Can Millions of Fireflies Outshine the 2016 Dodge Journey SUV?

A Girls Guide To Cars | Can Millions Of Fireflies Outshine The 2016 Dodge Journey Suv? - Dsc 0453

They’re flirting. I’m solo. And I’m OK with that.

This past month I had the chance to make a long-awaited pilgrimage to experience an amazing display of synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These unique fireflies, called Photinus carolinus, put on a light show that rivals any fireflies you’ve ever seen, blinking in synchrony for about seven to ten days each year sometime between late May and early June. Thousands of male fireflies flash in almost perfect unison in order to signal their existence to females looking for a mate. When they all get going, waves of sparkling light fill the woods in six-second intervals before going completely dark. It is an amazing spectacle.

Dodge Journey

Pausing to take in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

2016 is also the National Parks Service Centennial celebration, which made my trip to the Smokies all the more timely. Although my three daughters and I do lots of roadtripping, I couldn’t entice any of them to join me for this one. What kinds of kids say they don’t want to miss a few days of school to go to a national park?

In their defense, the trip fell pretty close to the end of the school year for them and joining me would have meant possibly missing something important. Of course, my teenage daughter’s comment was, “I don’t really want to drive 12-hours to watch fireflies having sex.” I rolled my eyes at her. And besides, they’re just flirting.


Dodge Journey

The smart looking 2016 Dodge Journey in Redline Red. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

My vehicle for my National Park road trip was the very versatile 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus with all-wheel drive, a midsize crossover that arrived in my driveway looking pretty smart in its shiny coat of Redline Red.

Unexpected style and comfort on a long road trip

While the model I drove was eye-catching, I thought the design itself was rather unremarkable. But what the Journey lacks in exterior styling it makes up for with a sleek, chic cabin with soft-touch materials, stylish contrasting stitching, and attractive lines throughout.

Spending an early June week in the Smokies, I especially appreciated the cloth inserts on the Journey’s leather-trimmed seats because who wants to scald their tush getting back into the car on a hot day! The seats themselves are nicely contoured with ample legroom in both the front and second rows. I was quite comfortable during both my long road trips to and from the park as well as in my around town driving.

Dodge Journey

The sleek chic cabin of the 2016 Dodge Journey. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

Unlike other crossovers in its class, the Journey offers a third row bench and the seating throughout is well-configured for families. Second row seats have a flip up cushion to create built in boosters for younger children, which means less for parents to schlep. When that cushion is in place, those seats are comfortable enough for adults and teens, and they slide forward to provide access to the back.

Dodge Journey

Built in boosters for the little ones. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

I will say, though, that even though the center seats slide forward, it’s a somewhat tight entry to the third row, making that space best for younger kids with not-so-long-legs—I can’t see trying to get a grown up back there. As a mom of three who really needs that third row, I’ve come to learn that a tight fit is the norm in all vehicles with the exception of minivans and the largest SUVs.

Dodge Journey

Extra seating in the third row for smaller passengers, or flip the seats down for more cargo space. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The extra seating capacity is a pleasure, though it does limit the use of the cargo space to a few bags of groceries. If a family of five or six wanted to do a big camping trip, a roof box would definitely be a required addition.

Clever storage spaces to make life easier

The Journey is a master in the art of small, built in storage spaces. My girls were delighted to find in-floor cubbies in front of their seats and I was glad to have one in the cargo area to stash a few items that I didn’t want rolling around the trunk.

The console between the front seats offered ample storage as well, with a large, deep area where I could stash a smaller purse along with a key/coin tray that balanced on the top. With so many irons in the mothering-fire, I find myself misplacing things the second I put them down. With the Journey’s keyless start feature, that little tray became my go-to spot to stash the key, which helped my overwhelmed brain to keep track of it.

Dodge Journey

My girls loved the extra handy storage spaces, this one in the center row floor. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars


Dodge Journey

This handy little tray was my go to spot for the car keys. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

One brilliant feature: You can’t lock the key in the car

On that note, you should know that the Journey doesn’t allow you to lock it when the key is still in the car—something I experienced much to my delight. I was running back to my hotel room for my camera and, thinking my room key was the car key, locked the Journey and shut the door. The Journey let me know that it detected the key in the car, prohibiting the doors from locking and saving me a ton of hassle!

