

 

My first stop is Moreno Valley Mall in Moreno Valley, California, and it’s the closest the Viper will get to a race track. In 1957, this very site hosted the first race to be held at the Riverside International Raceway, a track that many older racers thought would be around forever, as Peter Brock tells me, because it was seen as so remote.

Now, that’s not the case. Los Angeles has raced to and swallowed up the historic track, with legal battles and land disputes ending with the gates closing in 1989. A shopping mall and subdivisions have been built in its place, with nothing remaining from the old track.

In period, a seminal 1957 race at Riverside launched the career of Dan Gurney, but in the years since, was the home of several serious accidents, as well as several movie and television productions—Grand Prix and Knight Rider included.

Today, it’s bleak and anonymous. It’s a suburban mall. I’m not one for malls or nostalgia, but they could’ve at least added a few chicanes to spice up the parking deck. Time to move on.

— The Grove —

Next, The Grove, a high-end shopping centre in the heart of Los Angeles. The Viper is a bit unwieldy in these close quarters, and the ramps between levels should be approached with caution.

This structure is on my list because I’m told that early in the morning it’s possible to get a great view of the city from the top deck; sadly, on this day I’d have to settle for the next floor down as the upper level was restricted to employees.

LA Weely says, “The top floor of The Grove parking lot is the absolute best place west of Griffith Park for sprawling, panoramic views of Los Angeles. Being dragged to a parking garage may not immediately mesh with a sightseer’s expectations, but there’s really little that compares with a patented, purple L.A. evening atop The Grove.”

Instead, I settled for a shot of the Viper among The Grove’s many imposing concrete columns. On the way out, I’m happy the Viper is one of the few cars here—I can’t imagine navigating this place when it’s busy.

—West Hollywood Library—

I’m not here for the parking garage itself—another disappointing mix of narrow lanes, cramped turns, and no upper deck—but for the murals painted onto the West Hollywood Library parking structure.

While I wasn’t able to capture the Viper alongside the mural by Kenny Scharf, the massive red, yellow, and black piece by Shepard Fairey matches the Viper perfectly. Known for the André The Giant-based OBEY image that now graces Fairey’s fashion label of the same name, it’s truly a work of art…located in a back alley away from tourist guidebooks.

Around the corner, however, I captured one of my favourite images of the Viper in front of the calligraphy-precise mural by RETNA. With the car in the frame, red, white, and blue never looked so good together.

Still searching for a great parking structure, however, I point the Viper toward Santa Monica.

—Santa Monica Place—

My first of two stops is one of the most recent parking garage developments in Santa Monica, a re-skin of an earlier Frank Gehry designed garage. Located next to the Santa Monica Place Mall, commenters online marvelled at its updated exterior by Brooks + Scarpa architects.

Indeed, from the street it’s an attractive—if cold—structure, and I’m eager to start taking photos.

Sadly, just when I park the car underneath the perfect “INDULGE YOURSELF” arrow, a security guard is less than pleased I’d have the gall to combine photography with parking, and asks me to leave. I hope my final stop will be more productive, only getting a huge Adidas ad on the way back out.

—Santa Monica Civic Center—

“It’s four blocks from the beach, but I think I’ve seen tourists getting their photos taken outside of it,” said James Mary O’Connor, principal architect for the Santa Monica Civic Center parking garage. I set up a quick interview with O’Connor after experiencing the structure for myself—by far the best of my tour.

O’Connor said that the City of Santa Monica had planned to erect a generic parking structure until being approached by the firm of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners to create something more innovative. It seems so obvious now, but at the time the firm had to pitch the city on building a more attractive, useful, and environmentally-friendly parking structure. But why parking?

“There are so many opportunities to design houses, museums, theatres, but it’s hard to stand out,” O’Connor said. Indeed, the structure has appeared across popular media, and he chuckles when I say I’ve jumped a car off of it in the video game Grand Theft Auto V.

With a colorful, easy-to-identify exterior, great views of the ocean from the top deck, a main floor café and other amenities, the building blends in quite well with the rest of downtown Santa Monica. Opening in 2007, plenty of attention has been directed toward the building because of something not normally associated with parking structures: sustainability.

As the first LEED-certified parking structure in the U.S., many of its charms are hidden behind its custom-painted German glass planks that adorn its exterior. Sustainable building materials, storm drain water treatment, and high-efficiency mechanical systems are hidden to visitors—but the solar panels on the roof are a visible sign that this is no ordinary parking garage.

