2012 Dodge Journey Expert Review:Autoblog
With all of the Chrysler models receiving updates both significant and otherwise, it's understandable if you've gotten a little lost in the fray. Here's what you need to know: One of the most surprising bright lights to come out of the company's refresh bender is the 2011 Dodge Journey. While the 2011 Dodge Charger and Durango may have stolen the spotlight with their new sheetmetal, the Journey has transmogrified into a small family hauler that offers plenty of horsepower, acceptable fuel economy and a massively updated interior. There's even one of the quickest and largest touchscreens of any vehicle we've come across nestled in the dash.
Given Chrysler's recently discovered love of installing much-improved interiors in its vehicles, the newfound goodies indoors should come as no surprise. But the company's engineers seem to have spent just as much time tweaking the crossover's driving character, resulting in a complete package that has turned it from being a washed-up never-was into a competitor almost overnight.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
Despite the significant changes under the Journey's skin, the designers at Dodge decided to stick close to the refresh playbook outside, giving the high-riding MPV a few mild aesthetic tweaks instead of a complete reskin. Look closely, and you'll notice a new fascia up front, complete with a revised corporate split-crosshair grille, along with fresh 19-inch alloys. The rear wears new LED tail lights, but otherwise, don't expect any bold styling announcements to differentiate the 2011 from the 2010 model.
Jump indoors, and that story changes instantly. Dodge said that when it came time to rework the cabin, the company's designers looked around and realized that coming up with new shades of gray plastic wasn't doing anyone any favors. While we're assured that Dodge plans on implementing more interesting colors in the future, right now we're quite smitten with the Pearl leather thrones of our tester. The white, high-quality hide stitched with dark orange thread make for three rows of beautiful, if stain-inviting, seating.
Chrysler is making a big push to implement single-piece, soft touch instrument panels in the majority of its products, and the 2011 Dodge Journey benefits from the effort. Moving away from multi-piece dashboards reduces the likelihood of squeaks and rattles while slimming the chance that something will be installed improperly at the factory. The soft-touch material, while nice to poke, also has the added bonus of allowing designers to throw in zero-millimeter tolerances for things like HVAC bezels. The combined effect is one very clean, very well-put together dash – a colossal improvement on what was one of the most haphazard and discount instrument panels in the industry.
But chances are that most buyers won't even notice the micrometer-thin tolerances thanks to the epic 8.5-inch touchscreen that hogs all the attention indoors. Along with crystal-clear graphics, the screen is lightening quick, offering none of the press-and-wait hassle of older units. Flipping through satellite radio stations is instantaneous, with no discernible pause between the second you click the next button and when the tunes kick in. We love it, and other manufacturers would do well to invest in similar tech.
Like most of the Dodge fleet, the Toluca, Mexico-built Journey is now available with the company's new Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. In this guise, engine delivers 283 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 260 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. With 20 percent more than before, this seven-passenger bruiser feels downright spry compared to its predecessor. With shifting detail soaked up by a smart-swapping six-speed automatic, we couldn't find much of anything to complain about under the hood. With the V6 kicking all four tires, buyers can expect an acceptable 16 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, though front-wheel-drive guise nets a marginally better 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. For the truly frugal, the Journey is also available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, but its 173 hp at 6,000 rpm and 166 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm strike us as a bit underwhelming for toting around a vehicle of this size – particularly because it's yoked to a humble four-speed automatic.
From behind the tiller, the Journey doesn't drive like a beast capable of hauling around seven well-fed Americans, but it will do exactly that in a pinch (the third row accommodations remain a bit skimpy). Thanks to a quicker-ratio steering rack and a host of stiffer springs and bushings, the 2011 Journey is neither soft nor all that cumbersome in the corners given its size and weight. We're not sure how Dodge engineers managed to pull off this feat of physics, but we hope to see more of the same action in the future. The only time we got a sense of the substantial mass we were lugging around was after a quick decent down a winding mountain road on the launch around San Francisco. By the time we reached the bottom, the Journey's brakes had grown soft trying to scrub momentum.
