If you're looking at the 2012 Dodge Journey and see the four-cylinder on offer, keep moving. It's the V-6 version you really want, though it's a few thousand dollars more than the value-priced base model.
That base edition has a dated powertrain that feels its age. It's a four-cylinder with a four-speed automatic, a combination that doesn't offer a lot of urban swiftness or enough gears to produce great gas mileage numbers. Skimp elsewhere in your budget, and choose the V-6 engine that was introduced in the 2011 model year. It's a 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 with good midrange power and better noise and vibration control all over the powerband. It doesn't quite feel as strong as its power rating implies, but it's leaps and bounds better than the hoary old V-6 it replaced.
We're still waiting to drive more examples of the latest Journey. In a first drive last year, the new six-speed automatic transmission wasn't flawless. We sensed some shudder and judder in shifting that felt a round or two short of refined. The transmission's brain seems to doubt your need for a downshift, taking its time to execute the gearchange and locking fully into gear after a second or two. The manual shift mode doesn't respond quickly to your commands either, and it's actuated from a console-mounted lever--which means taking a hand off the wheel when you want to drive briskly, which is exactly the opposite of how it should be.
The Journey's handling is better than it was, and that's more than decent. In its 2011 redo, the Journey's shocks were stiffened and its ride height lowered, both of which help it feel more sporty. The steering is very quick for a family vehicle, and doesn't deliver the feedback it needs. Ride quality remains a strong point, however, 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.