Not yet, at least. But as our cities evolve, our transportation and parking will evolve to match. Now, nine years after this innovative structure opened to the public, I pilot the Viper through its well-designed core and park on the top deck.

Gaps between the solar panels let light dance across the Viper’s skin, the smell of the ocean is in the air, and the view is grand. It’s nice up here. As far as parking garages go, it’s the best one I’ve been to in Los Angeles.

For what it’s worth, the Viper seems at home, too.

Texas Ranger Edition Truck represents Ram relationship

Texas Ranger Edition Truck represents Ram relationship

2015 Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept truck

FCA’s Ram Brand has doubled down on its relationship the Texas Rangers.  A year ago, the company donated $100,000 to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, which is undergoing a complete renovation.

This time, Bob Hegbloom, Ram Brand President, unveiled a one-of-a-kind concept truck designed to celebrate the role of the Texas Rangers from their founding in 1823 to its 200th anniversary in 2023. The truck will tour Texas and become a display when the renovation is completed.

By way of some Ranger history, the first Rangers protected ranches, farms and settlements on the frontier. The nation’s oldest state law enforcement agency served under the Mexican, Republic of Texas, United States, Confederate Texas and the U.S. again during its history. Today, the agency has 213 full-time employees including 150 commissioned Rangers. Reflecting the times, it addresses border security, joint operations, intelligence, and special weapons and tactics.

The truck, first shown at the Dallas Auto Show, is based on the Ram 1500, the highly acclaimed pickup that is the first in its segment to offer a diesel engine. That power plant today accounts for about 20% of Ram 1500 sales.

On the outside, the Ranger edition is identified by badging that represents the Mexican five-peso coins from which the iconic star badge was derived. The five-point aluminum emblems are visible on the front driver and passenger fenders. An additional one is featured on the tailgate. The 20-inch polished-aluminum wheels also get the symbol on the center caps.

2015 Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept truck

The truck — one-of-a-kind — is painted bright White with a compatible bright silver metallic — represents the white hats and silver badges identified with the Texas Rangers.

On the interior, design cues also play off the Ranger heritage. The brown and tan leather and tooled details — both in aluminum and in stitching, are the same as those on the Laramie Longhorn edition, which is pure Texas. But this is no off-the-shelf commemorative. Real Mexican five-peso silver coins are inlaid in the wood portion of each door bolster — front doors are “heads” and rear doors are “tails”. The wood, repeated throughout the truck is open-pore walnut.

The instrument panel badge notes the 1823 founding year of Texas Rangers and the center stack, console, door spears and seat trim bezels have a simulated metal decorative finish.

2015 Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept truck - Cluster

One feature which captured a lot of broad interest was the vault that is hidden underneath the console lid. While it cannot be described as a gun vault, it was clear that it could serve that purpose if it became available as a Ram Truck accessory.

Other interior adornments set the Texas Ranger edition apart included special seat badges, badging on the gauge cluster, a graphic theme on the UConnect center console stack, and several others that shout that this is a special Texas edition.

A possible production run has not be ruled out, but I don’t expect it to be announced any time soon. Of course, a 2023 Ram 1500 special edition featuring any new bells and whistles that the brand adds between now and then would certainly be a bang up way to celebrate that 200th anniversary.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392 Review

2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392

Dodge has been on a roll with their performance driven vehicles, even when it comes to the four-door version. The new 2015 Dodge Charget SRT 392 is a perfect example of the U.S. automaker’s dedication to the muscle.

We spent a week with the new Charger SRT 392 and were blown away by its capabilities. Sure, on the outside it looks like a family sedan, and that’s because it is, but what’s underneath the hood is 100 percent muscle car. Powering the car is a potent 392 6.4-liter HEMI engine that can pump out 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Not many family sedans can achieve this feat. Mated to this engine is an agile TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, complete with rev-matching. To say this transmission is quick on the up and downshifts is an understatement. This transmission allows your to utilize every bit of power the HEMI can muster, without losing it between shifts.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392

Being an SRT, there are a lot of added features in the 2015 Charger SRT 392. Some of the most useful additions, aside from the mechanical, come in a technological form. On the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen media center, a multitude of performance-based options are available. Here you can change between Drive Modes, which include Eco, Default, Sport, Track and Custom. The most interesting mode is Custom, where the driver can control the gear shifts, engage the paddle shifters, change traction control settings, soften or harden the suspension and change the how the steering behaves. This just goes to show that Dodge is really pushing for a car that is capable of being both a daily driver and a fun weekend car on the track.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392

And why wouldn’t you want to take this car everywhere? It’s gorgeous. The front and the rear have been updated with headlights and taillights that feature LED lights , which make a world of difference. This addition is what really pushed the 2015 model year Charger ahead, in terms of looks. Inside is a comfortable cabin for both the driver and side passenger, as well as the rear passengers. Sitting in the driver’s seat, the chairs feature large side bolsters and comfortable padding: a perfect combination for a muscle family car. And, you’ll need that comfort and extra support when you are trying out the car’s launch control.

