The Dodge Journey is a bit of a sleeper in the conversation about compact SUV’s. Some of that may be due to the fact that it’s larger than the likes of the Nissan Rogue, Honda CRV, or Toyota Rav 4, yet still not up to the size of full sized SUV’s, like the Highlander, Pathfinder, or Pilot. But this Dodge “tweener” has some good features, and for those looking for a larger family vehicle, which can be had with a third row seat, there’s a lot to look at.
There are also seven different models, starting out at $20,295, for the base AVP (American Value Package) and all the way up to the RT (Road & Track) racy model for $30,895.
The Journey’s base engine is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that makes 173hp at the high end of the rev range, and 166 ft. lbs. of torque at 4000rpm. This engine is in over its head trying to move a two ton vehicle. Making matters worse, is the old 4-speed automatic transmission.
Our test vehicle was the AWD Crossroad model (starting at $28,395) with the optional smooth running 3.6-liter V-6 that offers a healthy 283hp, and 260 ft. lbs. of torque, that puts the power to the road through a modern 6-speed automatic. This is the engine to choose. Yes, it costs more money, but the gas mileage of 16 City and 24 Highway (in All-Wheel-Drive) is only 2 or 3 MPG thirstier than the four. And the V-6 moves the Journey through traffic with surprising pep and power. It will also allow for towing 2,500 pounds, good for moving a couple of motorcycles or ATV’s. The 4-banger will tow only 1,000lbs.
A late spring 5” snowstorm, made the AWD handy, and the ABS brakes felt strong, with good feel and modulation.
The ride quality is good going down the highway, but in the city, riding on potholed roads, it felt a bit more truck-like. The suspension is firm, and there is plenty of body lean in turns to remind you to take it easy when cornering. The steering is good and quicker than expected, so the driver will never lose confidence under any road conditions.
Styling is always a subjective opinion. While the Journey doesn’t turn our head with slick styling, we do like the fact that is stands out in the crowd of SUV shapes. It is somewhat boxy, with rounded smooth corners. The slab sides are broken by flared wheel wells, and we like the Dodge family of crosshair front grills. You know this Journey is a Dodge from a hundred yards away, which you can’t say about most of the vehicles it competes with.
Inside you’ll find this Journey much more pleasing than the previous generation, which looked and felt chintzy. This Journey is cleanly styled, with a flowing dash, and simple and easy to use controls, with the right amount of brightwork to accent the shapes. Soft touch materials are located on the dash, console and especially on the window sills, which is much cushier than most luxury vehicles.
A nice two-gauge layout, with info screen looks back at the driver, and the center stack features a large Nav screen just beneath the dual air vents. Lots of good info on the Nav screen, and it is easy to use, with a row of touch screen icons to change to the screens that control other functions. Beneath that are simple dials and switches for HVAC controls.
I wish more manufacturers would go back to less cluttered center stacks, and eliminate that big round multifunction dial with a slew of push buttons around it to control everything. Also, a large storage bin is located at the bottom of the stack, to hold your phone, music device, and other incidentals.
The heated seats are a pleasant surprise. They are wide, comfortable, nicely supportive, made of leather with handsome cloth inserts for more comfort in summer, and winter. The driver side is 6-way electrically operated for fore and aft, height and lumbar support, but manual rake. Passenger is 4-way power.
A very nice touch is the passenger seat bottom that opens up to store a laptop or tablets, and some other items. I like that feature, and several other Chrysler products offer it. Chrysler has put many of their great storage ideas learned from their minivans, and incorporated them into other model lines.
Rear seat room is plentiful for both legroom and head room. The seatbacks recline, and of course, fold forward to enlarge the cargo capacity. And the front passenger seat also folds down for extra-long items. The third row seats offer more room than those of other small SUV’s like the Nissan Rogue, due to the Journey’s larger dimensions. It’s still not as roomy as those found on larger vehicles, but they are usable when necessary.
Another great Chrysler feature is the rear seat bottoms which pop up to transform them into a child’s booster seat. It’s for those kids who outgrow the car seat, but not large enough to sit comfortably in the normal seat. Great feature that will be appreciated by parents, and especially grandparents who don’t keep all the child paraphernalia in the car at all times.
The rear passengers also get their own set of heating controls, and the test car had the optional Rear Seat Video package, so the controls for the DVD player are easily and remotely operated from the rear seats. There are also air and heat vents in the way-back, so third row passengers stay comfortable. Alas, no electric lift gate for this model, but the 2nd and 3rd row seats can all be lowered from the cargo area to use the 68 cubic feet of storage. And there is also some very usable storage under the cargo floor to keep items out of sight.
Pricing on this Journey Crossroad starts at $28,395, and it is chock full of standard features and amenities, so many buyers will happily drive one home as is. Our tester added the Flexible Seating Group which gets you the third row seating, for $1500. The Popular Equipment Group, for $1,050, includes heated seats, remote start, heated steering wheel, auto headlamps with hi beam daytime running lights, garage door opener, and security alarm.
The Navigation & Back-up camera group with back-up assist Costs $995. The Premium Sound Group rocks a 300 watt, 6-speaker with subwoofer for $395. The Rear Seat Video Group lets the kids zone out on their DVD’s of Frozen or Transformers for $1,195. With freight, the bottom line was $34,750.
This Dodge Journey with 3rd row option is a bit more flexible that many of the compact SUV’s but lives in a similar price range.
For larger families needing more room will like this vehicle, since they won’t have to step up to the larger and more expensive SUV’s to gain extra seatbelts and plenty of elbow room.
This Journey demands to be in the conversation in the crowded marketplace.