New & Used Dodge Journey: In Depth
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The Dodge Journey is a mid-size crossover SUV that gives families an alternative to similarly priced vehicles with only five seats. Some versions come with a third-row seat with two more spots for passengers--though the smaller the better, as you'll see if you try to squeeze in back.
Competitors for the Journey are many and include the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4. The Journey is based on the architecture that underpinned the last-generation Chrysler 200 and former Dodge Avenger. It is assembled in Mexico at the facility that used to produce the Chrysler PT Cruiser five-door.
MORE: Read our 2015 Dodge Journey review
Introduced for the 2009 model year, the Journey brought a new wagon style to a Dodge lineup that was in the process of shedding its larger but lower Dodge Magnum wagon. The styling evoked other Dodge vehicles in its aggressive front end, and carried more than a hint of the Jeep Grand Cherokee in its rear hatch. The interior proved to be more of a dated mess: the Journey's canted instruments and boxed gauges called up unhappy memories of the Dodge Omni hatchback of the 1980s.
Despite some miscues, the Journey came to market offering front- or all-wheel drive, with a choice of four- or six-cylinder engines, options for manual and automatic transmissions--a competitive-sounding package that fell short in smooth, ample performance. Carried over largely unchanged through the 2010 model year, the Journey had a 173-horsepower four-cylinder, a flat performer, and a 235-hp V-6 that wasn't much more encouraging in low-speed driving, though it was much more capable of passing maneuvers with less noise and angst. Decent ride quality matched up with acceptably responsive steering for a moderately pleasant driving experience. Fuel economy hit 19/25 mpg on four-cylinder models, and the V-6 front-drive Journey wasn't far behind at 16/24 mpg. The V-6 with AWD dropped to 15/23 mpg.
Chrysler retuned the Journey's chassis for the 2011 model year. It also replaced the aging 3.5-liter V-6 with a brand-new Pentastar 3.6-liter, making a respectable 283 horsepower and mated to a new six-speed automatic. The interior was also redone, with a cleaner and more modern design. The sheetmetal was untouched, with the only exterior changes concerning the grille and headlights.
Functionally it was carried over, and remains a flexible compact crossover to this day. The Journey can seat up to seven passengers, but adults will fit best in the front two seats. The optional third-row bench is for two children, max. But elsewhere, the Journey does a minivan-like job at storing stuff. The second row slides for more legroom, and front seats have storage built in beneath the seat cushion--it has lots of bins and cubbies under the seats and between passengers, as well as in its door panels.
The Journey scores well in safety testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway safety (IIHS) formerly gave it Top Safety Pick status, although it has not run the Journey through its new small overlap test to be able to keep that award, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given it a rating of four out of five stars overall. Standard safety items are plentiful, including four-wheel ABS disc brakes, active head restraints, stability and traction control, and a full load of airbags. The Journey also offers common add-ons like a rearview camera, as well as some rarer features, such as integrated second-row child seats.
Chrysler's uConnect multimedia controller is available, as is Bluetooth, while a USB port is standard. For 2013, 17-inch wheels were made standard even on the base AVP and SE models. The Journey used to offer in-car satellite TV, but those systems faded away when few buyers opted for them.
Late in the 2012 model year we drove the updated Dodge Journey SXT and found it to be well-packaged, well-performing, and improved to the point of being a very strong contender even against the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
Chrysler dropped prices significantly on the base 2012 Journey SE; and confusingly, from 2011 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2013, Chrysler changed its trim levels for the Journey as well as other models.
For 2014, Dodge introduced a Crossroad trim level for the Journey. Its name and design are supposed to evoke more of an Audi Allroad-like crossover wagon theme, but mechanically it is the same as the other trim levels. The Crossroad gets dark trim up front, with darkened headlight units, front and rear fascias that mimic the look of skidplates, and its own 19-inch wheel design, as well as unique upholstery with leather trim and mesh cloth seat inserts. Few changes were made to the Journey for the 2015 model year.
The Journey is around for another couple of years, but looking farther off it may be replaced by a new-generation model built on shared Fiat-Chrysler components. It may also be affected by the death of one of Chrysler's minivans; it looks as though Chrysler will keep some kind of crossover-style minivan, while Dodge is being realigned as a more exciting brand, possibly meaning the loss of the Grand Caravan. A Journey replacement would then be given more freedom to focus on handling and performance.