While the Charger SRT 392 may not be the almighty Charger SRT Hellcat, it is still a fantastic car. It has power, looks, comfort and four doors. Those four aspects are not typically talked about unless you are referring to a high-end luxury brand. Do yourself a favor and check out the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392 if you are looking for a car that can haul from the grocery store and on the race track.

Dodge Charger — Making a case for the V-6

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Mention Dodge Charger these days and it conjures up images of a full-sized sedan that’s horsepower heavy making it the fastest family sedan on earth. The Charger comes in a staggering seven trim levels and with four engine choices — SE, SXT, R/T, R/T Road & Track, R/T Scat Pack, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat. The four engines include three muscle maniacs — a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 making 370 horsepower, a 6.4-liter V-8 developing 485 horsepower, and the headline-grabbing 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 Hellcat making a gargantuan 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

But beyond the muscle car guise, the Charger is still mostly used as a full-sized family sedan powered by the fourth engine, a more responsible award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 making a very useable 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. And it’s the only model that can be ordered with all-wheel drive.

For 2015 the Charger offers a compelling choice in the segment because it comes with new, more chiseled styling; an upgraded interior; a full range of safety features; and a new eight-speed automatic transmission across the lineup.

Prices across this vast array of choices start at a family-friendly $28,990 (including destination) for the SE to a whopping $67,085 for the Hellcat. In-between, the choices are many and the options are seemingly endless.

The base version of the Charger, which with just a handful of options, puts a stylish and well-equipped vehicle into your garage. And we discovered during our test drive that took us over a variety of back roads, city streets and interstate highways that the Charger is commendably quiet at all speeds and provides a comfortable ride without the big-sedan wallow of yesteryear. Thanks to the well-tuned electric power steering, the Charger offers precise steering feel and tracks quite nicely on the highway. And we were impressed at how well the Charger handled our usual rural paved road “test track.”

It seems the new eight-speed automatic has made the powerful V-6 engine even more responsive. (When we last drove the Pentastar Charger engine in 2011 it was mated to a five-speed.) We never encountered even a minute when we wished for more power in real-life driving situations. The V-6 has been measured from 0-to-60 in around 6.5 seconds and 15.3 seconds at 95 mph in the quarter mile. This is accomplished with above average gas mileage for a big car weighing in at nearly two tons — 19 mpg city, 31 highway and 23 overall. Note that mileage falls off for all-wheel drive models, rated at 18/27/21.

Since the Chrysler re-invention the company has upped its game with stylish, user-friendly interiors that are as good as any in the industry at the various price points. Quality materials are used throughout, but expect some hard plastics in the lower trims such as our SE test car, but we found nothing offensive.

Our primary test car did not come with navigation so we got the base 5-inch information screen for radio and climate control readouts, and it worked well. If you move up to the SXT trim as we did, (a $2,000 bump) numerous options become available including navigation and a rear backup camera for an affordable $995. That brings the very useable 8.4-inch touchscreen interface with its large virtual buttons and its outstanding satellite radio readout.

The front seats are large, comfortable and roomy. Rear-seat room is plentiful for two passengers, but a center rider will find the position uncomfortable. Leg room is decent as it should be in a full-sized sedan. Trunk room is good at 16.5 cubic feet.

In the safety department, moving from SE to SXT also brings the blindspot monitoring option that we think should be available as standard equipment across the lineup. It comes in the Technology Group package for $1,995. The package also includes adaptive cruise control, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, rain sensitive windshield wipers, advanced brake assist, lane departure warning, and several other features.

If your budget screams at you to stick with the SE we found it to be a complete car for around 30 grand. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone manual air conditioning, six-way power driver’s seat, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, full power accessories, cruise control, and keyless entry and ignition.

The manufacturer added a couple of worthwhile options to our SE test car including the Sport Equipment package that brings 18-inch satin carbon aluminum wheels, and a Popular Equipment package for an affordable $595 that includes satellite radio, remote start, and rear park assist bringing the bottom line to $30,580.

