- Excellent ride quality
- Roomy, minivan-like interior
- Distinctive look
- Numb steering feel
- Unintuitive nav system
- Dash cuts into knee room
- Clunky downshifts, awkward manual mode
The 2011 Dodge Journey is a crossover wagon for seven, not a Le Mans intender; it's well-suited for a practical family journey.
From its original introduction in 2008, the mid-size Journey crossover was right on target with respect to packaging, sheetmetal and some of the flexibility features. Dodge kept the Journey's target audience in mind—those crafty new families who need an "everything" car. What it didn't have was a cabin we'd want to sit in, or a modern six-cylinder drivetrain worth our extra dollars.
Most of those shortcomings are fixed in the 2011 Journey. It looks essentially the same from the outside, but what's been tossed on the junk heap—where it always belonged—is the old dash, with its funny, tilted, squared-off gauges and sheeny, brittle plastics that brought back bad memories of the Omni hatchbacks. The new dash design isn't a home run, and it does carry over lots of contact with front-seaters' knees, but it gut-checks the cheap feeling entirely.
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—it's just too shuddery and hesitant. 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, but steering feel still leaves a lot to be desired.
Back inside, the Journey's unchanged packaging gets topped with a sprinkling of new features and improved actions. Four adults, or two adults and three or four kids, are happy enough inside the Journey, with flat seats and right-sized head and leg room taking good advantage of the Journey's proportions. On mid-grade-and-up Journeys, the second-row seat slides fore and aft to free up more leg room, and on the same versions, front seats have storage built in beneath the seat cushion, and the center console gets a new tilt-and-slide top. Bins and cubbies abound, and the cargo hold specs out at a swell 37 cubic feet behind the second row, and a smooshed 10.7 cubic feet behind the raised third-row seat. Flip everything down behind the front seats, and you can fit a half-dozen flat-screen TVs in the Journey's 67.6 cubic feet of space.
The Journey sports some of the most extensive offerings for entertainment in this class, but to get them all, you'll be spending considerably more than the base price of $20,000. Standard features include air conditioning; cruise control; power locks/mirrors/windows; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability. Options include a not-terribly-intuitive Garmin navigation system; Sirius Satellite Radio, TravelLink and Backseat TV, an on-the-go service with a small selection of kid-friendly programming; a DVD entertainment system; and a premium audio system and uConnect multimedia with MP3 player controls. A USB port is standard now, but it's buried deep in the center console, so there won't be any texting and driving without a long connector. Bluetooth is added on the top three models for free, but it's available on the base and Mainstreet trims.