In 2011, Dodge sold 29,021 Journeys in Canada, making it the best-selling compact seven-seat crossover in the country, and second-best in the class, behind the extremely popular Ford Escape. That was a 22 per cent increase over its 2010 sales, probably owing to some pretty significant improvements Dodge made to its smallest crossover model for the 2011 model year.
There was the addition of the brand’s 3.6L “Pentastar” V6 engine (replacing an ancient 3.5L motor), refreshed exterior styling and, maybe most significantly, an all-new interior to replace one that looked like a leftover from parent company Chrysler’s K-Car days.
There’s little new to talk about for 2012, except for the main reason the Journey will probably remain popular: its price. Take the R/T AWD tester you see here, whose $29,095 MSRP (at the time this was written) is very competitive for a well-equipped, compact crossover with a V6 engine, AWD and seating for seven.
The Journey gets another best-in-class nod for the Pentastar V6 engine, whose 283 horsepower is the most you can get in a compact crossover. More than just looking good on paper, this is a very good engine, moving the Journey with enthusiasm when asked to, and making a decent soundtrack in the process.
R/T models get a “performance” suspension, in Dodge’s parlance, which is shorthand for stiffer springs. This doesn’t make the ride unbearable, but it does take away from the smooth ride the Journey is otherwise known for.
The automatic transmission’s six ratios meet the class average, but its operation leaves a little to be desired next to the segment’s best. Most gear changes come with noticeable shift-shock, and the gearbox’s eagerness to get into a high gear as soon as possible in normal acceleration cause the engine to “lug” and transmit an unrefined-feeling shudder to the steering wheel rim. There was a similar sensation every time the Journey was slowed to a stop. Acceleration from cruising speed is an all-or-nothing affair: go even a little beyond what’s possible in top gear and the transmission downshifts two gears for way more acceleration than what was asked for.
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption estimages for a Journey with the V6 and all-wheel drive are 13.0/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway). My tester was a thirsty one, and averaged 14.5 L/100 km in a week of mixed driving. A Hemi V8-powered Durango I drove the week before averaged 15.7 L/100 km in similar driving; if fuel economy was my only consideration, I’d sooner choose the more powerful, more comfortable Durango.
Not that the Journey isn’t comfortable. The front seats certainly are, and spacious too. Everyone else along for the ride gets shortchanged, though. The second-row seats are hard and the bottom cushions too short, and head- and legroom aren’t as generous as they could (should?) be in a vehicle of this size.
The tight third row – it’s telling that headroom back here is similar to that in the second row – is more what you’d expect, with kid-sized legroom at best. Getting back there isn’t an awful task, though: my tester’s optional flexible seating package included second-row tilt-and-slide seats. Those, along with rear doors that open nearly 90 degrees, make getting in and out simple enough, aside from the combination of a high step up and having to duck to avoid hitting your head on the doorframe. My tester also had Dodge’s family-friendly integral second-row booster seats.
Rear visibility is iffy at best, with the view being restricted by the small rear window, a situation made worse when the third row seats are upright. My tester had proximity sensors in the back bumper that warned when the car got close to an obstacle. Those sensors are supposed to be bundled with a backup camera (along with other items, in either the $325 Driver’s Convenience or $1,125 Navigation & Sound option groups), but this car included neither of those pacakges, and none of the other features that should have come along with that backup warning system.
Cargo space works out to 303L behind the third row (that’s less than most compact car trunks are good for), 1,047L behind the second row (five-passenger models boast 1,121L) and 1,914L with second and third row seats stowed. My most common cargo – two or three guitars and an amp – were no challenge here.
A storage compartment under the front passenger seat cushion is a fantastic touch in a family vehicle; small item storage in general is pretty good in this interior.
As mentioned off the top, a new dash was part of the Journey’s 2011 styling update. It’s a huge improvement over the original, but still harkens back to something Hyundai would have done five or ten years ago. That’s not so bad overall – it’s mostly nicely laid out and easy to use – but a few controls, notably those for the heated seats, are only accessible through the cheap-looking, low-resolution touch screen.
The light beige leather upholstery (so light it’s almost white) looks good, but will only do so till it gets dirty, which probably wouldn’t take long in a Journey loaded with kids.
Pricing for the Journey R/T starts at $29,095. To that, my tester added the Flexible Seating Group ($1,475), the trailer tow prep package ($225), second-row booster seats ($200), Bluetooth ($300) and 19-inch, chrome wheels ($600), for a total of $31,875.
The Journey does most things right – or, at least, well enough for the price Dodge asks for it – but its thirsty fuel consumption is an unfortunate thing from an engine that is otherwise quite good. Parent company Chrysler has made tangible improvements to its vehicles, including this one, in the last couple of years. Having one of the best-selling vehicles in a lucrative segment is good; achieving that for reasons other than having the lowest price would be better.
This review has also appeared at Autos.ca