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2011 Dodge Journey: First Drive Page 2

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2011 Dodge Journey

2011 Dodge Journey

Look aside from the fleet-ish four-cylinder, four-speed drivetrain that keeps the Journey's pricetag under $20,000. With its trade-offs in shift quality, you'll still want to opt up to the Journey's new Pentastar V-6 option. It replaces the old 235-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that felt old and hoary when it first made the rounds, back in Chrysler's Mitsubishi period. The new V-6 is a bit riper, a bit more plush-sounding, and even if it doesn't feel quite up to its stated 283 horsepower, it's a magnitude better than what passed before. The new six-speed automatic's shift quality? Give it a mulligan for now. In the Journey, and both the related Avenger and Chrysler 200 sedans, we picked up on some shuddery shifting that betrayed some glitchy programming. Call for a downshift, and the transmission doubts you're ready for it--then it slides through a long shift action, stripping out the potential for tossing the kids around in the backseat like a summer seasonal mix. The manual shift mode doesn't always listen, and it's actuated on the shift lever--so you'll be driving one-handed if you're trying to drive with some pizazz, which is exactly wrong.

Fuel economy does rise by two miles per gallon, at least on V-6 versions. With front-wheel drive, the six-cylinder Journey hits EPA figures of 17/25 mpg; all-wheel drive drops a notch to 16/24 mpg. A fuel-saver indicator is now installed for frugal, observant drivers,it's still a hair lower than the Sorento, which has a worst-case rating at 17/26 mpg (V-6, AWD), but can top 21/29 mpg in front-drive, four-cylinder form.

Handling is reasonably responsive in the Journey, and some of the changes to the suspension--like stiffer, better-responding shocks and lowered ride height--have honed some of its duller responses. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle. Braking is strong, and wheel sizes range from 16-inchers on base vehicles up to optional 19-inchers. It's the steering feel that's still gone awry: numb before, the Journey now zips off-center quickly, weightlessly, without much effort or feedback. For a hydraulic-power-steering setup, it's eerily electric in feel, and not an improvement except for people who aim cars, instead of driving them.

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