2011 Dodge Journey Performance

7.0
Performance
Skip right over the fleet-ish four-cylinder, four-speed drivetrain that keeps the Journey's pricetag under $20,000. You'll still want to opt up to the Journey's new Pentastar V-6 option, even if you trade off the four's otherwise smooth shift quality. The new V-6 replaces the old 235-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that felt old and hoary even when it first made the rounds. 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.

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. 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.

Although the new Pentastar V-6 brings much-needed responsiveness and refinement, the rest of the package isn't quite up to the task.

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