Can the Journey’s V6 engine take twisty Smoky Mountain roads?

Dodge Journey

Beautiful vehicle, beautiful view! Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

After a couple of thousand miles in the Journey, I really didn’t want to have to give it back. The all-wheel drive model I drove came equipped with a peppy V6 engine that offered plenty of get up and go, yet I was disappointed in the fuel efficiency—I was averaging between 20-21 mpg for mostly highway driving. Additionally, on long trips I like to use cruise control to help maintain a steady speed, yet I found the Journey’s cruise control a bit of a challenge to use; it didn’t seem to be able to maintain even speeds during changing road grades.

Dodge Journey

Easy handling for the twisting mountain roads that led to picturesque spots like this one. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

But in terms of handling, the Journey was great, both on long stretches of highway and through the twisty, mountain terrain in the national park. I enjoyed driving along the gorgeous Newfound Gap Road and the Journey navigated the many hairpin, switchback turns like a charm.

Technology entertained on a solo road trip

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is just about 12-hours one-way from my home in New York. Going solo meant that I was on my own to stay entertained and alert—sure my girls tend to bicker on long road trips, but they’re still pretty good company.

Dodge Journey

It was easy to sync my phone, and I appreciated having push-button access on a long trip by myself. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

As a result, I loaded my phone with the first two of the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante—books my best friend has been trying to get me to read for months—and spent hours captivated by the story—something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do had my kids been along for the ride. I alternated between the Ferrante and the Journey’s abundant satellite radio channels, which was another thrill since my girls give me a hard time when I want to listen to my ’80s stations and my husband isn’t a fan of my beloved classic rock. Three cheers for the solo road trip!

The Journey came equipped with the Uconnect Access infotainment system, which I found to be quite user-friendly. I had no problems syncing my iPhone to the Bluetooth and enjoyed the ease of the hands-free, voice activated system—though it sometimes took a few tries to get it to recognize what I was saying. Still, being able to communicate with my family back home during my 24-plus hours on the road was a pleasure. The 8.4-inch touchscreen offered good visibility and I liked that it wasn’t overloaded with a million buttons and knobs, making it fairly intuitive to figure out. The screen also doubles as a back-up camera, a super added-safety feature that I wish I had in my 2006 minivan.

Dodge Journey

The built in trip computer keeps all the necessary information right in front of you. Photo: Gina Vercesi for AGirlsGuidetoCars

The Journey also has a built in trip computer that allows you to toggle between all variety of information, from vehicle speed to fuel economy, and essential vehicle information. It takes a minute to get the hang of how to work the system, but when you do you’ve got a wealth of information in front of you.

Overall, I found the 2016 Journey is a great family crossover at an attractive price and it did a great job getting me around during my Smoky Mountain firefly adventure.

What I loved

  • Excellent value for families
  • Keyless entry and start – especially since it kept me from locking my keys in the car
  • Built in boosters in the 2nd row
  • Third row fits extra kids
  • Spacious rear cargo space – up to 67 cubic feet
  • Lots of fun cubby areas for stashing your stuff throughout the cabin
  • Comfortable, leather trimmed seats with a plush fabric center cushion
  • Uconnect system and Sirius XM radio with tons of great channels

What you need to know

  • Base price: $29,795; price for the model I drove, with heated leather seats, navigation, 2nd row boosters and remote start: $34,660
  • Fuel economy: 16 mpg in the city, 24 on the highway; 19 combined
  • Takes regular gasoline
  • The rear of the cabin has no power adapters or charging ports
  • The Journey doesn’t offer a sunroof option even at the higher price point
  • Available in both five and seven passenger configurations
Dodge Journey

Dodge Journey monroney

Note: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles loaned me the Dodge Journey for this review; opinions expressed are my own.

Gina Vercesi is a mother, writer, runner, hiker, foodie, nature girl, and road trip warrior with an adventurous spirit... More about Gina Vercesi