Dodge will ask for just $22,245 for the base Journey Express, though that model packs the anemic four-cylinder engine from last year and not much else. Fortunately, if you want the more capable V6 (and believe us – you do), the oddly named Journey Mainstreet starts at $24,245. Our Crew-spec tester came in around $5,000 more than that figure, and threw in tricks like the excellent touchscreen and impressive leather seats among other niceties. Expect to tack on around $750 worth of destination charges for each model.
It's nothing short of amazing how much Dodge has managed to change the Journey in such a short period of time. By going back and addressing woes that kept this crossover from being competitive, the company has churned out the next best thing to a completely new generation of vehicle. With a little more work in the fuel-economy and exterior styling department, this could be an unlikely top-runner in a hotly competitive segment.
Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
New Car Test Drive
Crossover SUV capability, minivan versatility.
The 2011 Dodge Journey benefits from significant upgrades. The Journey is a midsize sport-utility that offers the smoother ride and better fuel economy of a car with the cargo space and roominess of an SUV. It seats five or seven, depending on model.
The 2011 Dodge Journey features a new V6 engine, a much more upscale interior, added sound deadener, and revised suspension tuning. Inside, the 2011 Journey gets Dodge's latest infotainment system, which is called UConnect Touch. Exterior styling is tweaked for 2011 as well, with new front and rear fascias, a revised grille, and LED taillights.
The Dodge Journey uses a lightweight unitbody structure similar to that used by cars instead of a body-on-frame truck chassis. It's considered a crossover vehicle because it straddles the line between car and SUV. The Journey is available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive for superior traction and confidence in bad weather.
The new V6 for the 2011 Dodge Journey is a modern 3.6-liter engine that replaces an older 3.5-liter engine. The new 3.6-liter engine has plenty of power but is ill-matched to the 6-speed automatic transmission, making it feel less powerful than it actually is.
The 2011 Journey comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine of 173 horsepower. We found the four-cylinder engine is rough and noisy and offers too little power for a vehicle of this size.
Inside is where the Journey shines. The new interior design and materials give it one of the nicest cockpits in the class. It comes standard with seating for five, with a two-passenger third row optional. Either way it has useful, though not class leading, cargo space. Filling the Journey with adults won't make all your passengers happy, but the rear seat should work well for children. Seats flip and fold to provide a wide range of versatility in hauling people, cargo, or both. The Journey offers a fold-flat front passenger seat that will allow loading items up to nine feet long. It features some unique storage solutions owners will find useful. Among them: a bin under the front passenger seat, storage under the floor in the second row and behind the last row of seats, a dual glove box with Dodge's Chill Zone that cools soda cans, and all the usual cubbies up front, including a fairly deep center console. Entertainment options are plentiful, as the Journey has a six-disc CD changer standard and offers a rear DVD entertainment system and a hard-drive radio.
With prices starting around $22,000, the Journey offers affordable utility. We recommend the V6 engine, which provides that extra margin of power that many buyers will want, as well as much more refinement. Be careful when it comes to options, though, as it is easy to get the Journey over $30,000, money that can buy larger and/or more premium SUVs.
The 2011 Dodge Journey is offered in five trim levels: Express, Mainstreet, R/T, Crew, and Lux. The Express is only available with front-wheel drive and the 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission with Dodge's AutoStick manual shiftgate. The other 2011 Journey models have a new 3.6-liter V6 with 283 horsepower, fitted to a 6-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick and are offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).
Journey Express ($22,245) comes with cloth upholstery, cruise control, air conditioning with dual-zone manual climate control, Chill Zone beverage storage bin, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, 4.3-inch touchscreen, auxiliary input jack, USB port, power windows, power heated exterior mirrors, power door locks, remote keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, driver's seat height adjustment, 60/40-split-folding second-row seat, automatic-off headlights, theft-deterrent system, roof rails, and P225/70R16 all season tires on steel wheels.
