• The mid-level Journey SXT will add the crossover's 2.4-liter I-4
  • The engine will likely increase sales by lowering the SXT's base price
  • Dodge will still offer the muscular Pentastar V6 as optional equipment

Dodge is expanding the availability of the entry-level 2.4-liter four-cylinder powerplant in its midsize Journey crossover. The automaker recently announced that the engine will soon become standard equipment on the mid-level Journey SXT, which formerly featured Chrysler's robust Pentastar V6 as standard equipment.

Previously available only on base-level Journey SE and "American Value Package" trim levels, the SXT's new four-cylinder engine produces 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. While the motor isn't as potent as the Pentastar V6, its main benefit is fuel economy, recording 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. According to Chrysler, the new four-cylinder is only available on front-wheel drive Journey models and uses an antiquated four-speed automatic as its sole transmission.

But car shoppers interested in the Journey might want to consider the new four-cylinder SXT model for more than just its improved fuel economy. According to Chrysler, the addition of the four-cylinder powerplant lowers the 2012 Journey SXT's starting price from today's figure of $25,295 to just $23,795 with shipping. That means the SXT's upscale features - which include satellite radio, rear tinted windows, 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails - are now cheaper than ever before.

Of course, buyers interested in the Journey can still get the SUV with its 283-horsepower 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and available with front- or all-wheel drive. In addition to SE, American Value package and SXT trim levels, the Journey is also offered as an upscale "Crew" model, which adds luxury touches like 19-inch alloy wheels, a remote engine starter, automatic headlights and dual-zone automatic climate controls.

The Journey made its debut in late 2008 as a 2009 model. Assembled in Toluca, Mexico, the crossover rides on the same car-based platform as Chrysler's midsize 200 sedan and Jeep's Patriot and Compass crossovers. Competitors include midsize crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse, each of which offer six-cylinder engines and feature available third-row seating.

What it means to you: Chrysler is looking to expand the Journey's popularity by adding a four-cylinder engine to its high-volume SXT model.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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