The Dodge Journey is mostly unchanged from the previous year’s model. In fact, it’s little changed since its introduction back in 2009. There was a refresh in 2011, but that was mostly cosmetic. Beneath the skin, it shows its age a bit as the other competitors in its class, like the Nissan Rogue, Honda CRV, Toyota Rav 4, or the Kia Sorento, have out classed it over the years. The Journey just isn’t as sophisticated as the others, and feels a bit dated.
That’s not to say that the Journey doesn’t have some positive attributes. Unlike the Honda, Toyota, and Nissan, the Journey offers a third row seat, and a V-6 engine upgrade. The Sorrento, however, offers both. It is also a few thousand dollars less than comparably equipped competitors, with the base model front-wheel-drive starting at just $20,995, so if a price point is paramount to a buying decision, the Journey will gain points on that count.
The Journey is available in five- and seven-passenger configurations, and in five trim levels: base SE, SXT, Crossroad, Crossroad Plus and R/T. Our tester moved us up to the Crossroad model and that gets you 19-inch wheels, rather than the standard 17-inchers, gloss black and chrome exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, satellite radio and a cargo net.
The Crossroad Plus trim adds tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery with cloth inserts, a six-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), a fold-flat front passenger seat with hidden storage bin, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, an in-dash DVD player and an SD card slot. Also, many upper level trim features can be had on lower trim models through packaged options.
Our Crossroad was fitted with the optional 3.6-liter V6. It puts out 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is matched to a six-speed manumatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but we had the All-Wheel-Drive option. The engine felt peppy and had some get-up-and-go when pushed. You can assume zero to 60 in the 8.5 second range, which is competitive with V-6 SUV’s. The gas mileage was disappointing, however. It’s rated for 16 City and 24 Highway. We only got 22 on the highway. The 6-speed transmission shifted smoothly, but don’t look for quick shifts from the manumatic if you decide to change gears yourself.
The Journey’s ride quality offers a fairly smooth ride, and feels composed going down the highway, and over rough surfaces on suburban streets. There is more body lean than necessary when scooting through a corner or off ramp, and it feels heavier and clumsier than I like. The steering is a bit slow, and feedback from the brakes is vague.
The interior cabin is quiet on the road, and inviting.
The Journey offers pleasing materials and textures throughout the cabin and solid-looking fit and finish. The gauges and dashboard have a simple, functional and handsome design quality. The heated seats are very well shaped and comfortable. They’re leather with cloth inserts, and have nice contrasting double stitching accents, a theme that is carried over to the dash and door trim. All the right places, like the door armrests and sills and the center console, have soft touch materials. The surround around the lower console is all plastic, but it looks OK. Nice leather wrapped heated steering wheel with controls for radio, phone, cruise and the info screen.
The dash gets to look clean and neat and is devoid of a multitude of switches and buttons because Chrysler’s outstanding U-Connect system, with the optional 8.4” Nav touch screen, does everything. I think it is the best system in the industry. It is straightforward, with large readable typefaces, an array of easy to understand icons, and excellent menu options, all available at the simple touch of the screen. No annoying gimmicks like haptic control pads, or mouse controllers, joysticks, or multifunction knobs. With Chrysler’s system, you see what you want, touch it, and move on. So other than 6 simple switches for the defrosters AC, recirculate, emergency flashers and traction control, the only other dash items are two dials for the radio and a few controls for the HVAC, which can also be controlled easily with the touch screen. I much prefer that to the jet fighter array of buttons, switches, and controls that they plaster all over the dashboards and center stacks of so many cars these days. And you can program features like the heated steering wheel and seats to turn on automatically when the car is started, with the remote start, or when you start up from the driver’s seat.
The cabin feels roomy for front and rear seat passengers, with good head and leg room. The second row seat cushions flip up and the whole seat slides forward on a track to leave an opening to the third row bench. The opening is best suited for kids. As with all third row seating in all but the largest vehicles, the narrow usable window of opportunity is the time between a child requiring a booster seat, and the time they grow legs. And remember, when the third row is in use, the amount of cargo space is reduced to a couple of grocery bags. It should be noted however, that there are separate HVAC controls in the ceiling of the second row, and ceiling vents for both second and third row passengers.
It should also be mentioned that Chrysler is the King of Clever Storage. There is an under floor storage bin in the cargo area, two underfloor bins in the second row area, and a handy storage bin that opens by lifting the seat cushion of the front passenger seat to store a purse, or other valuables out of sight. The center console is also very deep, and houses the power and connectivity outlets as well.
Another clever family friendly optional appointment is the built-in flip-up child booster seats that cleverly pop up from the second row outboard seats. A great feature.
Exterior styling is conservative, squarish, yet not unpleasant to look at. Our car was painted in vibrant Redline 2-coat Pearl, and if you put a flashing light bar on top of it, you’d think it was the Fire Chief’s car. But the Crossroad Plus adds some gloss black to the grill and headlight surround trim, and black & chrome lower front bumper treatment, and Hyper Black wheels to give it a bit of attitude.
The starting price for this trim level with the AWD is $29,595. The Customer Preferred Package at $1,100 adds the leather seats, premium door trim, the larger Nav Screen, the power seats, the passenger in-cushion storage seat, front and rear interior LED lamps, and the overhead console for 3 zone climate controls.
The $1,250 Popular Equipment Group adds a security alarm, high beam daytime running lights, universal garage door openers, heated steering wheel and front seats, and a remote start system.
And last, the Navigation and back up camera package costs $1,195 and also ads the park sensor assist system, and the second row child booster seats, and a 5-year subscription to the SiriusXM Traffic and Travel service.
The bottom line number came to $34,360, which is still less than the competition by a few thousand dollars. Many drivers won’t notice the deficiencies of the Journey compared to the competition and will enjoy the savings.
Hawkeye Drives - 2016 Dodge Journey Review
By Ken “Hawkeye” Glassman