Journey Mainstreet ($24,245) and Mainstreet AWD ($25,945) add leather-wrapped steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio, floor mats, rear cargo cover, and P225/65R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
Journey R/T ($28,245) and R/T AWD ($29,945) upgrade to dual-zone automatic climate control, 6-way power driver's seat, 4-way power fold-flat front passenger seat, 8.4-inch touchscreen, SD card slot, UConnect Phone wireless cell-phone link, voice recognition, outside-temperature indicator, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, illuminated visor mirrors, 115-volt power outlet, conversation mirror, automatic headlights, fog lights, removable/rechargeable LED flashlight, and P225/55R19 tires on aluminum wheels. It deletes the roof rails.
Journey Crew ($29,240) and Crew AWD ($30,940) add three-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, second-row 60/40 Tilt 'n Slide reclining seat, third-row 50/50 split-folding seat, and remote engine starting.
Journey Lux ($32,740) and Lux AWD ($34,440) get leather upholstery, heated front seats, rearview camera, rear park assist, Bluetooth streaming audio, pre-programmed hands-free texting, and chrome alloy wheels.
Options include the Flexible Seating Group ($995) with a third-row 50/50 folding/reclining seat, second-row 60/40 Tilt 'n Slide seat, and three-zone temperature control (including the rear). A Navigation and Sound Group ($1,695) includes six premium Infinity speakers with subwoofer and 368-watt amplifier, Garmin navigation, 30-gigabyte hard-drive, rear park assist, rearview camera, UConnect Phone, six premium Infinity speakers with subwoofer and 368-watt amplifier, and voice command. Rear DVD entertainment comes with the Infinity sound system ($845) and Sirius Backseat TV can be added ($525). Stand-alone options consist of an engine block heater ($95), sunroof ($845), heated front seats ($250), integrated second-row child safety seats ($225), and a Trailer Tow Group ($145) with an engine oil cooler and a four-pin connector.
Safety features on all Journey models include advanced multistage front airbags; torso-protecting, seat-mounted front side air bags; head-protecting curtain side airbags that cover all seating rows; front-seat active head restraints; a tire-pressure monitor; traction control; electronic stability control with rollover mitigation; ABS with brake assist; and Dodge's trailer sway control. Available all-wheel drive improves stability in slippery conditions.
On the outside, the Journey announces its presence with the familiar Dodge crosshair grille. The look might be described as bold. But the upright shape of the grille and its relation to the aluminum hood and windshield is very reminiscent of the current Dodge Grand Caravan, and no SUV ever earned sales by looking like a minivan.
Beneath the grille, the Journey has a larger air intake than the Grand Caravan. Actually, it runs the full width of the vehicle and is flanked on either side by integrated fog lights on Crew, R/T and Lux models. Around the sides, the Journey features pronounced wheel arches and a creased character line that starts at the top of each headlight, angles upward, and wraps completely around the vehicle. The roofline flows nicely from the windshield, curving down slightly front to rear. The B- and C-pillars are blacked out to, as Dodge puts it, give the look of a car-like greenhouse and an SUV-like lower half.
At the back, the Journey's taillights wrap around the sides of the vehicle and continue into the tailgate, which opens upward. The taillights themselves are now ringed by LEDs. The rear bumper has an integrated step pad that matches the height of the load floor. Models with the V6 engine can be distinguished by their dual chrome exhaust tips.
The Journey is bigger than it looks. In overall dimension, it is actually longer than such seven-passenger crossover competitors as the Toyota Highlander, Subaru Tribeca and Hyundai Veracruz. The Journey's size translates to plenty of interior cargo room, but the design isn't as space efficient as some of its competitors.
The Journey's cabin features a new design for 2011 that is much more inviting. It offers plenty of room for passengers and cargo, available seating for seven, and several smart and convenient storage solutions.
The hard plastic surfaces of previous Dodge products are replaced with rich soft-touch surfaces in an attractive layout for 2011. The dashtop, door panels, armrests and center console are all soft to the touch. Added sound-deadening material makes it quieter underway. The look, feel and calm places the Journey at or near the top of the class for interior quality. The same couldn't be said last year.
The center stack is completely redesigned for 2011 with three low-set knobs surrounded by several buttons. The climate controls are arrayed around the center knob, and they're easy enough to use.
