3/1/2008 | 6 MINUTE READ

Dodge's Crossover: The Journey

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Every vehicle manufacturer seems to need a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) nowadays. With a lineup that includes SUVs like the Nitro and the Durango, Chrysler has launched a new entry into the CUV market: The Journey.


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The Journey is built along side the Chrysler PT Cruiser in a plant in Mexico, the Toluca Assembly Plant. The plant, which has been in operation since 1968, is part of a complex that Chrysler has in Toluca (which is west of Mexico City), which includes stamping operations as well as assembly. Chrysler recently invested $1-billion in the plant in order to accommodate the production of the Journey along with the PT Cruiser. The investment included expansion-55,478-ft2 were added-and modification-20,142 ft2 were adjusted to facilitate body and assembly operations. To make the body shop flexible, there are 323 robots, 40 sealer systems, 196 servo weld guns, floor subassembly systems, body side aperture systems, and nine vision systems. Additionally, there is a flexible pallet insertion system that handles the installation of seven different engines and nine transaxles (realize that both vehicles are being produced, and there are four different engines and six transaxle combos for the Journey and three engines and three transaxles for the PT Cruiser; it should be noted that the Journey, which was first unveiled in Germany at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is destined for markets outside North America, which explains the number of possible engines, even though there are but two available in the U.S.). Chrysler also facilitated the creation of a supplier park, which helps the function of the Sequential Part Delivery (SPD) system. In this system, primary supplier-supplied subsystems (e.g., instrument panel module assembly (from Intier Automotive), front-end module (from HBPO), front and rear suspensions (from TRW Automotive)) are sent in sequence, based on a broadcast build schedule, to the assembly plant and delivered to the line for installation. This minimizes inventory and makes it simpler to respond to changes in demand for specific types of vehicles. 



The two-box design of the Journey is, on the one hand, a means by which it can be differentiated from a minivan, yet, like a minivan, the Journey is engineered so as to be nearly as accommodating of people and stuff as a minivan. There are two configurations: two- and three-rows of seating (five or seven passengers). The rear doors are not sliders like those on a minivan, but they pivot open 90° to facilitate ingress and egress. If the three-row configuration is selected, then the second row has what's called "Tilt 'n Slide" functionality: by turning a lever on the side of the seat, the seat cushions fold upward and the seat slides forward. It is a one-hand operation. There is also what is known as the "child presenter" function of the 60/40 split second row: the seat has a total of 4.7 in. of travel, thereby allowing a child in the second row of seats to be positioned more closely to the front row. (Speaking of children, there is also an optional integrated child booster seat for the second row.) The are several bins and containers in the Journey, including the "Flip 'n Stow" front passenger seat: the seat cushion is hinged forward so that it can be pulled up toward the glovebox (a two-box glovebox, with the top section the "Chill Zone" for beverage cooling), thereby revealing a 10.75 x 8.75-in. bin that can be used to store various items like a purse or camera. In the floor behind the front-row seats there are two additional covered bins that are capable of holding 12 12-oz. cans and ice or other items. And, depending on which seating configuration is selected, there are in-floor bins behind the second and third rows of seats. All of the seats (with the exception of the driver's seat) can be folded flat; this would allow the conveyance of something 9 ft. long within the Journey. The clever seats are sourced from Johnson Controls. Asked about the bins, where the idea came from for them, Scott Anderson, senior designer responsible for the vehicle interior, responds, "The bins are ours."


 The "Flip 'n Stow" front passenger seat. Lift up the cushion and there's room to store items you might want to keep out of sight. 


The "Tilt 'n Slide" second row seat facilitates access to the third row. By simply moving one lever, the seat cushions fold and the seat moves forward on its track. 


These bins behind the front row seats are standard.


The vehicle is built with an amalgam of materials, from front to back. As in the hood being stamped aluminum and the lift gate a composite. (The liftgate, sourced from Inoplastic Omnium, is said to be 20% lighter than a comparable steel part.) More than one-third of the body structure mass, 36%, is high-strength or ultra-high-strength steel. Hot-stamped steel is used for the A- and B-pillars. Dual-phase steel is used for the front and rear rails, tunnel reinforcements, and sills. In addition to conventional spot welds, there is extensive use of structural adhesives to add strength to the vehicle. Expandable polyurethane foam (PUR) is injected into cavities in the body structure to attenuate noise transmission. Mastic is baked onto the floor pan to dampen vibrations.


The tailgate is a composite. The hood is aluminum. And more than 30% of the body structure is high or ultra-high strength steel. 


There are two engines and two transmissions: a 2.4-liter (173 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 166 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm) inline four-the "World Engine" produced by the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance-and a 3.5-liter (235 hp @ 6,400 rpm; 232 lb.-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm) V6; the 2.4-liter comes standard with a four-speed automatic; a six-speed automatic is standard on the V6. While the standard vehicle is front-wheel drive, there is an optional all-wheel drive system based on a electronically controlled coupling (rather than a viscous-coupling or gerotor system); in addition to providing traction on slippery surfaces, the AWD system is setup to provide improved performance when traveling at speeds between 25 and 65 mph.


The SXT and R/T trim level Journeys have a standard 3.5-liter, 235-hp V6. The other trim, SE, has a standard 2.4-liter, 173-hp four. 



The Journey is based on the Chrysler D-segment platform. It is the same one used for the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring. However, because those are sedans and the Journey is a CUV, changes were made. For example, the wheelbase is increased to 113.8 in. from 108.9 in. The overall length is also greater: 192.4 in. compared with 190.9 in. It is wider, as well: 72.2 in. compared with 71.8 in. (From the B-pillar forward, the architecture of the CUV and the sedans is the same.) The Journey is built at the Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico; the Avenger and Sebring are built at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant in Michigan. Which sort of begs the question: If the Journey is built in Toluca with the PT Cruiser, why not build the Journey on the PT Cruiser platform rather than the D-segment platform? And so we ask Larry Lyons, Chrysler vice president, Car and Minivan Product Team. He points out that the PT Cruiser is built on its own platform. Why not use it? "It's too small, too narrow, and not V6 capable. Otherwise, it's perfect," Lyons answers with a smile. The Journey (like the Sebring and Avenger) is available with a four- or six-cylinder engine; the PT Cruiser has a four.


This is the Dodge Avenger. A sedan (obviously). But what isn't so obvious is that the Avenger and the Journey are based on the same platform, codenamed "D," although the Journey has increased dimensions to accommodate more passengers (a three-row version is available) and cargo.


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