Bowing in publicly at the LA Auto Show, the 2011 Dodge Journey benefits from a host of wide-ranging upgrades that endow it with a bolder look, more potent motivation, enhanced ride quality and a much-needed comprehensive interior upgrading. Collectively those changes should put this mid-size crossover on a considerably faster track as it prepares to do battle in an intensively competitive segment against tough rivals like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Meaningful variations on the theme

Although its basic bodywork remains unchanged, the 2011 Dodge Journey does get a front fascia revamp that brings an amped-up "gunsight" grille with the new-gen Dodge badge, upscaled fog lamp bezels and a more aggressive lower intake extension on V6 models. Out back, the rear fascia boasts more interesting contours and is highlighted by new "ring of fire" LED taillamps. Restyled 19-inch alloy wheels also are part of the 2011 exterior remake.

Still offering room for up to seven, the 2011 Dodge Journey's cabin receives an even more far-ranging revamp. Key tweaks include a new one-piece dash with larger, more legible gauges and a standard electronic vehicle information center display. A new three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, a bigger and better padded tilt-and-slide center armrest and more supportive bucket seats are complemented by a repositioned shifter and cupholders, more user-friendly air vents and a larger center storage bin complete with a 12V powerpoint and USB port.

The Journey also benefits from Chrysler Group's new PowerNet electrical architecture that offers an available touch-screen command center as well as even better implementation of the Uconnect Touch system that simplifies internal navigation/multimedia interactions as well as various car-to-personal device hookups. Finally, to ensure a more peaceful environment for all aboard, the engineering team also tossed in a generous helping of additional sound insulation material.

While the base engine in the 2011 Dodge Journey remains the current 2.4-liter/173-horsepower World Engine four-cylinder, the existing 3.5-liter V6 gives way to the new 3.6-liter Pentastar alternative that makes 283 horses -- 20 percent more than the 3.5 -- and delivers 260 lb-ft of peak torque. Like the base I4, it gets mated to a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Both the front-drive and all-wheel-drive versions of the new Journey also benefit from revised suspension geometry, increased steering precision and upgraded tire fitments to deliver a smoother, more comfortable ride with even better control.

The 2011 Dodge Journey will go on sale later this year in five flavors. The Journey Express opens at $22,995, the Journey Mainstreet at $24,995, the Journey Crew at $29,990, the sporty Journey R/T at $28,995 and the top-line Journey Lux at $33,490.

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