The infotainment system choices are all new for 2011. Instead of MyGIG, it's now called UConnect Touch and it's offered in four varieties. The base version has a 4.3-inch touchscreen and a standard audio input jack and USB port; it's offered with or without Sirius satellite radio. The next step up comes with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and a 30-gigabyte hard drive that can hold up to 6700 song files. There is also a premium version of this unit that adds Bluetooth streaming audio, voice command, a Garmin navigation system with Sirius Travel Link, and pre-programmed hands-free texting responses. We've had limited exposure to the new system but it works fairly well. Given Garmin's reach, more people should be familiar with the navigation system, but we think it looks cartoonish. We also like the idea of hands-free texting.
The Journey offers plenty of entertainment features for all occupants. An AM/FM radio with in-dash six-disc CD changer and six speakers is standard. An available rear DVD entertainment system has a nine-inch screen and wireless headphones. Dodge's UConnect Phone hands-free cell phone link and a premium Infinity sound system are also offered.
Space is good but not great. The driver's seat offers plenty of head and leg room for just about any occupant. The view is generally unobstructed front and rear. The Journey's unique storage and convenience features, however, are what really make it shine. All Journeys have a dual-level glove box with Dodge's Chill Zone up top. Chill Zone uses the air conditioning system to keep up to four soda cans cool.
The Journey's center console/armrest has a lid that slides forward three inches. It has enough storage space for up to 10 DVD cases. Two cupholders are located in front of the console, along with a tray for cell phones and the like. An additional, more discreet storage space is standard in R/T, Crew and Lux models. The front passenger seat bottom flips up to reveal a storage bin that has about enough room for a good-sized purse. The seat back also folds flat, allowing items up to nine feet long to be loaded into the Journey. And to help drivers keep an eye on the kids, there is a popular minivan feature, a fisheye conversation mirror.
The second row is equally as ingenious. The three-passenger bench seat is 1.6 inches higher than the front seat to give passengers a better view of the road. It slides forward and back up to 4.7 inches in seven-passenger models, and can be ordered with integrated child booster seats for the outboard positions. The Journey also has two in-floor storage bins with removable liners. Each bin can hold up to six soda cans plus ice. The seat backs are split 60/40 and fold flat. When the optional Flexible Seating Group is ordered, the second-row seats fold in a scissors action, with the seat bottoms tilting up, the seatbacks tilting forward, and the seats sliding forward, to provide easy access to the third row. The rear doors also open 90 degrees, making entry and exit easy.
Base seating is for five, but the Crew and Lux models come standard with the Flexible Seating Group, which expands seating capacity to seven. It is also offered as an option. The third row is 0.6 inches higher than the second row, is split 50/50, and folds flat. Dodge says it offers enough head room for a 95th-percentile male. That's all well and good, but leg room is tight and the bottom cushion is low to the floor, so adults sit with their knees up. It will be possible to fit seven adults in the Journey, but the third-row passengers and second-row middle occupant will be none too happy about it. Younger children will have plenty of room, though.
Both the five- and seven-passenger Journeys have a shallow under-floor storage bin that extends from the rear of the vehicle forward to just behind the last row of seats. That means the five-passenger version has considerably more space under the floor than the seven-passenger version. The cover for this bin is reversible, too, with carpet on one side and plastic on the other. The plastic will allow for worry-free stowage of items such as muddy boots.
Cargo space expands to 67.6 cubic feet with all the seats down, which is average for the class but bested by the Toyota Highlander and even the smaller Honda CR-V. Loading cargo shouldn't be tough, as the liftover height is relatively low. It would be nice, however, if the tailgate had a separate opening glass. As an added bonus, a removable, rechargeable flashlight is included in the rear cargo area in higher line models.
The Dodge Journey is nondescript when it comes to road manners, though suspension changes for 2011 make it more controlled and a bit sportier. Those changes include stiffer springs and shocks, new lower rolling resistance tires with more grip, a retuned steering gear and stiffer steering mechanism, and modified rear suspension geometry.
The result is a ride that is generally good, with little pounding over bumps. The head sway that is associated with a high seating position is also minimal. Even with the available 19-inch wheels, the Journey does a good job of ironing out most jolts. But there are plenty of midsize crossovers and SUVs with similar ride characteristics.
