New & Used Dodge Journey: In Depth
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The Dodge Journey is a mid-size crossover SUV that is great for the family with its available third row seating. It competes with the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and the Honda CR-V.
The Journey shares some mechanicals with the old Dodge Avenger and the last-generation Chrysler 200, but it's built in Mexico, at the plant that formerly built the Chrysler PT Cruiser hatchback.
MORE: Read our 2014 Dodge Journey review
Introduced for the 2009 model year, the Journey brought a new wagon style to the Dodge lineup--which was in the process of shedding its larger 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.
For the 2011 model year, Chrysler retuned the Journey's handling, replaced the old V-6 with a new 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter unit, and added a six-speed automatic. A new interior made for a striking update, while the Journey's sheetmetal was left mostly alone, with only minor tweaks to its grille and headlamps.
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.
Safety is a strong selling point for the Dodge Journey. The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) gives it four stars overall under its revised ratings system, while the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) calls it a Top Safety Pick. Standard safety equipment includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; and active head restraints and four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock control on all models. A rearview camera is available, as are integrated second-row child booster seats.
Like other Dodge utility vehicles, but distinctive in the entire auto business, the Journey offers three channels of satellite TV for back-seat passengers. it's kid-friendly stuff from the Nickelodeon empire--and it's a lifesaver on long road trips. Chrysler's uConnect multimedia controller is also 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.
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.
The Journey is around for another couple of years, but looking farther off it may be replaced for 2015 by a new-generation model built on shared Fiat-Chrysler components.