The only thing we were left wanting from this powertrain was better shift quality from the six-speed automatic under lighter acceleration. It delivered snappy downshifts when we asked for quick bursts, but at gradual rates the upshift quality felt lumpy and downshifts didn't seem as decisive as they could be. And when braking lightly up to a stoplight, we'd frequently feel torque-converter shudder in the 20-mph range.
Steering, suspension gets it right
Tight freeway ramps and a few curvy roads brought some pleasant surprises. The Journey's suspension loads and unloads confidently, like a lower and leaner vehicle than it is, and there's none of the excessive bounding or wallowing when you hit a bump mid-corner with some taller crossovers. And all the while, the steering system here is something to delight in; after driving so many revamped vehicles in this class with electric power steering systems that are either too twitchy and light or artificially heavy, the hydraulic system in the Journey gets it right, with nice weighting, a good sense of center, even a touch of surface communication. There's no appreciable torque steer, either.
We see no reason to steer away from the V-6 in the name of fuel economy, because what we saw in an extended drive was impressive, with results that meet or beat the Journey's 17-mpg city, 25 highway EPA ratings. Over about 700 miles of driving—across Michigan, and including a mix of freeway driving, family-hauling, and suburban side trips—we averaged 24 mpg. That's not far from what we've seen in four-cylinder crossovers this size, and those models' powertrains aren't as satisfying as this V-6.
The 2012 Dodge Journey SXT starts at just $22,995, but the bottom-line price of our mostly loaded test Journey SXT—$28,905—felt a few thousand less than we might have guessed for an almost-mid-size crossover with refined V-6 power and a long list of features. Among the options in ours were the $995 Popular Equipment Group (upgraded seats, security alarm, LED lamps, in-seat storage, remote start), and the Safe and Sound Group (ParkSense, a backup camera, UConnect Touch, a larger screen, and dual-zone climate control).
UConnect Touch: limited, but user-friendly
As in other recent Chrysler products, we found UConnect Touch to do everything entertainment-related that we’d hoped for (it smartly and quickly indexed 16 GB of music on an SD card and made it easy to scroll through with the rotary tuning knob), plus it never had a hiccup with hands-free dialing or accessing other media on my iPhone. The only obvious question from several passengers pertained to why it didn’t include navigation; a Chrysler official said that it’s available as a dealer-installed upgrade even if you don’t initially order it.
In all, if you need third-row seating in a relatively small package, there might be a few mainstream crossover models on the market that make just as much sense as the Journey. But this Dodge feels like a vehicle we’d choose to get, not one we’d have to get. And that’s saying a lot.