While the high seating position affords a good view of the road, it seems to hurt the feel behind the wheel. This is not an off-road-oriented SUV, and as such it seems that Dodge could have made it sit a bit lower, which would have made it feel more carlike. The way it's engineered however, means the Journey leans more in turns than some other crossovers. The 2011 suspension changes control this issue a bit better and also make the vehicle more willing to react to quick changes of direction. It's still not as nimble as competitors such as the Nissan Murano, or even the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer. The steering is light, but predictable, and the brakes are easy to modulate.
The engines are comparable to the handling: Capable but not as good as the best in the class. The base four-cylinder, Chrysler's 173-hp 2.4-liter World Engine, is loud in the Journey and delivers too little power in this 3800-pound package. The four-cylinder will certainly get you and your kids around town, but passing will require some planning and it's not rated for towing. With a 0-60 mph time of somewhere between 11 and 12 seconds, a four-cylinder Journey is one of the slower vehicles in its class.
The new 3.6-liter V6 is standard in all 2011 Journey models except the Express. The 3.6-liter V6 is plenty modern, but the tuning choices Dodge made with the throttle and 6-speed automatic transmission often leave it feeling unresponsive. Power is decent from a start, but the transmission shifts up as quickly as it can, meaning power is no longer readily on tap. It requires a deep stab of the throttle to coax a downshift and you practically have to floor it to get a two-gear downshift needed for highway passing. The problem is exacerbated by numb throttle response. We also found that with front-wheel drive, those foot-to-the-floor blasts can cause some torque steer (felt as a slight tug on the steering wheel) that temporarily disrupts fine steering control.
On the positive side, the new 3.6-liter engine is quieter and more refined than the outgoing 3.5-liter, and it should provide 0-60 mph runs in the high seven-second range, about a second quicker than its predecessor. It also offers improved fuel economy, though towing capacity is down from 3500 to 2500 pounds.
Fuel economy numbers are decent. With the four-cylinder engine, the Journey is EPA-rated at 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The V6 is improved by one mpg all around. With front-wheel drive, it is rated at 17/25 mpg, and with AWD, it gets 16/24 mpg.
The all-wheel-drive system is mainly meant for slippery surfaces, not off-roading. It does not have low-range gearing. It sends the power to the front wheels in most conditions, but when more traction is needed, such as in wintry conditions, rain or on any slippery surface, it can send some of the power to the rear wheels. It can also aid handling, at least a bit. When traveling over 25 mph into a turn, the system sends power to the rear wheels to help the vehicle turn. It's not as sophisticated as systems from Acura and BMW that send the power to the outside rear wheel in turns, but it's a help.
The changes made to the Dodge Journey for 2011 make it better in every way. Though it still isn't particularly sporty, it's better controlled and reasonably carlike. The four-cylinder engine still lacks refinement, but the V6 doesn't, though it could use better transmission programming. Inside, the Journey has one of the nicest interiors in the class, as well as an intelligent design with family-friendly entertainment and versatility features. For the young family on the go, the Journey will offer a pleasant ride, plenty of room, and enough space and entertainment options to keep the kids comfortable and occupied.
Kirk Bell filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Dodge Journey in and around Las Vegas and Sonoma, California.
Dodge Journey Express ($22,245); Dodge Journey Mainstreet FWD ($24,245); Dodge Journey Mainstreet AWD ($25,945); Dodge Journey R/T FWD ($28,245); Dodge Journey R/T AWD ($29,945); Dodge Journey Crew FWD ($29,240); Dodge Journey Crew AWD ($30,940); Dodge Journey Lux ($32,740); Dodge Journey Lux AWD ($34,440).
Options As Tested
Flexible Seating Group ($995) with third-row 50/50 folding/reclining seat, second-row 60/40 Tilt 'n Slide rear seat, and three-zone temperature control (including the rear); Popular Equipment Group ($1,295) with upgraded cloth upholstery, 6-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, fold-flat passenger seat with under-cushion storage bin, universal garage door opener, illuminated visor mirrors, remote engine starting, LED map lights, overhead console, alarm, daytime running lights.
Dodge Journey Mainstreet AWD ($25,945).
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