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The Dodge Journey is a crossover wagon that can seat up to seven, one that competes against vehicles like the Toyota Venza, Honda CR-V, Ford Edge and Chevy Equinox. But it doesn't quite have the recognition or sales that those vehicles enjoy--in part, because the original 2009 Journey was so flawed, in so many ways. Over the years it's seen big improvements in its interior, drivetrains, and suspension tuning, and it's no longer the underwhelming wagon it was back then.
With smart packaging, an optional third row for occasional use, and a far nicer interior plus better roadholding and handling than the original, the modern-day Dodge Journey is more flexible than five-seat competitors and includes a lot of features for the price. While it sells in roughly the price range of compact crossovers, it's dimensionally larger--meaning you get more car for the money. Larger families may find it suits their needs without the thirst for fuel and sheer on-the-road bulk of larger seven-seat mid-size crossovers like the Toyota Highlander or the much longer Nissan Pathfinder.
Now seven model years old, the design of the 2014 Journey still splits the difference between a tall wagon with all-wheel drive and a boxy sport-utility vehicle. We appreciate that Dodge has shaken off the same-as-the-other-guy sheetmetal that clothes other crossovers, giving the Journey lines that are refreshingly different, even if they're no longer necessarily fresh. The look isn't so different that it's wacky, but different enough to avoid that same-old-family-vehicle styling rut. Inside, the Journey follows a smooth, swoopy look and simple layout, with large dials and knobs and an LCD touchscreen framed by high-quality materials.
A couple of years ago, Chrysler gave the Journey a completely new interior, with a more elegant instrument panel, better trim, and soft-touch materials. Under the hood, it got the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, along with a large number of improvements that reduced noise, made the ride smoother, and generally upped the quality level substantially. The original Journey just didn't have the refinement it should have; today's Journey is one of the better picks among crossovers, even if that remains largely unknown.
There's a lot for busy parents to like about the 2014 Journey. Dodge and Chrysler clearly applied some of its long-honed expertise with minivans to this interior, as people and cargo really fit well and there are plenty of smaller spaces for personal items, toys, and accessories. Front seats are what we’d best describe as ‘American-sized’—think wider than some other seats. Back-seat accommodations are among the best you’ll find in any vehicle this size, and the seats are contoured to fit adults; the seatback is adjustable for rake, and the whole bench slides fore and aft a few inches, so it’s easy to get comfortable back there. The rear seat folds fully flat, and under the rearward portion of the cargo floor there’s a huge space vast enough for a couple of laptop bags.
The Journey is offered in an extensive lineup, with AVP (American Value Package), SE, SXT, Limited, and R/T models. Several of the models (the Limited and R/T) get more features for the money in 2014. You'll need to step up to SXT models to get either the V-6 engine or all-wheel drive. But even with the base model you get power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; pushbutton start; a cooled glove box; a telescoping steering wheel; and an AM/FM/CD player. Bluetooth isn't included on the base model, but it is a $395 option. Seven-passenger seating is available even on the base model, while you'll also need to get the SXT to get the UConnect media center option. That includes an 8.4-inch touch-screen that at the top of the lineup can combine with a Garmin navigation system that isn't all that intuitive. Sirius Satellite Radio and TravelLink features are available, along with a premium audio system.
Forget about the Journey if you're set on the idea of a four-cylinder or top-drawer fuel economy. Their loud, coarse 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic are dawdling and disappointing in nearly every respect. Otherwise you should head straight to one of the V-6 versions, as they're excellent and refined. Chrysler's 3.6-liter 'Pentastar' V-6 makes 283 horsepower and is hooked up to a six-speed automatic for much better responsiveness. The six-speed automatic can take some of the polish off the package, though: in some versions we've driven, the automatic juddered and hesitated before it downshifted.
The Journey's handling is reasonably responsive. Chrysler recently reworked the suspension to include stiffer, better-responding shocks and a lower ride height in front, and it's honed some of the duller responses the Journey had in its initial model years. The ride quality remains a strong point, with the proper damping and roll control for a family vehicle, but the rather quick steering ratio feels a little out of place.
Safety has been another strong point. The NHTSA awards the Journey four stars overall, while the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick.
- Comfortable, well-configured interior
- Distinctive exterior
- Advanced entertainment systems
- Good ride quality
- Strong V-6
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- Dash limits knee room
- Six-speed automatic shift quality
- Navigation system controls