Essentials
Base price: $28,990; as driven, $30,580
Engine: 3.6-liter V-6
Horsepower: 292 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm
Torque: 260 foot-pounds @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 120.2 inches
Length: 198.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,966 pounds
Turning circle: 37.7 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 31 highway, 19 city, 23 combined
0-60: 6.5 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Kia Cadenza

The Good
• Powerful, fuel-efficient V-6
• Roomy interior
• Muscular styling
• Excellent 8.4-inch touchscreen

The Bad
• Pricey with popular options

The Ugly
• Many safety features come in expensive packages

Driver’s Seat: Made-in-Italy Jeep is a real Renegade

The 2015 Jeep Renegade´s lineage may give some pause - the vehicle is built in Melfi, Italy.

The 2015 Jeep Renegade’s lineage may give some pause – the vehicle is built in Melfi, Italy.

2015 Jeep Renegade Limited 4WD: A smaller, (allegedly) lower-priced Jeep for a new kind of customer.

Price: The test model started at $26,995 and rose to more than $31,000 with options ($995 for lane-departure and collision warnings, and park assist; $595 for security with cross-path detection; $295 for keyless start; more below). A front-wheel-drive version can be had for as low as $17,995.

Marketer’s pitch: “Let instinct drive.”

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com liked that it had “lots of character; agile handling; plenty of easy-to-use technology features; best-in-class off-road capability for Trailhawk model” but not its “middling fuel economy with 2.4-liter engine; tight rear-seat leg room.”

Reality: Instinct is really the lowest form of animal behavior.Very unJeeply? The new Renegade takes full advantage of the Fiat-Chrysler matrimony, giving the new Italian-built cousin (sharing some components with the Fiat 500X) a rugged-looking Jeepskin. But the Renegade still serves Jeep fans well with the off-road Trailhawk model.

But the preproduction Renegade test model still had a few kinks to be worked out.

Renegade seats: Upon sitting down, my first move was seat adjustment. I hit the slider to move the seat forward and back – nothing. After getting the seat to rise a bit, I couldn’t move it down. Back and forth remained sporadic.

It made for an uncomfortable week.

Renegade heat: I might have written off the seat malfunction if not for some trouble with heaters on my second trip. I fired up the Renegade on a warm night and noticed the seat and steering wheel heaters were on, buttons I had never touched.

I turned off the seat heater, which obeyed. But when I tried the steering wheel heater, no dice.

Preproduction: A Fiat-Chrysler spokesperson told me the steering wheel issue was being addressed, and the seat control issue was something new.

Shifty: Power is sent to the Renegade’s wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. But the Renegade’s transmission stands out among Chrysler products because it is shiftable.

The transmission is no match for the underpowered four and the heavy Renegade body. Sixth gear is about the highest that’s useful for country roads, and for most of the slightest grades on limited-access highways, as well.

Up to speed: The Renegade is not a dog, though. For its size and shape, it accelerated just fine, but it liked to let the driver know how hard those 184 horses were working. Its power delivery was never smooth.

On the road: Edmunds may have found the handling agile, but I’d call it “quirky.” On highway control, the Renegade definitely lived up to its name – one who deserts a party for another. I’d be zipping along into a curve, and could distinctly feel the steering shift ever so slightly.

Inside: The interior is quite handsome and well-appointed. But Jeep lovers are a tough breed, so the Renegade’s leather seats are too stiff for Mr. Driver’s Seat’s tender seat.

Play some tunes: The entertainment system (part of the $1,295 Navigation/Sirius XM package) has plenty of buttons outside the touchscreen to control functions. Source buttons across the bottom supplement the volume and tuning dials.

Friends and stuff: Unlike Edmunds, I thought the rear seat provided plenty of room for 5-foot-10 riders like myself, although feet need to stay in place. Headroom is awesome. A middle seat passenger should not suffer too terribly from the hump or the console.

Night shift: Interior lighting cast a subtle brightness, and the headlights shone where they needed to.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 24 mpg in the usual Mr. Driver’s Seat mix of highway and suburban driving. Regular unleaded is fine for this engine, but the base model’s 1.4-liter selfishly wants premium.

Where it’s built: Melfi, Italy.

How it’s built: No reliability data are available from Consumer Reports on this model yet, but Fiats and Jeeps tend toward the black-circle, far-below average category.

In the end: With the reliability ratings of Jeep and Fiat, I’d steer clear. But if the handsome styling or off-road capability appeals to you, I’d say see if the kinks get worked out. Maybe a 2016 will be better.